Why White American Cheese Works Best When Making A Smoky Queso Dip

Super Bowl Sunday is quickly approaching, and one of the most popular appetizers that will be making an appearance this weekend is chips and queso. If you've ever made queso at home and found it doesn't have that same liquidy, melted quality that it does at the restaurant, it could be because you're not using the right cheese. Tasting Table recipe developer Alexander Roberts uses American white cheese in his rendition of smoky white queso dip to achieve the perfect texture and complement the smoky flavors in his queso.

"It's nearly foolproof; it melts better than other cheeses and can stay melted for a while," says Roberts. "Trying blends of mozzarella, Colby Jack, and other cheeses sometimes led to the mixture seizing if it needed to be melted again."

American white cheese contains an ingredient known as sodium citrate. This secret ingredient is what keeps melted American cheese gooey and creamy. Other cheeses can potentially develop a gritty texture or seize back up if not heated consistently. White American cheese is a very mild cheese, it offers a blank canvas for the other ingredients in the dish. The creamy consistency of the cheese makes for a savory combination with the jalapeño and smoked paprika. The final result is a perfectly textured dish with an addictive flavor you keep coming back to.

Other ingredients to pair with your smoky queso dip

Roberts uses jalapeños and smoked paprika in his iteration of the dip to get that smoky flavor, but you can play around with substitutions to find the flavor combination you enjoy best. You could opt for chipotle peppers instead of, or in addition to, other ingredients. Chipotle peppers have a slightly sweet flavor in addition to their smokiness and earthy notes. This hint of sweet flavor from the chipotle adds an unexpected balance to your dish and brings out some of that slight sweetness from the American cheese as well. You could also try hatch chiles or habaneros to see which peppers give you the right flavor.

Roberts' recipe calls for Mezcal, a distilled liquor made from fermented Agave that has a strong smoky flavor to it. If you don't drink alcohol or cook with it for any reason, you can substitute a drop or two of liquid smoke to bring some of that smokiness back. You don't need much product at all when working with liquid smoke because it's so concentrated in flavor, so start with a drop and taste and then you can add more if you feel it's needed.