The Canned Ingredient That Takes Cheese Dip To The Next Level

You can't have crackers, chips, or pretzels without cheese dip. (Well, technically you can, but snack time probably won't be as enjoyable.) Appearance-wise, cheese dip may look like nothing but a bowl of creamy, melted cheese, but well-made queso contains more than just a stick of Velveeta. Unsurprisingly, a good quality cheese that melts well is the most important ingredient in cheese dip. According to Food52, types that work well include Gruyère, pepper jack, cheddar, and American, but any cheese variety that is naturally creamy and has a low melting point — or a combo of a few — can be used.

To amp up the flavor or give the dish some kick, it isn't uncommon to add a few non-dairy mix-ins to cheese dip. Sliced or diced jalapeño (canned or fresh) or a few teaspoons of Buffalo sauce are popular ways to add heat, and Taste of Home even suggests you include beans or chili to make the dip extra hearty. Cheese pairs well with a wide variety of ingredients, so your options are basically endless. But if you want to keep your cheese dip as simple as possible while still adding some flavor, there is just one canned ingredient you need.

Canned tomatoes are the secret to tasty cheese dip

There are many different types of cheese dip, but arguably one of the best is queso. As Muy Delish shares, in addition to a blend of Monterey jack and cheddar cheese, queso dip is often made with flavorful ingredients like roasted poblano and serrano peppers, garlic, onion, and diced tomatoes. That combination is pretty similar to what you'll find in some canned diced tomatoes — specifically, those labeled as something like zesty or fire-roasted — and it's what Southerners swear by to take their cheese dip to the next level. (Though the brand Rotel is particularly well-known for being used to make cheese dip, with Southern Living sharing the dish is even sometimes called "Rotel dip," any canned tomato brand will do fine.)

Fresh tomatoes are great for sandwiches and salads, but for cheese dip, canned tomatoes are actually superior. As Bon Appétit explains, canned tomatoes are usually made with tomatoes picked while they are in season, at peak ripeness. They're also canned with salt, which means you get a more pronounced tomato flavor. The fire-roasted variety of canned tomatoes packs even more of a punch because, in addition to salt, they often contain ingredients like cilantro, citric acid, and green chilies (via Eater). Add to that the char from the fire roast and the dish basically seasons itself.

That's a lot of layers of flavor in one can, so it's no surprise that canned tomatoes can easily take your plain cheese dip to a delicious new level with minimal extra work. Really, all you have to do is open a can and stir.