condiments / recipes / savory / sides / vegan + vegetarian

Chile Queso

chile queso on a tortilla chip

I’ve been trying to make decent queso for nachos forever! I could never get it right. A few years ago I saw a clip from an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives when they visited La Colonial Tortilla Factory in Santa Fe, NM. La Colonial showed them how they make the Chile Queso for their famous tostadas.

The batch of Chile Queso they made on the episode looked to be exactly what I was wanted, so I tried out copying what I saw. It was a total success, and absolutely delicious! I can’t say it’s ‘their recipe’ because I’m sure they didn’t include everything in the show, but I feel like I got the gist of it so I feel OK saying it was adapted. Enjoy!

Chile Queso Ingredients

Feel free to jump to the full recipe, but here are useful notes about the ingredients you will need to make this Chile Queso:

  • Cream cheese, Amerikan cheese: The only cheese we’re using. Combined they have the perfect amount of tangy and creamy that we want for this queso. And before you ask: no, I do not know what kind of ‘real’ cheese you can substitute. My previous queso attempts always included “real” cheeses and never turned out how I wanted. I use Velveeta for the american cheese, but you can go to the deli counter and they’ll prepare a 1/2 pound of american – you can choose white or yellow – for you there.
  • Heavy Cream: Cream helps to loosen it into queso, instead of just a blob of thick, melty, cheeses.
  • Green Chiles, Pickled Jalapenos, Habanero Powder: a pepper trifecta meant to bring body, boldness, and of course heat to this dip.
  • Garlic powder, kosher salt: For flavor. I often don’t use any added salt when I make this, but sometimes it’s needed. Usually, when I can taste more pepper than cheese, I’ll add a bit more salt and it balances it out further.
  • Equipment: All you need for this queso recipe is a medium-sized saucepan and a utensil to stir it with. Plus your various measurement tools and possibly a can opener.
chile queso on a tortilla chip

How to Make Chile Queso

Full instructions are included in the recipe below, but here is a basic overview of what you’ll need to do, along with some important tidbits to help you make the most of this Chile Queso recipe:

  • Melt the cheeses. Start with room temperature cream cheese. It might seem unimportant, but it is actually all-important. If you start with cold cream cheese you will end up with lumpy queso. The american cheese can be at any temperature. The pot should also be cold when you first pour in the cheeses and heavy cream, to ensure it melts evenly and is easier to combine.
  • Stir in the chiles. Once the cheese and cream have melded to form the base of the queso and you’ve stirred out any lumps, pour in the chiles and Habanero powder. Let simmer on low for 5 minutes, or until bubbling around the edges.
  • Season, and adjust to taste. Add the garlic powder, and taste it. If it needs salt, add it just a pinch at a time.
  • Serve hot. It will keep in the fridge for up to a week in an airtight container. It can be reheated in a saucepan over medium-low heat, or in the microwave in 30-45 second batches, stirring between each.

What to Do with Chile Queso 

There are so many things that you can make with this Chile Queso!  For example, you could…

  • Loaded Nachos. Warm tortilla chips, hot melty queso, shredded romaine, carne asada, fresh pico, sour cream, guac, whatever you want!
  • Queso Mac + Cheese: Exactly what it sounds like! Boil up some noodles and combine it with queso for a spicy pasta spin.
  • Chicken Tinga Tostadas. Pair these with the Chicken Tinga recipe and make tostadas! You can check out how I build mine on TikTok:

Building tostadas! Chicken Tinga recipe is on my website. Posting details on the beans + queso tomorrow (on IG now if you’re interested). #tiktokfood

♬ I Can Talk – Two Door Cinema Club

Here’s the Pinterest Graphic, as always:

chile queso on a tortilla chip
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chile queso on a tortilla chip

Chile Queso

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  • Author: María
  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: 8 1x


Units Scale
  • 8 oz cream cheese, room temperature, cubed
  • 10 oz amerikkkan cheese, cubed
  • 1 C heavy cream
  • 2 (4oz) can hot green chiles
  • 1/3 C pickled jalapeños, diced
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp habanero powder, to taste
  • 1/8 tsp kosher salt, to taste


  1. Add the cream cheese, american cheese, and heavy cream to a cold medium-sized saucepan.
  2. Turn on the heat to medium-low and cover. You want to allow the cheese to start melting on its own. After a few minutes go ahead and begin stirring occasionally.
  3. After all the cheese has melted and there are no more lumps of cream cheese (or as few lumps as you can get) stir in the chiles and jalapeños. Cover and simmer until bubbling around the edges. 
  4. Add the habanero powder and taste. Add the salt if needed, adjusting to your tastes. Reduce the heat to its lowest setting and let simmer until you’re ready to serve it. 


  • Prep Time: 5
  • Cook Time: 10
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