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Damn Good Queso

Author: Adapted from Queso! by Lisa Fain



  • 1 red bell pepper, roasted, peeled, seeded, and roughly chopped
  • 4 habanero chiles, preferably red or orange, halved lengthwise and seeded
  • ¼ medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
  • ½ cup canola or vegetable oil
  • 1 tbs white wine vinegar
  • ¼ tsp ground cumin, or more if you really like cumin
  • Kosher salt, to taste


  • 1 cup store bought or homemade green salsa
  • 1 pound brick-processed cheese, such as Velveeta, cut into about 1” cubes
  • Kosher salt, to taste


  • Guacamole
  • 1 ounce crumbled Cotija cheese (queso fresco works too)
  • Chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish
  • Tortilla chips for serving



  • Add the roasted bell pepper, habaneros, onion, garlic, tomato sauce, canola oil, vinegar, and cumin in your blender. Puree until smooth. Add salt to taste and blend once more to combine. Set aside.


  • Pour the green salsa into a medium saucepan and add the cheese. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the cheese has melted. Taste and add salt if necessary.
  • Transfer the queso to a wide, shallow serving bowl. Spoon the guacamole into the center of the queso, then liberally spoon or drizzle the Fiery Red Salsa around the guacamole. Don’t stir it in. Garnish as you wish with Cotija and cilantro. Serve immediately with tortilla chips. Cold beer is *quite* refreshing here.


I adapted this recipe from Queso! by Lisa Fain. (Also check out Indian Queso with Jalapeno Chutney, also from this book!) She originally found it on the menu at Torchy’s Tacos in Austin, Texas. I skipped the step that has you charring the onion, garlic, and habanero - I will occasionally do that, but the first time I made this I was feeling lazy and decided to see what would happen if I cut the corner. Nothing bad happened! So that's how I continue to make it. The salsa is seriously hot, but that’s how I like things. You could sub in a Fresno chile if you’d prefer milder. Or, sub in your favorite red salsa - it’ll still be great! For the green salsa that mixes into the cheese, I went with store bought (there’s that laziness again!) and no one thought anything of it. You can use homemade if you’d rather, of course.