April 30, 2013

Melty Queso Dip

When I brought this dip to a party, explaining that it was actually made from real pepper jack cheese, I was met with baffled looks. “What else is in it? Butter? Cream?” my friends asked. I smiled and told them it really was just cheese, plus a little water and sodium citrate. That means there is no added fat to impair the flavor or coat your mouth when you take a bite. That pure taste of pepper jack cheese makes it the best queso around.

Judy Oldfield-Wilson, Online Writer

Recipe Tags

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Queso (4)


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Pepper jack cheese, sodium citrate, and beer are the only ingredients in this recipe.

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Add the grated cheese a little at a time.

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Use a wire wisk or immersion blender to incorporate the cheese.

Tips & Substitutions

Step 1
  • Sodium citrate is a sodium salt of citric acid, which is found naturally in citrus fruits.
  • You cannot substitute citric acid for sodium citrate in this recipe.
  • Sodium citrate allows the proteins in the cheese sauce to become more soluble while lowering the pH of the sauce, which creates a smooth emulsion without curdling. Though citric acid will also lower the pH, it will not work on proteins as sodium citrate does. Using citric acid will result in a soupy or grainy texture instead of a silky emulsion.
  • Both sodium citrate and citric acid are referred to as “sour salt” and can be found in the kosher section of grocery stores. They are, however, different, so be sure to check the label in order to select the right one.
  • You can also find various brands of sodium citrate online, such as WillPowder and Artistré, among others.
  • Whisk the sodium citrate into the water or beer until it’s fully dissolved before bringing the mixture to a simmer.
Step 2
  • For this dish, we prefer pepper jack cheese, but you can use any kind of cheese, or a combination of cheeses.
  • Add the cheese to the simmering liquid slowly, about one spoonful at a time.
  • We find that using an immersion blender greatly helps in emulsifying the cheese, but you can also use a wire whisk.
  • If the emulsion breaks, bring the mixture to a full boil and then continue processing it with the immersion blender. The mixture should pull together. If this fails, add a spoonful of heavy cream and try again.
  • The cheese will thicken slightly as it cools.
  • The cheese keeps well; you can store it up to one week when refrigerated, or up to two months when frozen.

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  1. Dave April 30, 2013 Reply

    2 questions:
    Is there a recommended way to reheat? Micro? Stove Top? Crock Pot? I’ve made this recipe many times with good success but have mostly served right away since it’s so quick.

    Is there a way to make something similar but flowing at cold temperatures… I was thinking along the lines of Bleu Cheese Dressing… Just Bleu Cheese? Thanks.

    • Judy April 30, 2013 Reply

      Hi Dave,

      We do have a recipe for Blue Cheese Sauce in Modernist Cuisine at Home. It uses Wondra, sodium citrate, blue cheese, and whole milk.

    • Johnny Zhu April 30, 2013 Reply

      All three methods of reheating will work in some capacity. If you are experiencing scorching, then using the crockpot or microwave will be better than reheating on the stove. If you are entertaining, then crock pot will keep it fluid for the whole party.

  2. Jordan May 28, 2013 Reply

    I made this the other day actually without seeing this post. Instead of pepper jack, I rehydrated some guahillo chillies and then blended those chilies with the water used for the rehydrating. I combined this with the regular jack cheese and sodium citrate for a queso with amazing flavor (you just cant get that from pepper jack)

  3. Dave June 13, 2013 Reply

    Thanks for a great new technique! I have used this extensively over the last few months for entertaining and don’t know why I haven’t, until today, thought of something to do with the liquid that comes with jalapenos:) I can’t wait to try this one.

  4. Hamilton September 24, 2013 Reply

    This is great for get-togethers. I put it in a crockpot with a variety of chips nearby and people can snack on it all night.

  5. Cody September 24, 2013 Reply

    How do I make it thicker? When the cheese is hot it’s a little runny for my taste on nachos; do I just use a little less water?

    • Joey T September 30, 2013 Reply

      I had the same result my first go around, following the recipe as written. My second attempt, I used cheddar cheese (what I had on hand) and I reduced the liquid by about 1/4, finally adding about 4 ounces cream cheese after the cheddar was incorporated. Mighty fine.

  6. Rob December 2, 2013 Reply

    I’ve tried using cheese containing sodium citrate instead of using the pure chemical and it worked quite well.

  7. Joel January 8, 2014 Reply

    You can do way better than pepper jack.

    Roast two poblanos, two roma tomatoes, one jalepeno, and 1/2 a white onion. Seed & peel the peppers, and dice everything fine.

    Calculate the weight of the tomatoes as part of your liquid & mix with ~400g of a good colby-jack from the deli counter. I use milk as my liquid.

  8. Melanie February 6, 2014 Reply

    Wow! This sounds wonderful, and I cannot wait to try this in my kitchen soon. Thank you!

  9. CW January 27, 2018 Reply

    The ratio was too runny for me as well. I added more cheese and measured as I went. I found that an 85% liquid (Dos Equis ambers amber) to cheese was the right consistency (rather than the 93% liquid suggested in the recipe). It had a smooth queso texture when the cheese was approx 140-150 deg.

    Also, while I’m certain that going the extra mile with fresh roasted peppers/tomatoes/onions/etc really elevates this queso, for the small amount of time and effort of a bottle of beer and a pep jack from BJs/Costo was far and away better than any canned abomination… and just so easy.

  10. John May 6, 2019 Reply

    As a Texan who gets to eat a lot of really good queso, I have some simple tweaks that bring this much closer to real queso that good restaurants serve around here:
    – Use milk instead of water. Don’t boil it (avoid a cooked flavor), just heat it and add the sodium citrate.
    – Use Oaxaca or Chihuahua cheese if you can get it
    – Add a few tablespoons of salsa at the end — this is an easy way to get the complexity of tomatoes, onions, and chilis without any work plus the acidity brightens the flavor

    I use less liquid than the recipe calls for, plus if you’re adding salsa you want to reduce the liquid even more to compensate for the liquid in the salsa.

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