Restaurant style smoked queso dip comes together easily on your grill or smoker and no Velveeta cheese is used. One special ingredient gives it the same smooth texture you’ll find at your favorite Mexican restaurant.
Smoked Queso Dip is the ultimate tailgate recipe, but is perfect anytime you’ve got your grill or smoker cranked up. Many people prefer not to cook with processed cheeses so we’ve specifically developed this recipe without. A special ingredient is the key to silky smooth dip every time.
If you’re not grilling out, you can even make it on the stove top – you’ll just be missing out on that extra bit of flavor from the smoke, but it’s still yummy!
The special ingredient
After exhaustive research and lots of recipe testing we finally figured out how to make creamy queso dip just like at your corner Tex-Mex taqueria. This simple ingredient is not widely known in home cooking circles, but is used in commercial cooking to make all kinds of smooth sauces.
We try to make it a policy to not recommend unusual ingredients to you guys, but this is one case we’re willing to make an exception. When you see what a difference it makes in your queso dip we think you’ll be glad. You will not be asking the question “How do you keep smoked queso dip creamy?”
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Sodium citrate may sound like some evil chemical, but it’s actually just salt made from citric acid. In the case of our queso dip it acts as an emulsifier to keep the fats and proteins from separating.
You only need a tiny bit and you’ll have the silkiest, smoothest white cheese dip you’ve ever tasted. Don’t even think about trying this recipe without the sodium citrate.
We order ours from Amazon and we’ve linked to it here, for your convenience. We haven’t found it on the shelves in our neighborhood grocery, but it may possibly be available at a larger store like Whole Foods.
How to make it:
First, you’ll heat the evaporated milk up just enough to see it start steaming. You can do this at medium-low to medium heat, but reduce it to indirect heat if you need to keep it just at a simmer before adding the cheese.
Next, stir in the sodium citrate and stir until it dissolves.
The shredded cheese gets added a little at the time, stirring to incorporate after each addition.
At the end add the diced jalapenos or green chili peppers. If you want to add anything else like cooked chorizo, now is the time.
That’s it! Your smoked queso dip will thicken as it cools, but with the special ingredient you’ve added it should not separate and get greasy. If a skin forms on the surface just stir it in with a spoon or a chip.
- Monterey Jack cheese will give you the traditional flavor you find in a Mexican restaurant’s queso dip. You can certainly mix it up by using part cheddar, or another favorite cheese.
- Evaporated milk really makes a creamy dip. We have not tested it with whole milk.
- Sodium Citrate is what makes this queso silky smooth. There is no substitute.
- Diced pickled jalapeno slices are traditional, but they do add a kick. Leave them out or substitute with diced green chile peppers for less heat.
Tips & Tricks
- ALWAYS use freshly grated cheese. If you buy it already grated it has something added to keep the shreds separate. Even if it’s a natural ingredient like flour it can make your queso dip grainy and you don’t want that.
- Keep the temperature low when melting the cheese. If you have good temperature control on your smoker or grill keep it at 225 degrees or below. You may need to work at the edge of the grill on indirect heat.
- The ratio of cheese to milk can be varied according to your preference for a thinner or thicker queso dip.
- Smoked Queso Dip will thicken as it cools and form a skin on top, but can be stirred and the skin reincorporated. Using a cast iron skillet will keep it warm longer. Alternatively, it can be kept warm in a small slow cooker for longer serving times.
Items you may need for your queso dip
If you are making smoked queso on the grill or smoker we recommend using a cast iron skillet. The 9-10 inch size is about perfect, and if you don’t have one you can order here.
Cast iron holds up best for cooking outside and we use it for our Smoked Mac & Cheese, Smoked Baked Beans and more. Did you know we have an entire category of Grilled and Smoked Recipes? Be sure to check out all of them!
If you use a gas grill but still want to get that smoky flavor you can use one of these wood chip boxes. We use them whenever we don’t have time to crank up the smoker for a simple dish like Smoked Vegetables.
- For a flavorful and meaty version try adding about ½ cup of cooked, crumbled chorizo sausage.
- You can add ¼-1/3 cup of diced tomatoes, but we really like to drain about ¼ cup of salsa and stir it in. You don’t have to completely drain it – just get it out of the container with a slotted spoon so you don’t dilute your queso dip too much.
- As mentioned above, diced jalapenos and green chile peppers can be used interchangably according to your preference for heat.
- Topping with cilantro is always a good idea with any Mexican-inspired or Southwestern dish.
Smoked Queso Dip without Velveeta
- 9 ounces Monterey Jack cheese freshly grated
- 12 ounces evaporated milk
- 1 teaspoon Sodium Citrate
- 3 Tablespoons diced, pickled jalapeno peppers or green chile peppers optional
- Heat evaporated milk at medium low heat on smoker, grill or stovetop until it steams.
- Reduce heat to a very low simmer (200-225 degrees) and stir in sodium citrate until dissolved.
- Add shredded cheese gradually, stirring after each addition until cheese is melted and incorporated into milk.
- Stir in peppers until heated thoroughly.