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Game Day Chili Queso Dip

This recipe and photography were provided courtesy of local cookbook author and chef, Carla Snyder. Learn more about Carla and discover her recipes at or in her cookbook, One Pan Whole Family. 

Even if you’re not really all that into football, there is one thing most humans can agree on: tailgating food includes some of the best-tasting grub on the planet.

Webster’s Dictionary defines tailgating as 1. Driving too closely behind another vehicle and 2. Hosting or attending a social gathering at which an informal meal is served from the back of a parked vehicle, typically in the parking lot at or near a sports stadium.

Hmmm…. with all due respect to Webster’s, I think there’s a lot more to tailgating than that. Excitement, camaraderie, fun and beverages, lots of beverages and lots of food to go along with it.

Tailgating is one of our favorite pastimes. The food at a tailgate is super important as it needs to be not only delicious but hearty and filling as well. Finger sandwiches just will not do. The chow has to have POW! A tailgate is a time for queso chili dip if ever there was one.

Chili Queso Dip

Queso is the Spanish word for cheese and queso chili dip is essentially melted cheese with meat and flavoring tossed in for good measure. The standard queso dip consists of a block of Velveeta cheese and a can of chili and picante sauce. It’s good, but come on…Velveeta? I think we can do better than that with just a tiny bit of effort.

Let’s keep the easy can of meaty chili but instead of processed cheese, let’s melt some real cheese instead. I’ve tested a few queso dips in my day and I’ve found the perfect mix of cheeses to be Monterrey Jack, sharp Cheddar and cream cheese. It’s basically a trifecta.

How easy is it? I start off with a sauté of onion, jalapeño and garlic and stir in taco seasoning and flour. Then I add half and half to make a nice cream sauce base for the cheese to melt nicely. Once the cheese is all melted, a can of chili with no beans and a can of Rotel Tomatoes and Green Chilies is stirred in. Last but not least, a block of cream cheese melts in for a creamy finish. It’s a simple and delicious meal on a chip.

Chili Queso in a Bowl with Different Kinds of Beer
Game Day Chili Queso Dip


  • 3 jalapeño peppers
  • 1 small onion
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 Tbs. fresh cilantro
  • 2 limes
  • 3 Tbs. butter
  • 2 Tbs. taco seasoning
  • 2 Tbs. flour
  • 1 1/2 cups Half & half
  • 8-oz. Monterrey Jack, shredded
  • 8-oz. Sharp Cheddar
  • One 10-oz. can Rotel Diced Tomatoes and Green Chilies
  • One 15-oz. can chili with no beans
  • 8-oz. cream cheese, cubed
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Sour cream and chopped avocado (to garnish)
  • Corn chips, as an accompaniment


  1. On a large cutting board, mince the jalapeño and garlic (keep the seeds of the jalapeño if you want it extra spicy. )Finely chop the onion. Chop the cilantro and set it aside. Quarter the limes.
  2. Heat the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. When it sizzles, add the jalapeño, garlic and onion. Sauté the vegetables until they are soft and fragrant, about 4 minutes.
  3. Stir in the taco seasoning, flour and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Stir in the half and half and continue to stir until the sauce thickens and bubbles about 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and stir in the Monterrey Jack and Cheddar cheese in increments, adding more as it melts. Stir in the Rotel tomatoes and chili. Once the mixture is hot, add the cream cheese, stirring until no lumps remain.
  4. Season the dip with lime, salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with sour cream and avocado and sprinkle with cilantro. Serve hot with chips and extra lime on the side.
Carla Snyder in her kitchen
By Carla Snyder
Carla has spent the past 30 years in the food world as a caterer, artisan baker, cooking school teacher, food writer and author of 6 cook books including the James Beard nominated Big Book of Appetizers. Her passion is sharing fresh, cooked-from-scratch weeknight meals that cut prep time and practically eliminate that nightly sink full of dishes.

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