Fast Food Queso Ranked From Worst To Best

When it comes to fast food, there's no denying the popularity of a great queso dip. A food item that rose in popularity with Tex-Mex cuisine, the origins of queso are debated. One of the first clues is a recipe in an issue of an American magazine from 1896. Another early recipe for chile con queso dates back to a San Antonio cookbook in the 1920s while another account dates queso's birth back to the early 1900s when a man named Otis Farnsworth may have served queso at his restaurant in the same Texas city.

Whatever its beginnings, today's queso dip is a popular side dish enjoyed in many forms. Throughout the country, you can find Mexican, Southwestern, or Tex-Mex style restaurants (and home kitchens) serving up queso in various ways, adding peppers, jalapeños, spices, and even meats, including chorizo.

Now that the classic gooey cheese dip has moved beyond Texas and has made its way into many American fast food restaurants, the battle for the best queso dip rages on. Whether you prefer the highlighter yellow-hued queso from Taco Bell or the fully-loaded Monterey and white cheddar cheese blend from Chipotle, these are the different queso dips offered at fast food places, ranked from worst to best. 

Taco John's

Although Taco John's, a "West-Mex" fast food restaurant, has experimented with offering a limited-time queso blanco-style dip in the past, its main cheese dip, called Nacho Cheese, is a yellow-colored mainstay on the menu. A Mexican-inspired drive-through joint, Taco John's is known for its value menu that features burritos and potato grillers, as well as tacos and popular Mexican breakfast items. As far as queso is concerned, the Nacho Cheese at Taco John's seems to take a backseat to everything else, making it less of a must-have queso dip and more of an "if you're heading there already, why not" kind of side.

Although the runny hot cheese dip isn't bad by any means, for a place that is part Mexican food with an American Western-inspired bent, it's a shame that there's not a better queso blanco-type dip available full-time, especially because we can't help but think that the stellar menu items at Taco John's, including the breakfast Scrambler Burrito and the crunchy Potato Olés, were practically made for dipping in a great pepper-filled Texan-meets-Mexican-style queso. 


You could describe the Mexican-inspired fast casual restaurant Chipotle as a somewhat health-conscious place, which might be the reason the beloved lunch and dinner spot didn't release a queso dip nationwide until 2017. Upon its arrival, the chain's more natural recipe for queso immediately ran into plenty of critics and even falling stock prices. It's hard to deny that plenty of Chipotle menu items have great flavor, especially the tacos and burritos. However, with this particular item (a healthier version of queso), the fast casual spot seemed to have missed the mark. Who needs a healthy queso?

Made with a mix of aged Monterey and white cheddar cheese, as well as garlic, tomatoes, onion, and cornstarch, the Queso Blanco also (thankfully) features plenty of great peppers, including chipotle, poblano, and serrano. Despite the amazing ingredients and commitment to creating a great product, Chipotle's flavor-missing queso proves that it's difficult (or maybe impossible) to make a truly great queso without artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives. It's definitely worth ordering and enjoying, and we applaud Chipotle's commitment to more natural ingredients, but among these other delicious dips, there's just no way this queso is going to make it to the top of the list.


First off, let's talk about the true definition of queso dip. Despite the many variations on the style and ingredients, queso dip is not just any cheese sauce; it specifically refers to the runny cheese sauce that can be found in Southwestern-style, Tex-Mex, and Southern-style Mexican restaurants. Although you'd be wrong to categorize Culver's Wisconsin Cheddar Cheese Sauce as a true Tex-Mex style queso dip, it made this list for being a patently Midwestern take on the beloved side dish. 

Midwesterners love their dairy, which is what makes Culver's Cheese Sauce so incredible. A sauce meant for dipping, this hot cheese condiment is made from melted Wisconsin cheddar, giving it a completely different color than queso blanco. Culver's advertises the creamy cheese sauce as the perfect accompaniment to pair with its fried cheese curds, chili fries, and pretzel bites. Despite tortilla chips or tacos not being part of the equation, this cheese dip is warm, gooey, creamy, and dippable. Still, Culver's doesn't quite meet the craving that a queso dip can satiate. For this, and the fact that the texture makes it better for dipping pretzels rather than tortilla chips, it has lost some points. 

Chronic Tacos

California-based Chronic Tacos is a fast food restaurant that offers more authentic-style Mexican food. The menu at its 60-plus locations (stretching from Florida to Washington) features items you won't see at your typical fast food place, including Mission-style burritos popularized in San Francisco and churros. Inspired by the Mexican taquerias found in Southern California, Chronic doesn't mess around when it comes to its level of quality... which makes its slightly-basic queso dip all the more disappointing.

The blanco-style queso dip has a great consistency and temperature but, because it doesn't contain any add-ons found in other restaurants like jalapeños, poblano peppers, hatch chiles, or chorizo, there's nothing new or outstanding about the menu item. Because Chronic Tacos stays true to its California-Mexican roots (and doesn't seem to be necessarily influenced by Tex-Mex or Southwestern-style dishes) in serving up more authentic entrees and sides, it's no wonder Chronic doesn't have an exciting queso game. Still, there's no doubt this delicious chain could use a sexy new recipe to up its game as a serious queso contender.

Del Taco

The Cali-born Del Taco might often be compared to its main competitor, Taco Bell, but the two could not be more different. While many of the menu items are very similar, Del Taco's flavor is just a bit more, well, California, offering plenty of vegan and guacamole-laden options. Its menu even offers fish tacos.

Still, Del Taco is another fast food Mexican restaurant that offers chips and cheese dip for less than $2. One of the main distinctions Del Taco's cheese dip, however, is that it passes for more of a true queso than a "Nacho Cheese" (which is what Taco Bell calls their similar product). The Creamy Queso Blanco is great for two reasons: it's super inexpensive and it has a thinner consistency that some people might prefer. Our third reason might also be that you can get it slathered on fries with tomatoes, sour cream, and jalapeños on the Queso Loaded Fries. Now that's a decent fast food queso. However, it doesn't bring strong flavor like the higher-ranked options on this list.

Shake Shack

Shake Shack is an American-style burger joint so naturally, the restaurant's cheese dip (which comes on the side if you order the Cheese Fries) is made with American cheese. The American cheese is melted alongside cheddar in a hot pan of cooked onions and canola oil. The sauce also includes jalapeño and heavy cream. Though the fast casual restaurant may not offer true queso dip (or anything Tex-Mex for that matter), its melted cheese is an iconic dip that serves as a great condiment for its Chicken Bites and fries.

Shake Shack is rapidly expanding, with some restaurants opening internationally. Even if you aren't located near the 200-plus locations across the U.S., you can try making the chain's cheese dip on your own in your home kitchen. While many restaurants tend to keep their recipes to themselves, Shake Shack took the opposite approach by having its Culinary Director Mark Rosati give a tutorial on how to make its gooey melty cheese.

Taco Bell

Whether you prefer gooey, piping hot, spicy, mild, or loaded with extra ingredients, it's undeniable that there's a real market out there for a classic yellow-hued cheese dip. With similar styles served up at movie theaters and convenience stores across the country, this particular style of queso dip isn't necessarily authentic or even healthy. It is, of course, delicious.

Taco Bell's take on this style of cheese dip isn't called queso because it's simply not trying to be anything more than what it is: a delicious Nacho Cheese Sauce. Cheap (it's less than two bucks for chips and cheese), the Nacho Cheese is made from non-fat milk, cheese whey, jalapeño puree, and a few ingredients we'd rather not talk about. Regardless, it's an incredible feat for a fast food joint that has seemingly invented its own type of cuisine. It's not exactly the queso you'd get in a Mexican restaurant in Texas, but it's in a class all its own.

Moe's Southwest Grill

A longstanding menu item at Moe's Southwest Grill, a Southern-born Mexican and Southwestern-style fast casual chain, the Moe's Famous Queso is cemented in queso history. In fact, when Chipotle released its own queso dip in 2017, many compared the two. Made with three melted cheeses mixed with finely-diced jalapeños, Moe's might have one of the gold standards for fast casual queso. It's creamy, consistently gooey, and at the perfect temperature, you can dip your burrito right in.

An absolute must when ordering anything at Moe's, this famous side is popular because it's downright delicious. Other queso dips might arrive late on the scene but this one has been a tried and true staple. The restaurant also offers variations on its famous queso dip, including the Chili Con Queso, which features beef and jalapeños. Since free chips and salsa are offered with every order at Moe's, you can combine the queso and salsa to create your own version.

Baja Fresh

Baja Fresh Mexican Grill is a fast casual restaurant whose self-serve salsa bar, offering a range of salsa styles, is one of its most compelling selling points. Besides an array of salsas, burritos, bowls, and tacos galore, the menu also boasts a spicy three-pepper take on queso dip. Loaded with different types of peppers, the thick queso is a hit with Baja fans for a reason: It packs tons of flavor. 

Another reason to visit Baja Fresh is its freshly-made tortilla chips. When paired with the queso dip, it's a match made in heaven. For even more flavor, try your hand at creating your own salsa and queso dip combo by going wild at the salsa bar. Baja Fresh is also a great place for vegetarians, as its menu offers tons of veggie-friendly and Impossible options. With tons of ways to enjoy Baja's incredibly popular queso, it deserves a spot near the top of the list.


Qdoba, a Mexican-style fast casual chain restaurant, serves a 3-Cheese Queso dip that's made it near the top of this list for many reasons, including its ideal texture (not too runny, not too thick). One of the other reasons is that the creamy dip has inspired a myriad of copycat recipes and even Reddit threads online. Beloved by many, the cheese dip is recreated by home chefs who typically mix the three types of cheese (American, white American, and white Monterey Jack) to create a knock-off.

Qdoba also offers a spicy version called the Queso Diablo, which features a pepper paste (according to the Reddit thread) made from red Fresno peppers, jalapeños, and chipotle peppers. We would award the chain's Queso Diablo a spice level of three out of four. We applaud Qdoba's commitment to providing two inexpensive and consistent queso dips that keep customers happy (and even make them try to recreate it on their own).

Torchy's Tacos

The Texas-based Torchy's Tacos, with made-to-order tacos and ethically-sourced ingredients, isn't like a typical fast food joint. On the Tex-Mex restaurant's website, the company proclaims that it is "constantly innovating to ensure we're delivering the tastiest tacos, queso, and margaritas in the game" which is why we declare Torchy's as one of the best queso dips in the business.

The restaurant, which began as an Austin, Texas food truck and has now expanded to 90 locations reaching across the country, features two styles of queso dip on its menu. The Green Chile Queso (nicknamed on the website as "the golden elixir") features creamy queso topped with guacamole, cotija cheese, cilantro, and hot sauce. Their Hillbilly Queso features the same ingredients with a meaty twist (added chorizo). Although Torchy's is mainly focused on tacos, including breakfast tacos and margaritas, it's good to know that the beloved restaurant also puts a lot of care into its queso dips.

Taco Cabana

At the center of Tex-Mex fast food dining is Taco Cabana, a chain restaurant with over 100 locations throughout Texas and New Mexico. Born and headquartered in San Antonio, Texas (the rumored birthplace of queso dip as we know it), it only makes sense that a place with this much Texas influence would have an incredible queso dip.

Taco Cabana has always had a creative menu (that once included a pickle margarita), but the star of the show for this beloved eatery is its long list of sides. Not only can you enjoy the delicious queso dip, loaded with chopped peppers, alongside tortilla chips but you can also try the salsa ranch, guacamole, and refried beans. Serving up an assortment of flavored frozen margaritas, open 24 hours a day, and offering breakfast tacos at any hour, there are plenty of reasons that Taco Cabana is different from any other fast food joint around, making it a local favorite and a cult hit with Texas and New Mexico visitors. For this reason, and for the fact that this queso has even inspired copycat recipes by home cooks, we applaud Taco Cabana's contribution to the queso lovers' community.