Copycat Chili's Beef Queso Recipe

When a comfort food craving hits, copycat Chili's beef queso recipe might be just what you're looking for. The recipe, developed by Kate Shungu, is meaty, hearty, and extra cheesy. We love serving it for a get-together, whether it's a summer cookout, a fall tailgate, or a taco party any time of the year. 

Most Chili's beef queso copycat recipes call for a can of bean-free chili. Here we'll substitute ground beef, tomato paste, and spices to create our own "chili" to complement the creamy Velveeta. Tortilla chips are a natural pairing, but this versatile dip works with a wide variety of dippers.

If you were to order beef queso at Chili's it would be served in a cast iron skillet, so for ease of preparation, this recipe is made right in the skillet. One advantage of this is that it can go from the stovetop straight to the table. If your guests will be grazing over a period of time, however, we recommend putting the dip in a slow cooker set to "warm," so that guests can serve themselves and the dip will be piping hot. And if you're craving more of the restaurant experience, serve this with copycat Chili's salsa.

Gather the ingredients for copycat Chili's beef queso

The queso starts off with ground beef and seasonings: chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper. Then we'll add tomato paste and salt to amp up the flavor. A block of Velveeta transforms the dish into a gooey, cheesy dip, and the milk thins it out so you have a dip-able queso. Finally, a little lime juice adds some acidity to balance the richness of the cheese. Serve with tortilla chips for scooping it up.

Step 1: Cook the beef

Place the ground beef in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the meat, stirring occasionally to break it up, until browned and cooked through.

Step 2: Add the seasonings

Add the chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, cayenne, salt, and tomato paste to the ground beef.

Step 3: Add the milk

Pour the milk into the pan, and whisk to incorporate the spices and tomato paste into the milk.

Step 4: Whisk in the Velveeta and lime juice

Add the cubes of Velveeta, and let cook until melted, about 4–5 minutes. Stir in the lime juice.

Step 5: Serve the beef queso

Transfer to a cast iron skillet (unless you've already cooked it in one) and serve with tortilla chips.

Why use Velveeta for queso?

If you've ever made a grainy sauce for mac & cheese or queso, the problem was likely that you used real cheese. The proteins in the milk (called caseins) are quick to separate from the fats when most cheese is heated, which results in a grainy mixture that breaks up and isn't very creamy. Velveeta, on the other hand, makes the creamiest dips. Compared to regular cheese, Velveeta melts beautifully while still retaining that classic cheesy flavor.

The key to the creaminess of Velveeta (which is named after its velvety texture) is sodium citrate, which changes the state of the caseins in the cheese so that they're heat resistant. Without it, the cheese would break down and separate. It's one of the reasons that Velveeta is called a "cheese product" instead of just "cheese." Despite not quite being the real deal, Velveeta makes a fantastic choice for dishes that require melted cheese like queso and mac & cheese. You can even make fudge with Velveeta!

What are some queso dipper ideas?

Onto the fun part — serving the dip! Tortilla chips are a natural choice for scooping up queso. If you're ready to branch out from chips, there are plenty of other foods you can use as dippers. Because the queso is reminiscent of fondue, you can take inspiration from that and serve it with pieces of cubed bread (French bread is nice). If you're a fan of pretzels served with cheese sauce, try serving this cheesy dip with soft pretzels. For a tart and briny kick to liven up the creamy cheese, try cornichons or other pickles. For something lighter and brighter, serve the queso with vegetables such as bell pepper slices, carrot sticks, or steamed cauliflower or broccoli florets. For the cauliflower or broccoli florets, you need only steam them lightly, about 5–6 minutes.

To up the comfort-food factor, try boiled new potatoes or even french fries. And for a touch of nostalgia that also adds an extra source of protein, you could offer cocktail sausages. Bread, cornichons, potatoes, and cocktail sausages are best served on little skewers or toothpicks: No one likes dropping food into the dip. Don't forget to set out a little dish for the used toothpicks. Any leftover queso can be kept for up to one week in the refrigerator. Reheat any leftovers in the microwave, in a skillet on the stovetop, or in a slow cooker.

Copycat Chili's Beef Queso Recipe
4.9 from 32 ratings
When a comfort food craving hits, try our copycat Chili's beef queso recipe, which is perfect for a summer cookout, a fall tailgate, or a taco party.
Prep Time
5
minutes
Cook Time
15
minutes
Servings
10
servings
queso in a skillet
Total time: 20 minutes
Ingredients
  • ½ pound ground beef
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup milk
  • 16 ounces Velveeta, cut into cubes
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • Tortilla chips for serving
Directions
  1. Place the ground beef in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the meat, stirring occasionally to break it up, until browned and cooked through.
  2. Add the chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, cayenne, salt, and tomato paste to the ground beef.
  3. Pour the milk into the pan, and whisk to incorporate the spices and tomato paste into the milk.
  4. Add the cubes of Velveeta, and let cook until melted, about 4–5 minutes. Stir in the lime juice.
  5. Transfer to a cast iron skillet (unless you've already cooked it in one) and serve with tortilla chips.
Nutrition
Calories per Serving 247
Total Fat 16.9 g
Saturated Fat 8.9 g
Trans Fat 0.3 g
Cholesterol 54.8 mg
Total Carbohydrates 11.1 g
Dietary Fiber 0.8 g
Total Sugars 5.5 g
Sodium 774.1 mg
Protein 12.8 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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