Appetizer Tex-Mex

El Paso-style chile con queso, 1947

El Paso-style chile con queso, 1947 | Homesick Texan

El Paso has long been one of my favorite cities. When I considered where to live upon my return to Texas, El Paso was high on the list, and eliminated solely because I didn’t know anyone there and it would still require a plane ride to visit my family. That said, the beautiful landscape, friendly people, and delicious food made that choice a challenge.

I’ve been visiting El Paso for quite some time, though in the early days I’d simply fly in, rent a car, then drive to Marfa. I never stayed in town long. One trip, however, I was talking to a friend who grew up there, and she advised that before I hit the road I try the chile con queso, saying it wasn’t like the Tex-Mex queso I’d grown up eating. She gave me a list of places to try and I followed her advice.

If you’ve read my book on queso, then you know the rest of this story. Essentially, I was blown away by how the El Paso style of queso differed from the Tex-Mex style. Indeed, when most people think of queso they think of a hot bowl of creamy processed cheese, dotted with green chiles and ready to be dipped into with tortilla chips. 


El Paso-style chile con queso, 1947 | Homesick Texan

In El Paso, however, the chile con queso is not the same. While yes, there are cheese and chiles, the cheese is white melting cheese such as asadero, Muenster, or Monterey Jack. And the roasted long green chiles are abundant, with both the peppers and the cheese being equal partners. It differs from queso flameado (or fundido), in that there is liquid, such as broth or dairy, to thin the mixture. While it can be enjoyed with chips, it’s also spooned into tortillas, wrapped into burritos, and used as a sauce for roasted meats and enchiladas, too.

The full background is recounted in my book, but to make a long story short, the queso in El Paso is a direct link to chile con queso’s Mexican origins. It is the original queso and as such is worthy of much respect. It may not be what one is used to, but it is no less delicious. I love it and believe you will, too.

In doing my research, I came across many renditions of El Paso queso. Some recipes called for broth, some called for heavy cream, and some called for milk. I tried all of them, and they were all delicious. The challenge for me was which ones to include in the book.

One of the recipes that didn’t make it into my book was a curious one that came from a 1947 cookbook produced by the El Paso Herald Post. What marked it different from the others was it used only three ingredients: cream cheese, evaporated milk, and a handful of roasted and chopped long green chiles.

As it was the only one that didn’t have white semi-hard cheese in it, I was dubious when preparing it for the first time. Yet it came together in a flash and tasted like many of the rest. While I tried it with additional seasonings such as ground cumin and garlic powder, I found that just a hit of salt was plenty to make the queso shine. This simple dip soon became a new favorite.

El Paso-style chile con queso, 1947 | Homesick Texan

If you’re not familiar with El Paso-style chile con queso, it may seem unusual at first. But when you tuck into it with tortillas chips or flour tortillas, know that you will immediately recognize a familiar queso friend, and a dish that is as splendid as the place from where it came.

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El Paso-style chile con queso, 1947 | Homesick Texan
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El Paso-style chile con queso, 1947

Author Lisa Fain

Ingredients

  • 8 long green chiles
  • 8-ounces cream cheese
  • 2 (5-ounce) cans evaporated milk
  • Kosher salt

Instructions

  1. First you’ll need to roast the chiles. Place the chiles under the broiler until blackened, about 5 minutes per side. Place the chiles in a paper sack or plastic food-storage bag, close it tight and let the chiles steam for 20 minutes. Take the chiles out of the bag and gently rub off the skin. Remove the stem and seeds, then chop the chiles.

  2. Add the cream cheese and evaporated milk to a saucepan, then over medium-low heat melt and blend the two while stirring. After 5 minutes, the cream cheese should be melted and blended with the evaporated milk. Stir in the chopped chiles, then taste and add salt (I start with 1 teaspoon and go from there). Serve warm.

Recipe Notes

If you prefer to used canned green chiles, you'll need 8 ounces. 



  1. Elizabeth M Hernandez

    I am a native El Pasoan and have never heard of this chile con queso.

    • Lisa Fain

      Elizabeth–That’s unusual! This particular one reminds me of the queso they serve on top of steak at Avila’s. In any case, it’s very delicious and I hope you try it!

  2. P Shanks

    I don’t care where these quesos come from. I’m enjoying all these different variations you’re finding & posting. Thanks for doing it!

  3. Susan Sunde

    “there is liquid, such as broth or dairy, to think the mixture.” Huh?

    • Lisa Fain

      Susan–Thank you for noticing that errant letter k! It should read, “there is liquid…to thin the mixture.” It’s now fixed.

  4. Margaret

    Interesting, did you try adding rotel tomatoes? I’ve never heard of this queso either — is it similar to Mexican Crema?
    I grew up in Texas, but I’ve never been to El Paso but love New Mexico — El Paso sounds very similar to its neighboring state.
    If you’re ever in Terlingua, don’t miss the Chili Pepper Cafe ?

    • Lisa Fain

      Margaret–No, I haven’t made this with Ro-Tel though I reckon that would be good! It’s not like crema, it’ s thicker than that and it tastes like a smooth queso blanco. The food in El Paso is indeed similar to New Mexican cuisine. And I look forward to visiting the Chili Pepper Cafe!

  5. Margaret

    I should probably add that Chili Pepper Cafe in Terlingua was recommended by locals as the best place for Tex Mex — I thought it was fabulous and can’t wait to return.

  6. Hello, are the long green Chile’s a banana pepper, poblano, or something else? I know it isn’t jalapeños or you would have stated that. I live in Texas but the only long green Chile’s I’ve found are one of those mentioned above. I use the canned Hatch, or Old El Paso brand in many recipes, are these the type you are talking about?

    Thanks!

    • Lisa Fain

      Susie–A long green chile can be called Hatch, Anaheim, or New Mexico. It’s the light green, long dagger-shaped chile pepper. If you can’t find those, Poblanos can be used instead. Canned Hatch or green chiles work, too.

  7. Mitzi Muirhead

    I can’t wait to try this. I absolutely love your Queso book and have given it as a birthday present many times!

  8. Christine

    Being a native Houstonian, I had to try this very different queso recipe. It’s definitely unique and delicious! Ended up using 12 oz evaporated milk and 1.5 tsp kosher salt. We love the flavor of the blistered hatch chiles and can’t stop eating it. Thanks for the great recipe!

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