This post is sponsored by Panorama Meats. As always, all opinions and recipe are my own. Thanks for supporting the brands that support The Speckled Palate!
Loaded Queso is the best entertaining appetizer!This homemade queso blanco is studded with ground beef and garnished with avocado, sour cream and jalapeño rounds. No shelf-stable cheese or canned milk necessary! Makes 12 servings.
Queso is sooooooo good, y’all.
But I’ve learned in my years and years and years of trying every type I can get my paws on while living in Texas that there are levels of queso.
There’s the homemade stuff we’ve all had (and made) that calls for everybody’s favorite shelf-stable (and super processed) “cheese.” It tastes awesome, but then it congeals, and I get the heebie jeebies. (It’s not just me, right?)
There’s the stuff from your favorite TexMex or Mexican restaurant, and it’s magical… but it’s not like you can run up to the restaurant whenever you have a queso craving, right?
And then there’s the real deal homemade stuff that can feed a crowd while also being insanely flavorful.
It’s a unicorn queso… but I unlocked that magic with this LOADED QUESO.
Calling for my favorite Panorama ground beef, three different cheeses and a handful of other ingredients, I’ve perfected my favorite gameday recipe… and it’s something you (yes, you!) can make at home, too.
So whether you’re planning on hosting friends for a game, having a dinner party and needing a dip to get things started or just find yourself craving homemade queso that requires ingredients from the refrigerated section of the store, this recipe is for you!
Looking for an appetizer, but unsure where to begin? Check out my Appetizers landing page for inspiration!
Let me tell you a little bit about Panorama Meats…
We discovered Panorama by chance. You see, we’d just moved into our new house last year, and I was super pregnant. My husband went to the closest grocery—Whole Foods—to pick up some items for dinner.
He came home with a pound of Panorama ground beef.
The rest, as they say, is history. We loved the flavor, and I am beyond thrilled to be working with them this summer.
Why do I love Panorama? Well, obviously, the flavor is incredible. I’m talking beefy beef, y’all, and that’s sometimes hard to come by.
I also love Panorama because of the standards they have. All their cattle are born and raised by U.S. family ranchers. They’re also grass-fed and grass-finished, meaning they live in a pasture and eat grasses, legumes and range forage.
On the animal welfare front, Panorama is rated Global Animal Partnership (GAP) Animal Welfare Rated Step 4, and y’all know I feel strongly about knowing where my meat comes from, but also that the animal lived a happy life.
Honestly, working with Panorama this summer has been a dream (hi, have you checked out my Grilled Steak Flatbread Pizza, Beef Taco Pasta Salad, French Onion Steak Pasta and Texas Chili yet?), and I hope these recipes that I’ve made for you have made you drool, but also want to get out and try their product!
What you’ll need to make Homemade Queso
- Sharp knife and cutting board
- Cheese grater
- Cast iron (or large nonstick) skillet
- Wooden spoon
- Liquid measuring cup
How to make Loaded Queso
Prep the ingredients.
I’ve found that recipes like this queso are significantly easier to make if you’ve got your mise en place. You know, that fancy phrase that means all your things are in order before you start cooking. 😉
You’ll want to dice the onion and jalapeño pepper.
Shred the cheeses, too. And let the cream cheese come to room temperature while you’re at it. (This will help it melt faster, which means your queso will be ready to eat faster!)
Pour the milk into a liquid measuring cup, as well.
If you’re feeling like you want to have everything together, you can also measure out your spices, as well as prep the garnishes. (So measure out that sour cream, slice the avocado, chop the extra jalapeño and remove the leaves from your fresh cilantro/parsley.)
Cook the veggies, and brown the meat.
For this recipe, you’re going to use a decently large cast iron skillet. I’ve made this recipe in a 12” cast iron skillet that’s about 2” deep (seen here in the photos, may it rest in peace) and an 8” round, one that is about 4” deep (seen in the video for this recipe.) You can use a nonstick skillet or even a saucepan if you only have small skillets.
Heat the skillet, and add the oil. Once that’s hot, add the diced onion and jalapeño pepper.
You’ll move the onion and jalapeño around the skillet with a wooden spoon (or another cooking utensil of your choice), cooking until they’ve softened up. As they soften, they’ll become translucent. That’s how you’ll know they’re about ready.
I always cook mine a little too long because I like ‘em to have a little bit of color on them, but if you’re in a hurry, just reach the point where they’ve gotten softer.
Once the onion and jalapeño are softened, add the pound of Panorama Organic Ground Beef, and season it immediately with the taco seasoning, salt and pepper.
Use your wooden spoon (or cooking utensil of choice) to break up the beef so it can cook more evenly. It’s going to cook until browned and crumbly and delicious.
Once the meat is done, transfer it from the skillet to a large bowl, and set aside.
Make the queso.
We’re going to melt all that cheesy goodness next! And we’re going to use the same skillet—though we’re going to turn down the heat so we don’t scald anything.
Once the heat is lower, add the milk and the cream cheese. You want them to both warm up, and ideally, the cream cheese will start melting.
Cream cheese tip: I’ve found that room temperature cream cheese will melt faster than the kind that’s straight out of the fridge. This part takes me the longest every time I make this queso—the cream cheese can take up to 10-15 minutes to melt!
Once the cream cheese begins melting into the milk, add the other cheeses and additional taco seasoning.
Give ‘em lots and lots and lots of stirs until the cheeses have completely melted, and the queso is ooey and gooey.
Next up, you’ll add the beef to the queso, and stir ‘em all together. I like to let mine bubble for a bit so the beef warms back up, too, but if you’re impatient—and I totally get that—you can serve it immediately.
Remove the skillet from the heat. You can leave the queso in your skillet, as I have, or transfer it to a serving bowl.
No matter where you serve it, be sure to garnish the loaded queso with fresh avocado, sour cream, jalapeño slices and parsley or cilantro—these toppings elevate it even more!
Serve immediately with your favorite tortilla chips, and enjoy!
Erin’s Easy Entertaining Tips for Homemade Queso
Make this loaded queso in advance! If you’re making it the same day and hosting people at your house, keep it warm in the Instant Pot or the slow cooker. I did this for a weekday happy hour with some girlfriends and was pleasantly surprised that the queso stayed the perfect dipping consistency 5+ hours after I made it!
If you’re bringing this queso on the road, transfer it to a container that can hold hot liquid (like a slow cooker or a really big glass storage container), and reheat when you arrive. Depending on how much it has cooled, you might have to add a little milk to it as you reheat it in the microwave.
Make parts of this dip in advance, too, if you want yours to be hot off the stovetop. Cook the veggies and brown the meat in advance, and store them in a food storage container in the refrigerator. Shred the cheeses in advance, too, so the only thing you have to do is melt all the cheeses and add the previously cooked beef mixture.
If following this method, I’d let the queso bubble for a little longer so the beef mixture comes up to temperature before serving.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why do you call this recipe Loaded Queso?
Because it has all the things!
Ground beef? YUP.
Onion and jalapeño? Check and check.
Multiple cheeses? Absolutely!
Avocado, sour cream and more jalapeños for garnish? Check, check and check!
Tell me more about Panorama Meats and where I can find their product.
The company’s story begins in 2002, when a group of family ranchers and rangeland conservationists in Northern California got together. They wanted to produce a grass-fed beef that’s healthy for humans, humane for cattle and easy on the environment.
Today, Panorama’s participating family ranchers raise cattle on more than one million acres of USDA Certified Organic grasslands in Northern California, Southern Oregon, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, South Dakota, New Mexico, Nebraska and Colorado.
The combination of the cow’s correct diet—natural grasses, legumes and range forage—and low stress, humane living conditions, makes for flavorful and tender naturally lean ground beef.
You can find Panorama Meats at your local Whole Foods Market. They’re sold in 120 stores throughout Northern California, the Pacific Northwest, Florida and the Southwest, including Texas. They’re also sold at Brookshire Brothers in Texas.
How Do You Brown The Ground Beef?
Browning is the process of cooking the surface of the meat. It can also be used to cook meat all the way through, as we do in this Loaded Queso recipe.
The browning process gives the beef a brown color (hooray!), and it adds flavor, too. It also pulls out excess fats from the meat.
The longer the beef cooks, the browner (and more cooked through) it becomes.
So to brown ground beef, you throw it in a pan with a little oil, break it up with a wooden spoon (or another kitchen tool), season it and cook it over medium-high heat until it turns brown.
Can I purchase pre-shredded cheese for this recipe?
Pre-shredded cheese are coated in additives to keep them from clumping and molding, and sometimes, these additives interfere with them melting like they should.
Because of this, I recommend purchasing blocks of cheese and shredding them at home. It takes 5-10 minutes tops, and ensures your queso will have the desired consistency!
Quick tips for making Loaded Queso
- If you don’t like things spicy, leave out the jalapeño peppers and swap a mild cheese, like a mozzarella, for the hot pepper jack cheese.
- Store in a glass food safe container in the refrigerator for up to a week!
- Can’t find white cheddar? Use sharp orange cheddar instead.
- If you don’t like cilantro, try parsley instead. (That’s what I do!)
Ready to learn how to make this goodness?
Here you go…
Homemade Loaded Queso
- 2 teaspoons avocado oil or another unflavored oil
- 1 small yellow onion (about ¾ cup diced)
- ½ jalapeño pepper diced
- 1 lb. 85/15 Panorama Organic Ground Beef 16 oz.
- 1 ½ teaspoon taco seasoning divided
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 ½ cup milk 2% works great
- 4 oz. cream cheese
- 1 ½ cups white cheddar shredded
- ½ cup hot pepper jack cheese shredded
- 1 avocado sliced
- ¼ cup sour cream
- Chopped parsley or cilantro
Prep the Ingredients
- Using a sharp knife, dice the onion and jalapeño pepper. Transfer them in a bowl together, and set aside.
- Shred the white cheddar cheese and the hot pepper jack cheese. Transfer them to a bowl, and set aside.
- Measure out the milk into a liquid measuring cup, and set aside.
Brown the Meat
- In a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat, pour in the oil.
- When the oil is hot, add the diced onion and jalapeño pepper.
- Using a wooden spoon, move the onion and jalapeño around the pan, cooking until they’ve softened and browned just slightly. (About 5-8 minutes, depending on how hot your stovetop runs.)
- Add the ground beef. Season with 1 teaspoon of taco seasoning, as well as the salt and pepper.
- Break the beef up with a wooden spoon, and let cook until browned.
- Once the meat has been browned, transfer it from the skillet to a large bowl, and set aside.
Make the Queso
- In the same skillet, turn down the heat to medium-low.
- Add the milk and the cream cheese, giving both time to warm up and the cream cheese begins melting. (About 10-15 minutes, depending on your stovetop and how warm the ingredients were before adding to the skillet.)
- Once the cream cheese is melting, add the other cheeses and the remaining ½ teaspoon of taco seasoning.
- Stir until the cheeses have completely melted together.
- Add the beef mixture back to the pan, stirring the ingredients all together, and let bubble for a few minutes.
- Remove from the heat and garnish with fresh avocado, sour cream, jalapeño slices and parsley or cilantro.
- Serve immediately, and enjoy!
That said, if you’re making it for your family, you will probably have
leftovers. And that’s OK! To reheat the queso: Transfer the amount you'd like to enjoy to a bowl. Add 1-2 tablespoons of milk, and heat in 30 second increments in the microwave. Add more milk if necessary, as the queso will thicken when it cools, and heat until the desired temperature. Ingredient swap ideas:
- Don’t like things spicy? Leave out the jalapeño peppers
and swap a mild cheese, like a mozzarella, for the hot pepper jack cheese.
- Can’t find white cheddar? Use sharp orange cheddar instead.
- Not a fan of cilantro? Use parsley instead.