A make-at-home version of Bandera Queso Dip – the highly addictive dip made famous by the restaurant chain.
This is the stuff legends are made of.
If you’ve frequented a restaurant called Bandera and ordered their famous Queso Dip you know what I mean. It’s unforgettable. A delightful mixture of smokey, spicy cheese that you cannot stop eating. Unlike the hot, melted variety of queso, Bandera’s version is a cold dip that is similar to pimento cheese but with a Southwestern kick. I’ve been bound and determined to figure this recipe out since the first time I tried it and good gosh almighty, I’ve nailed it!
But I had a little help.
Quite some time ago, I got an email from a very nice woman who told me that she and her girlfriends share my love for this dip. So much, in fact, that one of her girlfriends, who she described as “ridiculously good looking”, flirted outrageously with the poor manager one night until he handed over the recipe. Maybe it’s wrong? Maybe.
If you try the dip you’ll understand.
I was beside myself, jumping for joy, over the moon, happy when I read that email, but something wasn’t quite right with the recipe she sent along. I knew just from looking at the list of ingredients that while some of the main flavor components were there, the texture would be off if I followed the manager’s directions. I suspect he was holding out as any faithful Bandera employee would. So, I’ve tweaked and played with it and I’m incredibly happy with the result. It is perfection.
Let’s make some Queso!
Here are the ingredients that add the smoke, spice, and unique look to this dip. Canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, pimentos, and a fresh jalapeno. These canned peppers are very spicy so we’ll use them sparingly but they a very necessary element. If you are afraid of the heat level, you can use less, but don’t leave them out altogether.
Shred 3 cups of sharp cheddar cheese and 1 cup of Monterey jack. Use the cheese grater to grate a couple of tablespoons of yellow onion. Adding grated onion to a recipe like this eliminates the crunchy texture that comes from adding diced onion. It’s all about adding flavor.
Finely dice a couple of chipotle peppers and 2 tablespoons pimentos.
Grab a mixing bowl and combine the cream cheese, mayonnaise, Lawry’s Seasoning Salt, fresh ground pepper, and grated onion. Toss in the diced peppers and pimentos.
A quick note – I use both light mayonnaise and reduced fat cream cheese because it is what I always have on hand in my kitchen. Use what you have; use what you like.
I strongly recommend removing both the seeds and ribs from the jalapeno before dicing it and adding it to the mixture. You are going to get plenty of heat from the chipotle peppers.
In goes the shredded cheese.
To get more of that wonderful smokey flavor, I added 1 teaspoon of the adobo sauce from the canned peppers. I recommend starting with 1/2 teaspoon and then give it a taste and add more if you think it needs it.
Cover and refrigerate the dip for a couple of hours before serving to allow the flavors to intensify. So intense!
I want to thank the wonderful woman for her email and a special thanks to her super hot girlfriend who finagled the basis for this recipe out of the manager at Bandera that fateful night.
Words cannot express my gratitude. My entire family thanks you.
Bandera Queso Dip
- 4 ounces.cream cheese, reduced fat or regular, room temperature
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise, light or regular
- 1/2 teasoon Lawry's Seasoning Salt
- 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
- 2 tablespoons yellow onion, grated
- 2 canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, finely diced
- 2 tablespoons pimentos, finely diced
- 3 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated
- 1 cup Monterey Jack cheese, grated
- 1 jalapeno, seeded and very finely diced
- 1/2 teaspoon adobo sauce from canned chipotle peppers, or to taste
- Use a wooden spoon to combine cream cheese, mayonnaise, Lawry's Seasoning Salt, fresh ground pepper and grated onion in a large mixing bowl till smooth. Add diced chipotle peppers and pimentos. Stir till well combined. Add cheddar and Monterey jack cheese, diced jalapeno, and 1/2 teaspooon adobo sauce from the canned chipotle peppers. Stir till combined. Taste and add additional adobo sauce for more smoke and heat, if desired.
- Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or more prior to serving.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated using generic ingredients, and is an estimate not a guarantee. For more accurate results, please refer to the labels on your ingredients at home.
Questions and Reviews
This is really good, but it still doesn’t quite match the restaurant one. I really wish someone would figure it out. I’ve been researching it for years. I know Bandera uses green onions, as well as pickled and fire roasted jalapeños in addition to regular. The cheddar that they use is sharp Tillamook.
I’m also a fellow Banderas/Los Altos (CA) Grill regular. Several years ago I asked the chef for the ingredients and of course he didn’t give them all to me. The one point though that he gave that makes the difference: Put the block of cheese in a meat grinder – that’s how you get closer to the consistency of the real thing.
Thank you!!! We just enjoyed this at Bandera last week and what fun to have at home.
Thank you for this recipe! I’ve made it about 5 times, and have spent many nights researching the queso at our local Bandera outlet, Los Altos Grill. There are a few minor things I’ve tweaked that I think are closer to how the local restaurant makes it. I use 3 green onions, finely chopped, green and white parts, instead of the yellow onion. I definitely see green onion in the real thing. Also, the fresh jalapeño is more “green” flavored than what I’ve had. I substitute about 1/4 cup Embasa canned jalapeños, finely chopped. They also add some pickley acid flavor. Finally, I think yours is a wee-bit smokey. I use only 1 Herdez chipotle, but still add 1 tablespoon of the sauce. I need to do a taste test between the two, but it feels close. Letting it sit overnight in the fridge makes a big difference in flavor and texture. Give it a try, and let me know what you think! PS – we did get a server to tell us they use Tillamook Sharp Cheddar, so that might make a difference too.
I’m very excited to try this!! I’ve got all the ingredients and will try it tomorrow! Thanks for all the comments. I’m a long tine dan if Banderas Queso Dip!
This recipe tastes very authentic to me in flavor. After I made it, I thought the consistency seemed off, so I put in the food processor and pulsed it and then it was perfect, the cheese was more chopped than the long strands of grated cheese that it had before the food processor. Be warned, this recipe makes a much bigger quantity than you think. The restaurant probably gets ten servings out of this quantity.
I actually have the recipe as it was posted in Orange Coast magazine in 2002 and this is not very close at all.
Hi Heather. I came across the recipe published in Orange Coast Magazine while working on this and gave it a try but it didn’t quite hit it. Something was missing in both the texture and flavor. My recipe is actually quite close to that one but I’ve added some cream cheese for substance, pimentos, and a little Jack cheese. We think it’s pretty close to the restaurant version.
I’ve used this recipe about 3-4 times now! You pretty much nailed it! I tend to love the smokiness so throw in a little more of that adobo sauce goodness! Thank you so much for sharing!
I’m so glad you are enjoying the recipe! I love that smokiness too – it’s the thing that keeps you coming back for more 🙂
I love this dip, too. Dying to try this–thanks!