Cheese dip is a popular appetizer or snack food that is typically made by blending cheese with other ingredients to create a smooth, creamy, and flavorful dip. But what types of cheese are actually used to make cheese dip? The specific cheese or combination of cheeses can vary widely depending on the recipe, but there are some common varieties that are frequently used as the base.
One of the most popular choices for cheese dip is cheddar cheese. This familiar cheese is available in a range of flavors from mild to sharp, so it can be used to make anything from a mellow queso dip to an intensely flavored beer cheese dip. Cheddar melts extremely well, resulting in a smooth and creamy texture. Medium cheddar is often used, but a sharp or extra sharp cheddar can provide a more pronounced cheese flavor. White cheddar can also be used for a twist on traditional cheddar cheese dip recipes.
American cheese is another common choice for cheese dips. This highly processed cheese is known for its ability to melt smoothly. When blended, it creates a thick, creamy texture perfect for serving with chips, pretzels, or vegetables. American cheese dips are especially popular for fundraisers and events since the cheese is inexpensive and melts uniformly. Nacho cheese dips and other Mexican-inspired dips commonly rely on American cheese for its meltability.
Monterey Jack Cheese
With its mild flavor and easy melting properties, Monterey Jack is a natural choice for cheese dips. When blended, it creates a light and creamy dip that complements the bolder flavors of spices, hot peppers, or other mix-ins. Monterey Jack is a key ingredient in many queso fundido recipes. It can also be combined with cheddar or other cheeses to make restaurant-style queso for dipping tortilla chips.
Gouda is another good melting cheese that can be used to make smooth and creamy cheese dips. Young gouda melts especially well. Aged gouda can also work as long as it is shredded finely. The nutty, slightly sweet flavor of gouda cheese makes it a great choice for cheese fondue. It can also be combined with smoky cheeses like smoked gouda for a cheese dip with more complex flavor.
Queso quesadilla or Oaxaca cheese is a semi-soft, stringy Mexican cheese similar to mozzarella. When melted, it becomes elastic and stringy, making it perfect for cheese pulls. This cheese is traditionally used for quesadillas but also makes an amazing base for creamy queso dips. The strings and texture it creates when melted add interesting layers of flavor.
Colby cheese has properties rather similar to cheddar but melts a bit more smoothly. It can be used on its own or combined with cheddar or Monterey jack for a cheese dip. Its mild flavor and creamy melt make it an adaptable choice. Colby jack, which is a mix of colby and Monterey jack, can also be used for an easy-melting cheese dip base.
In addition to traditional slicing and melting cheeses, cream cheese is sometimes incorporated into hot cheese dips. It helps create an ultra-smooth, creamy texture. Cream cheese is often blended with cheddar, Monterey jack, or other cheeses for a cheese dip with more body. In cold cheese dips like ranch cheese dip, cream cheese may be the primary or only cheese ingredient.
Some cheese dips also incorporate small amounts of blue cheese for a burst of potent, tangy flavor. Blue cheese can have a strong flavor, so a little bit goes a long way. It is sometimes mixed into buffalo chicken cheese dips. Crumbled blue cheese can also be added as a garnish on top of cheese dips.
What About Velveeta?
You may be wondering whether Velveeta can be considered a type of cheese used for cheese dip. Velveeta is actually not technically a true cheese. It falls into a category more accurately described as “cheese product.” However, it is commonly used as a base for cheese dips due to its creamy, smooth melting properties.
Cheese Dip Ingredients
In addition to cheese, most dips also contain some combination of the following ingredients:
- Milk – Whole milk or evaporated milk is often used to thin out the cheese and achieve a dip-able consistency.
- Butter – Butter helps make the dip smooth and creamy.
- Cream cheese – Adds extra body.
- Sour cream – Sour cream contributes tangy flavor and texture.
- Mayonnaise – Often used in cold cheese dips instead of milk.
- Spices – Ingredients like cayenne, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, dried parsley add flavor.
- Salsa – Salsa can be blended with cheese for a quick, easy dip.
- Chiles – Diced green chiles add spice and flavor.
- Hot sauce – A few dashes of hot sauce amps up the flavor.
- Beer or wine – Some hot beer cheese dips incorporate beer for extra tang.
- Worcestershire sauce – Adds savory, umami flavor.
- Mustard – Dijon or yellow mustard can provide tangy flavor.
- Pepper jack cheese – Adds heat.
Different Types of Cheese Dip
There are endless variations of cheese dips. Some of the most popular recipes include:
This Tex-Mex style dip is typically made with melted cheese like Velveeta, cheddar, Monterey jack, or queso quesadilla blended with salsa and/or chiles.
Beer Cheese Dip
Beer cheese dips feature beer blended into the cheese. Cheddar, gouda, and Colby jack work well. The dip is tangy, creamy, and full of cheese flavor.
Crab Cheese Dip
Creamy cheese dip with chunks of crab meat baked or heated until hot and bubbly. Often uses cheddar, Monterey jack, or cream cheese.
Spinach Artichoke Dip
A cheese dip loaded with spinach, artichokes, garlic, and Parmesan. Cream cheese or sour cream create a rich, creamy base.
Buffalo Chicken Cheese Dip
Shredded chicken, hot sauce, and blue cheese make this a spicy, savory cheese dip perfect for serving with tortilla chips or celery sticks.
Jalapeno Popper Dip
Combining all the flavors of a jalapeno popper in dip form, this blend of cream cheese, cheddar, jalapenos, and bacon is always a crowd-pleaser.
Baked Brie Cheese Dip
A wheel of brie cheese is baked until gooey, then served with fruit, nuts, toasted bread, or crackers for dipping.
Pimento Cheese Dip
Also known as “the caviar of the South,” this blend of cheddar, mayo, and pimentos makes a tangy cheese dip or sandwich spread.
Fondue Cheese Dip
Savor the 1970s flavor with a hot communal pot of melted cheese like cheddar, gouda, or Swiss for dipping bread cubes or vegetables.
Serving Cheese Dips
Cheese dips make great appetizers for parties, game day foods, or quick snacks. Here are some serving suggestions:
- Chips – Tortilla chips, potato chips, pretzel chips, or crackers
- Vegetables – Carrots, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, peppers
- Bread – Toasted bread cubes, soft pretzels, baguette slices
- Fruit – Apples, pears, strawberries, dried apricots
- Meat – Chicken tenders, wings, steak tips
Choose a combination of dippers that offer a variety of flavors, textures, and shapes to dip and scoop the cheese dip in different ways.
Tips for Making Cheese Dip
Follow these tips for the perfect cheese dip every time:
- Grate hard cheeses instead of cubing for faster, smoother melting.
- Melt cheese slowly over low heat, stirring constantly.
- Add milk or cream a little at a time until desired consistency is reached.
- Season with spices, herbs, hot sauce, etc. to taste.
- For hot dips, transfer to slow cooker or fondue pot to keep warm for serving.
- For cold dips, refrigerate for at least 2 hours to allow flavors to meld.
- Add garnishes like chives, bacon, or extra cheese before serving.
- Serve in a bowl surrounded by assorted dippers.
Cheese dip is a handy way to transform cheese into a smooth, dippable appetizer or snack. Cheddar, Monterey Jack, queso quesadilla, and American cheese make excellent bases for hot cheese dips thanks to their meltability. Cream cheese helps create rich, creamy cold dips. Add-ins like salsa, beer, crab meat, spinach, and Buffalo chicken yield endless flavor combinations. Serve your homemade cheese dip with chips, veggies, bread, or fruit for a crowd-pleasing appetizer any time.