How to Make Cowboy Queso

It's hard to go wrong when you combine cheese, meat and beer! This cowboy queso recipe will quickly become a party staple.

Chips and dip—especially cheese dip—is always a hit at gatherings. But when you add ingredients that make an already-craveable appetizer even more flavorful and hearty, there’s no telling how fast your serving dish will be scraped clean. Cowboy queso is no exception—it’ll be gone before you can say yee-haw!

What Is Cowboy Queso?

Simply put, cowboy queso is a loaded cheese dip full of Southwestern flavors—hence “cowboy” in the title. It usually includes Velveeta, beans, tomatoes, spices and ground meat simmered in a light beer. Seriously, what’s not to love?

How to Make Cowboy Queso


  • 1/2 pound spicy pork sausage
  • 1 cup pale ale or other light beer
  • 1 package (16 ounces) Velveeta, cubed
  • 1/2 cup shredded pepper jack cheese
  • 1 can (10 ounces) diced tomatoes with mild green chiles, undrained
  • 1 cup black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Tortilla or corn chips
  • Optional: jalapenos and additional cilantro


Step 1: Brown the meat

raw meat in a cast iron skilletTMB studio

In a large skillet, cook sausage over medium heat until no longer pink, about 5 minutes, crumbling the meat as you go.

Step 2: Add the beer

adding beer to browned beef in a cast iron skilletTMB studio

Add the beer and cook until reduced slightly, about 3 to 4 minutes. A pale ale or your favorite light beer would work nicely—stay away from types of beers like IPAs, sours and stouts.

Step 3: Stir in the cheese and seasonings

shredded cheese and cubbed cheese in a cast iron skillet before being meltedTMB studio

Add the Velveeta, shredded pepper jack cheese, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and cayenne pepper. Cubing the Velveeta (or tearing it into smaller pieces with your hands) before adding it to the skillet will help it to melt more evenly.

Step 4: Melt the cheese

melted cheese with ground beef in a cast iron skilletTMB studio

Stir occasionally until melted. Continue to use medium heat—you don’t want to burn the cheese by trying to melt it down too quickly.

Step 5: Add the remaining ingredients

adding in beans, tomatoes and cilantro into the melted cheese with beefTMB studio

After the cheese is melted, stir in the tomatoes, beans and cilantro. You can choose whether or not you’d like to destem the cilantro before mincing and adding to the queso.

Step 6: Garnish and serve

Cowboy Queso in bowls with taco chips on the sideTMB studio

After everything is fully heated through, garnish with jalapeno and additional cilantro, if desired. Serve with tortilla or corn chips.

Tips for Making Cowboy Queso

What else can you serve with cowboy queso?

While tortilla or corn chips are great partners for cowboy queso, there are other ways you can serve it if you want to be more creative. Turn chips and dip into nachos by pouring the queso over a sheet pan of chips. Or use tater tots as a base for loaded tater tots. A baked potato would also pair well with cowboy queso.

If you want to serve other appetizers alongside your cowboy queso, consider making guacamole and salsa roja to make a trio of dips.

What dishware can you serve cowboy queso in?

We served our cowboy queso in a cast-iron skillet, which retains heat well and should keep your queso warmer longer than a regular bowl or pan would. Otherwise, play it safe by serving the dip in a slow cooker on the warm setting. Be sure to stir it every so often so no bits burn on the bottom.

How can you make cowboy queso your own?

If you want to make your cowboy queso spicier, you can increase the amount of cayenne you use and add diced jalapenos to the queso itself instead of just as a garnish.

Swap out the pork sausage for the meat of your choosing, whether it’s ground beef or chorizo. Potential add-ins include chopped onion, canned corn and cumin for a little taco flavor.

Can you make cowboy queso ahead of time?

You could brown the pork sausage a day ahead of time, so you can start the recipe with step 2 the day you plan to serve the cowboy queso. Otherwise, feel free to make the whole dip a day ahead of time and heat on the stovetop until it’s piping hot once again.

Leftover cowboy queso should last for up to 3 days when stored in an airtight container in the fridge. Reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave.

Try More Cowboy-Inspired Recipes

Lauren Pahmeier
Lauren is an associate editor at Taste of Home, focusing on search engine optimization. When she’s not making sure readers can find TOH’s recipes on Google, she’s practicing her food photography, consistently finding new recipes to try and hunting down the most indulgent treats in the Twin Cities.