Where Do Mexican Restaurants Get Their Queso?

Queso, or melted cheese dip, is a popular item on Mexican restaurant menus. The smooth, creamy queso blanco dip is often served as an appetizer with tortilla chips. But have you ever wondered where restaurants get the cheese they use for their queso?

Mexican restaurants use different types of cheese depending on the dish. For queso blanco dip, many restaurants rely on American-style cheeses. But for other items like enchiladas, they may use authentic Mexican cheese varieties.

Let’s explore the cheeses commonly used at Mexican restaurants and where they source them.

Understanding Mexican Cheese Types

There are many different types of Mexican cheese to give dishes unique flavor. Here are some of the most popular:

  • Queso Asadero – A soft, mild, white cheese that melts smoothly. Great for quesadillas or melting.
  • Queso Chihuahua – Aged, semi-firm cheese with a mild flavor. Used for melting.
  • Queso Fresco – Fresh, soft, crumbly cheese with a tangy taste. Used as a topping.
  • Queso Cotija – Hard, crumbly cheese with a strong salty flavor. Used as topping.
  • Queso Oaxaca – Stretchy string cheese. Used for melting.
  • Queso Panela – Fresh, soft cheese with a mild flavor. Used in sandwiches.
  • Queso Añejo – Firm, crumbly aged cheese with robust flavor. Used grated or crumbled.

The variety of Mexican cheeses allows restaurants to select different options depending on the dish.

American Favorites for Queso Dip

For the popular queso dip appetizer, many Mexican restaurants rely on American-style cheeses like:


This processed American cheese product provides the smooth, creamy texture characteristic of queso dip. It has a mild Cheddar flavor.

White American Cheese

Also called American singles, this cheese provides melty texture and mild flavor. It’s a key ingredient in queso blanco dip.

Monterey Jack

This semi-soft cheese has a buttery, mildly tangy taste. It melts well on its own or when blended with other cheeses.

Cheddar Cheese

Aged cheddar provides a subtly sharp flavor and creamy texture when melted. Yellow or white cheddar both work well.

The mild melting properties and accessibility of these American cheese options make them a convenient choice for Mexican restaurants making queso in large batches.

Authentic Cheese for Enchiladas, Tacos, and More

For dishes like enchiladas, tacos, and quesadillas, restaurants want authentic Mexican cheese flavors. Options like:

  • Queso Asadero – For its smooth melting.
  • Queso Cotija – For its salty, crumbly topping.
  • Queso Fresco – For its tangy flavor and texture.
  • Queso Chihuahua – For its melty property and mild tang.
  • Queso Oaxaca – For its stretchy melting.

To obtain these authentic cheeses outside of Mexico, restaurants establish relationships with specialty food importers and distributors. Many also work directly with small artisanal Mexican cheese producers to source signature varieties.

Why Restaurants Import Cheese From Mexico

There are a few reasons restaurants import authentic Mexican cheese varieties:

  • Unique flavors – The terroir and traditional production create distinctive tasting cheeses.
  • Textures – The crumbly cotija and stretchy Oaxaca have specific textures.
  • Tradition – Using authentic cheeses maintains customs.
  • Food costs – Importing can be cheaper than buying locally.
  • Supporting small producers – Helps Mexican family businesses.

Importing cheese directly from Mexico adds costs but provides restaurants access to specialized varieties that enhance authenticity.

How Restaurants Store and Prepare Cheese

Proper storage and preparation are key to maintaining cheese freshness and flavor. Here are some tips restaurants follow:

  • Store cheese sealed at 35°F to 40°F to minimize mold and drying out. Avoid temperature fluctuations.
  • Limit light exposure to prevent rancidity and discoloration.
  • Wrap cheese blocks in cheese paper or parchment before plastic wrapping.
  • Follow first in, first out (FIFO) inventory management and check expiration dates.
  • Allow refrigerated cheese to come to room temp before serving for best appearance and meltability.
  • Grate cheese just before serving to maximize fresh flavor.
  • Combine cheeses when melting to balance sharpness, creaminess, and stretch.

With proper handling, restaurants can maintain the highest quality of both imported Mexican cheeses and domestic varieties.

Queso Options for Home Cooks

While restaurants have access to specialty cheese importers, home cooks can still create delicious queso using cheeses from their local grocery store:

For Queso Dip:

  • Velveeta – For smooth, creamy texture
  • White American cheese – For milky, melty base
  • Monterey Jack – For melty, mild tang
  • Cheddar – For subtly sharp bite

For Enchiladas:

  • Oaxaca – For melting and stretching
  • Asadero – For melting and mild flavor
  • Cotija – For crumbly texture
  • Feta – For crumbly, tangy flavor

With a combination of melting cheeses and crumbled cheeses, home cooks can create flavorful queso dips and enchiladas.

In Conclusion

Queso has become an appetizer staple at Mexican restaurants. To make smooth queso dip, many restaurants rely on American favorites like Velveeta, white American, Monterey Jack, and cheddar for their melting properties. For dishes like enchiladas, authentic cheeses like Oaxaca, Cotija, and Chihuahua create distinctive textures and flavors. These cheeses are imported directly from Mexico or sourced through specialty distributors. With proper storage and handling, restaurants can maintain optimum cheese quality. While home cooks may not have access to the same artisanal cheeses, combining grocery store varieties makes it possible to create delicious queso right at home.

Share your love
Bill Kalkumnerd
Bill Kalkumnerd

I am Bill, I am the Owner of HappySpicyHour, a website devoted to spicy food lovers like me. Ramen and Som-tum (Papaya Salad) are two of my favorite spicy dishes. Spicy food is more than a passion for me - it's my life! For more information about this site Click

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *