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Which Came First: Arkansas Cheese Dip or Texan Queso?

If you’ve ever enjoyed a bowl of melted cheese as an appetizer, you were likely blissfully unaware of the debate simmering just below the surface. Ask an Arkansan (like myself) about queso, and we’ll probably ask if you mean “cheese dip.” Arkansas cheese dip versus Texas queso is a longstanding source of tension between the two states. Distinct from the fresh, gooey cheeses frequently included in Latin American cuisine, cheese dip is thoroughly American. Sometimes it’s white, sometimes it’s yellow, and there might be meat if you’re feeling fancy. It commonly includes some sort of processed cheese and green chiles.

As with any beloved food, origin stories abound. One Texan version claims Otis Farnsworth served the dip in his restaurant in 1900. Arkansans counter that the Little Rock’s Mexico Chiquito restaurant first dished it up in the 1930s. And per annual tradition, today’s cooks have the option of competing with their best versions in both alleged birthplaces: The World Cheese Dip Championship is held in Little Rock, Arkansas, and the Quesoff takes place in Austin, Texas. 

In 2016, a Wall Street Journal article examining Arkansans’ devotion to this cheesy snack prompted a challenge in Congress. Senators completed a blind taste test between Texan cheese dip and Arkansan queso to vote on their favorite. The winner? Cheese dip. Both the Texan and Arkansan senators took the news with good grace. In a joint press release, Arkansan senators Tom Cotton and John Boozman extended an open invitation to their Texan counterparts to “cross the border for some real cheese dip anytime.” Don’t get me wrong, chips and dip is a welcome sight at any party—just please get the name right.   

Arkansas Cheese Dip
Yields 3
  1. 1 pound Velveeta (or other pasteurized process cheese food), cut into ½-inch cubes
  2. 1 10-ounce can Ro-tel Diced Tomatoes and Green Chiles
  3. Taco seasoning, to taste
  4. Tortilla chips, for serving
  1. ►Place Velveeta in a small saucepan set over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring often, until completely melted, about 10 minutes.
  2. ►Add Ro-tel with juices. Add taco seasoning to taste. Stir to combine.
  3. ►Serve immediately with tortilla chips. If dip starts to solidify, return to stovetop and warm over medium-low heat until melted.
culture: the word on cheese https://culturecheesemag.com/

Madeline Upson

A longtime lover of cheese and wine nights, Madeline finally gets to use her love of cheese in an actual job as Editorial Assistant at Culture Magazine. She lives in Boston.

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