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Which Came First: Arkansas Cheese Dip or Texan Queso?

If you’ve ever enjoyed a bowl of melted cheese at a Superbowl Party, you were likely blissfully unaware of the debate simmering just below the surface. As 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 present 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.

As with most beloved foods, origin stories abound. One Texan version claims Otis Farnsworth served up queso in his restaurant in 1900, while Arkansans counter cheese dip first appeared in the 1930s. As per annual tradition, today’s cooks can compete in The World Cheese Dip Championship in Little Rock, Arkansas or the Quesoff in Austin, Texas.

In 2016, a Wall Street Journal article highlighting Arkansans’ devotion to cheese dip prompted a challenge in Congress. In a blind taste test, senators tried Arkansas cheese dip and Texan queso to determine 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 extended an open invitation to their Texan counterparts to “cross the border for some real cheese dip anytime.” Truly, chips and dip is a welcome sight at any party, but we Arkansans implore: please, just get the name right.

Arkansas Cheese Dip


  • 1 pound Velveeta or other pasteurized process cheese food, cut into ½-inch cubes
  • 1 10- ounce can Ro-tel Diced Tomatoes and Green Chiles
  • Taco seasoning to taste
  • Tortilla chips for serving


  • ►Place Velveeta in a small saucepan set over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring often, until completely melted, about 10 minutes.
  • ►Add Ro-tel with juices. Add taco seasoning to taste. Stir to combine.
  • ►Serve immediately with tortilla chips. If dip starts to solidify, return to stovetop and warm over medium-low heat until melted.

Madeline Upson

A longtime lover of cheese and wine nights, Madeline finally got to use her love of cheese as former Editorial Assistant at Culture Magazine.

3 thoughts on “Which Came First: Arkansas Cheese Dip or Texan Queso?”

  1. C Hogan says:

    So, according to your own words, Queso was first made in a restaurant in Texas…how does Arkansas get to lay claim to be the originators…other than some taste-off in Congress? The main ingredients are the exact same…am I missing something?

  2. "Aunt Randy" says:

    Thank you, Maddie, for clarifying this. Some of my favorite recipes have come from your Mom.
    NOW – how about Skyline (chili) dip? Or is that not cheesy enough to be in the magazine?

    1. Madeline Upson says:

      You’re very welcome 😀 It’s a hotly contested topic in Arkansas/Texas, so I thought I might as well clarify for the poor Texans.

      Hmm…Skyline dip is a very interesting topic. I’ll see what I can do!

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