The secret ingredient chefs won’t admit using: and how to make it at home.

The New York Daily News reports Chef Michele Weber, of Manhattan’s Upper West Side restaurant Good Enough to Eat, plows through four cases of it a week, making “Crack Dip” and her special scrambled eggs.

Chef Ron Eyester, from Rosebud in Atlanta: “I use it in my restaurant mac and cheese – it’s so creamy – but we don’t say that on the menu description.” – Every Day with Rachael Ray.

And last winter, when there was a shortage of this key ingredient just before the Super Bowl, the Today Show urged consumers not to resort to hoarding – their favorite queso dip could be made with substitutes.

Given the photo at the top of this post, you’ve probably guessed by now what I’m talking about:

Velveeta cheese.

A childhood friend for many, Velveeta has followed us right on into adulthood. Some claim it still makes the best mac and cheese ever, due to its supreme “meltability.” Others swear by it for superior grilled cheese sandwiches.

I haven’t purchased Velveeta in years, truth be told. But when I saw this recipe for DIY Velveeta on one or our favorite blogs, Brown Eyed Baker, I simply had to give it a try.

And darned if these four simple ingredients (shredded cheese, a packet of unflavored gelatin, dry milk, and water) didn’t make a block of smooth orange “Velveeta.”

In like 3 minutes flat.

So OK, you’re not a Velveeta fan. But make this soft-yet-firm, creamy “cheese mixture” and I swear you’ll find as many uses for it as there are old-timey dips, sauces, sandwiches, and casseroles out there using Velveeta – which is plenty.

IMG_9059

First, line a suitable container with plastic wrap. I used our 9″ x 4″ x 4″ loaf pan, but go ahead and use whatever shape of pan you like.

Note: I later discovered this recipe fits perfectly into two plastic wrap-lined 3 1/4″ x 5 3/4″ mini loaf pans, the typical foil pans you find at the supermarket. Mini pans yield a more Velveeta-like shape.

The preparation couldn’t be simpler. Put 6 tablespoons dry milk (I used our Baker’s Special Dry Milk, which is nonfat) and a 1/4-ounce packet dry unflavored gelatin in a blender or food processor. Blend briefly, just to combine.

Add 1 cup boiling water, blending just until smooth. IMMEDIATELY add 16 ounces shredded cheese. I used a couple of 8-ounce bags of shredded orange sharp cheddar cheese. Brown Eyed Baker says to use a mild, freshly grated cheese, but this seemed to work just fine.

Process until the mixture is totally smooth.

Go ahead, dip your finger in to taste – that’s the best way to tell.

IMG_9052

Pour/scoop the mixture into your prepared pan. It starts setting up pretty quickly, so don’t dawdle. Gently pat the plastic wrap onto the surface; the less wrinkled the wrap, the smoother your final product.

Refrigerate for a few hours, until it’s set. Take it out of the pan, and make sure it’s wrapped securely – no bare surfaces showing. Refrigerate until you’re ready for a grilled cheese.

DSC_5665

Or mac and cheese.

Or everyone’s Famous Queso Dip – which is made with just two ingredients: this cheese, and a can of Ro*Tel Diced Tomatoes and Green Chilies (one 10-ounce can added to a pound of cheese).

DSC_5659

The recipe, which originally comes from Chef Michael Symon (you know, the guy on Iron Chef), says it’s good for a month in the fridge. I can neither confirm nor deny that – I used mine up at a party within a week of making it.

DSC_5671

Yup, I admit it – I went all the way and made Famous Queso Dip. And trust me, it’s making another appearance on Super Bowl Sunday.

I’ll be feeding the same audience – and even the non-cooks in this crowd can figure out how to buy a bag of Fritos!

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!

comments

  1. Annabelle Chappell

    I know this as Ro-tel Cheese Dip. I admit I sometimes have a plate of it and chips as my main course \(o_o)/

    Reply
  2. M

    I have made this!! No one knew the difference! If you want spicy nacho, process Pepper Jack in place of half of the cheddar. No one could believe that it didn’t come from a can or that it wasn’t actually something that was store bought. Sure, it’s store bought…. you have to buy the stuff to make it at the store, but it’s such a simple recipe, I will NEVER buy that stuff again! I’ll make my own, thanks!

    PS.- Think of other things to put in… ENDLESS possibilities!! Try the Nacho Cheese loaf as a dip for your homemade pretzel bites!

    Reply
  3. Pearl

    Came together nice but when I tried to heat it up, it separated and was grainy. Not sure what went wrong. Is the cheese measurement by weight or cups?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Pearl, the measurement of 16 oz referred to in the post is a weight measurement, and would be equivalent to roughly 4 cups of shredded cheese (rather than the 2 cups that are equivalent to 16 fluid ounces). Using less cheese than intended could certainly make a difference in the way the mixture melts. We’ve also found that heating it too quickly or at too hot of a temperature can sometimes lead to the kind of separation and graininess you describe. Mollie@KAF

    2. M

      When melting it, add in a couple of tablespoons of milk before melting to smooth it out. That’s usually what I need to do with this.
      True, this isn’t going exactly melt like the store stuff, but with the couple of tablespoons of milk, it balances it out so that it isn’t so grainy. Remember, it still contains the fat in the cheese that breaks down kind of clumpy. Or before you want to melt it, place it in the blender with the couple of tablespoons of milk to incorporate and then heat for about a minute and a half. In either sense, it should help it become a dip with little effort.

  4. Bodynsoil

    My family always ate Velveeta, I never did as I didn’t care for the texture. I had an urge to try it recently and still found it rather bland. I’m trying this recipe as the homemade variety sounds much better and allows you to choose your favorite cheddar.

    Reply
  5. Amy

    Just. I love you, PJ….there is such a thing as “Velveeta shame” these days, but really, it’s so perfectly melty and delicious. 😍
    Can’t wait to make my own!

    Reply
  6. Mama Taney

    We made this last night for use in a Rotel dip tonight. It came together just fine, looked great tonight when we started making it, but as soon as the cheese started heating up it went weird.
    The dip looks like the water separated out pretty much. Tastes fine but otherwise totally unacceptable. I’m just glad that we didn’t have company over! Sadly, we’ll just stick with Velveeta from here on out.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Mama Taney, we’re sorry to hear this recipe didn’t work well in your dip, but do appreciate your feedback! Barb@KAF

Post a comment

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