If I had to pick one food that always, always conjures up memories of parties at my grandma Norma’s house, it would be Rotel cheese dip.
My grandma typically makes Rotel cheese dip without meat, although I’ve added some notes to the recipe card below on how you could change that up (if you want).
Related: Taco Dip, 30 Easy Finger Food Ideas, and our Snacks and Appetizers archive.
What is Rotel cheese dip?
I’ve seen people call this different things, like “cowboy dip” or “ugly dip,” but in our family, we just call it Rotel. It’s made of Velveeta, a can of Rotel tomatoes, and a couple spices and herbs.
But truly, you can make this with just two ingredients in about five minutes. It’s that simple!
My grandmother usually makes this in a crockpot (or slow cooker) by adding all the ingredients and cooking on low until melted. This is a great option if you want to have this dip sitting out, but still warm during a longer party or gathering.
Another option is to make Rotel cheese dip on the stovetop. You just add all the ingredients to a pan and melt on low heat, stirring every now and again.
How to do you make Rotel cheese dip without Velveeta?
I will be the first to admit that we always make this with Velveeta (processed cheese). It’s not an ingredient I use often—in fact, this is probably one of the only recipes I use it in. But there’s just something a little nostalgic about it to me.
That being said, you can substitute the processed cheese for cream cheese and a little shredded cheddar. The consistency will be a little different, but it’s still delicious.
My family typically makes this dip without meat. But, if you want to add some cooked ground beef, sausage, or a vegetarian group meat to this dip, it’s a great addition!
And, I’m curious, how many of you make this dip at family get-togethers? I sort of think of it as a Midwest thing, but honestly I am not even sure that’s true.
So, let me know in the comments if your family makes a version of this too. xo. Emma
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- 16 ounces Velveeta cheese
- 1 can Rotel tomatoes (10 ounces)
- ¼ teaspoon chili powder
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne
- 2-3 tablespoons water
- 1-2 tablespoons cilantro (chopped)
- salt and pepper
- In a medium size pan or pot, add the cubed cheese, Rotel (do not drain), chili powder, cayenne, and a little salt and pepper.
- Melt on low heat, stirring occasionally.
- Once melted, add 2-3 tablespoons of water to thin slightly.
- Stir in the cilantro. Add more salt and pepper if desired.
Notice: Nutrition is auto-calculated, using Spoonacular, for your convenience. Where relevant, we recommend using your own nutrition calculations.
How long does leftovers last in the refrigerator?
Super nostalgic childhood recipe 🙂
Reminds me so much of holidays at my grandmother’s house
It might be a Midwest thing too, but it is DEFINITELY a southern thing! Just add Jimmy Dean breakfast sausage and call it a win!
I live in Minnesota, and we’ve been enjoying this dip for so long! Rotel used to be a regional product – you couldn’t find it in our stores. So, when we visited our relatives in OK and TX we’d bring home cases of the stuff! This was probably in the early 1970s. I haven’t made it in years, but I feel a need to taste it coming on! Thanks!
I’m from South Dakota and I make this all the dang time. We all love it. Sometimes, I’ll throw some hot sausage in it. I like using the white cheese with hot rotel. Also, I have taken this dip and poured it on top of macaroni and mixed. OMG! You will not be disappointed.
I don’t use Velveeta, I use tostitos dip cheese. So much quicker then add ground meat and because I’m from New Orleans I add crawfish tails.
in the southwest (as noted by others) it’s called queso and is a mexican dish. velveta and rotel is the ‘lazy’ way to make it. growing up, my mom would chop up tomatoes, onion and green chile (specifically hatch green chile), cook (sweat) that first in a pan on the stove then mix it with velveta in a crockpot. once the cheese was melted if it needed thinning she’d use evaporated milk (never water).
i generally do the ‘lazy’ way now and use velveta and the habanero variety of rotel…though i prefer the white velveta (aka queso blanco version)
If you want it super creamy, try adding a can of cream of mushroom as well! Sounds weird, but the mushrooms completely disintegrate and add a wonderful creamy/richness to the queso. We had this for almost every holiday/party growing up in Texas!
Yes! I love this dip! My Nana, from Texas, always made this at this time of year. Thanks for the memory!
We eat it in the south too, usually with ground beef or sausage. Yum!
I’m from Minnesota and this is definitely a staple in my family this time of year! This article makes me realize I haven’t had any this year yet, and might need to get some for New Years! So creamy, easy, and delicious!
This is Texan comfort food, required at every gathering., and at least once a week for snacking. It’s usually kept simple, brick of Velveeta, can of Rotel. I prefer Fritos to tortilla chips. We call it just queso, or Ratel.
This is definitely called Queso here in Texas (I know that just means cheese in a literal translation, but ordering Queso at a Mexican restaurant, or saying you’re bringing some Queso to a Football party means something special beyond just cheese), definitely a comfort food for us. If you like it, go to Matt’s El Rancho on South Lamar Street in Austin, and order a Large Bob Armstrong. It’s Queso in spectacular fashion. El Fenix in Dallas also has a classic version close to this recipe shown here on the site. But pretty much every Mexican or Tex-Mex place has their own version! Some add cotija cheese which can be pretty tasty. But I’ll tell you, anywhere north of McKinney/Frisco can be getting too close to the Oklahoma border for good Queso… we love our Okie neighbors, but the Queso and salsa gets preeeetty bland if you don’t watch out! (Sorry to any Oklahomans, I did have pretty good salsa at a place near Tinker AFB one time…).
This looks good! I’m living in Utah and it’s something we make for parties frequently.
Oh this is a staple appetizer for any get-together with my in-laws. The live in Washington state but I feel like the eat a lot of Midwestern-y things? Like meat and potatoes and macaroni salad ha.
Rotel(Velveeta) dip was the go to dip my whole life. I’m 71.
I thought it was a Texas thing.
We make this with ground sausage and melt it all together and for the last step, warm it up in the oven with a little more cheese on top. So delicious.
We made this when I was a kid! I’m from Buffalo though, I feel like we had a lot of things that were traditionally “Midwest” so may not be helpful in figuring out if this is a mid-west thing or not haha.