14 Quick and Easy Cheese Dip Variations

[Photographs: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

If there's one thing we learned in our Cheese Sauce Tasting a couple weeks back, it's that jarred cheese sauce is, well, not so great. In fact, the runaway winner was classic Texas style queso—that's a can of Ro*Tel tomatoes, mixed with a block of Velveeta cheese.

This is not news, by the way. Frustrated at the lack of great ready-made cheese sauce, I even spent time experimenting in the Food Lab kitchen to deliver a cheese sauce that tastes like real cheese to my wife.

But there's another easy way to add flavor to your standard Velveeta block: mix-ins. With enough flavorful mix-ins, even the blandest of cheese sauces can pick up enough flavor to stand as the center of your next party's snack platter.

The basic method is simple. Take a block of Velveeta cheese (or if you want to go all out, make your own real cheese sauce), heat it up in a bowl set over a pot of simmering water until it's completely melted and smooth (this can take quite a while, so give yourself a good half hour before you want the sauce to be ready), dump in your extra ingredients, then serve it with your scooping vehicle of choice.

If you have a fondue pot to keep it warm, all the better. Even a slow-cooker on its warm setting will do to keep your sauce hot throughout the party.

Here are 14 of our favorite add-ins. Some are stupid-simple (as in, just dump and go), while some are a bit more involved (like browning meat). Nothing gets more complicated than caramelizing some onions.

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Or just straight to a recipe with these links:

Then tell us: What do you put in your cheese sauce?

About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.