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?