Queso lover and self-described Chipotle fan Joe Niehaus knew important things were afoot when he learned that his favorite burrito chain would be adding cheese dip to its menu for the first time in its 24-year history. On a hunch, he checked to see if Chipotlequeso.com had been registered yet — and to his surprise, it hadn't. So Niehaus purchased the domain name and is now the administrator of a food blog devoted exclusively to Chipotle's newest menu item.
After securing the domain name and building his website, which he calls "a love story about molten cheese," Niehaus's next order of business was to actually sample the queso. While Chipotle is rolling out the queso in Colorado stores beginning tomorrow, August 1, the cheesy side dish won't be available any time soon in Cincinnati (or anywhere else in Ohio), which Niehaus calls home. So rather than wait for a nationwide rollout, he went to New York City to eat some queso at Chipotle's NEXT Kitchen, the public test kitchen located in Brooklyn. Niehaus arrived there on July 30 and made a beeline for a cup of the liquid gold, which retails for $5.25 for eight ounces. (Smaller portions are also available — but why would you want that?)
The results are in: Chipotlequeso.com gives the spicy, gooey condiment an 8.5 out of 10, noting, "It was good, the taste was fresh and complex. However, it is just not as good as Moe's or Qdoba."
The website also shares all of the ingredients in Chipotle's queso recipe...
Cheddar Cheese, Milk, Tomatillos, Water, Tomatoes, Green Chile Peppers, Corn Starch, Jalapeno Peppers, Onions, Bell Peppers, Tapioca Starch, Chipotle Peppers, Tomato Paste, Poblano Pepper, Salt, Red Wine Vinegar, Cumin, Garlic, Lemon Juice, Oregano, Black Pepper.
...and compares it to a "competitor's" queso (it's Qdoba — we checked):
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Water, Cream (Cream, Milk), Monterey Jack Cheese ([Milk, Cheese Culture, Salt, Enzymes], Water, Milk Fat, Sodium Phosphate, Salt, Sodium Hexametaphosphate), American Cheese ([Milk, Cheese Culture, Salt, Enzymes]. Water, Milk Fat, Sodium Phosphate, Salt). Roasted Poblano Peppers, Roasted Tomatoes (Tomatoes, Tomato Juice, Citric Acid, Calcium Chloride). Seasoning (Modified Cornstarch, Salt, Sodium Phosphate, Artificial Colors [Titanium Dioxide, Extractives of Paprika], Xantham Gum, Onion Powder, Spices, Lactose, Paprika, Methyl Cellulose Gum, Garlic Powder, Citric Acid, Potato Flour, Cocoa Powder, Silicon Dioxide), Jalapeno Peppers, Pasteurized Processed Swiss and American Cheese (Cultured Milk and Skim Milk, Cream, Sodium Phosphate, Salt, Sorbic Acid, Enzymes), Cheddar Concentrate (Cheddar, Granular, Semisoft and Blue Cheese [Pasteurized Milk, Cheese Cultures, Salt, Enzymes]. Water, Sodium Phosphate, Vinegar, Salt), Corn Syrup Solids, Modified Cornstarch, Garlic (Garlic, Water).
Perhaps the many processed and artificial ingredients in the Qdoba version are what give it the silky-smooth texture, compared to what other tasters have noted as a slightly grainy texture in Chipotle's pared-down recipe. If you want to try the queso yourself and don't live in a test market, Niehaus's website has an online store offering to overnight some Chipotle queso for $100. The website owner says what while the offer is mostly meant in jest, if someone is willing to pony up the cash, he'll make the shipping arrangements.
Although Niehaus lives in Ohio, he's never tried Chipotle's new burger joint, Tasty Made, which is being tested in that state. While this fast-casual fan was willing to make the pilgrimage to New York for his beloved queso, so far the drive from Cincinnati to Lancaster, a suburb of Columbus, has proven less tempting.