Last week I went over all the delicious cheeses of Mexico. This week, I’m trying to pump up my recipe game. What good is reading a blog written by a chef if you don’t get any recipes? So I developed a recipe for one of my favorite Mexican appetizers: Queso Fundido! It means ‘melted cheese,’ which sounds like ‘heaven’ to my ears. When I was on Isla Mujeres, I stumbled upon a version with meaty mushrooms instead of chorizo. Even though I’m not a vegetarian, I fell in love. So I messed around in my kitchen until I created my own version. Here’s my vegetarian queso fundido recipe, enjoy!
Vegetarian Queso Fundido Recipe
Queso Fundido is Mexico’s answer to fondue. It’s a skillet of gooey, melted cheese seasoned to perfection and ready for tortilla chips. Most traditional recipes call for chorizo to be added to the cheese. But I found out that mushrooms are a great substitute for that spicy meatiness. And they complement the creamy cheese to perfection.
In this recipe I use mini portobellos and traditional Mexican cheeses. You can use any brown mushroom, as long as you chop it up a bit — trumpet, oyster, chanterelle, or even good old criminis will work just fine. If you struggle to find Mexican cheese at your local grocery store, then use Monterey Jack and Mozzarella in place of the suggestions below.
If Your Cheese Doesn’t Get Melty Enough
I used a double-boiler method to melt the cheese — I do this because I’m not a huge fan of the microwave. Be sure to keep the bowl close enough to the boiling water, or it won’t get hot enough to melt. If you experience this issue, you can stir in up to 4 tablespoons of heavy cream to break up the protein structures of the cheese. If you don’t have the microwave aversion that I do, melt the cheese quickly and easily in the microwave. Place the shredded cheeses in a glass bowl and microwave for one minute at time, stirring the queso with a rubber spatula to lift it from the sides of the bowl. Keep this up in one minute increments until the cheese begins to bubble. Stir in the sauteed mushroom mixture once the cheese has reached desired consistency, zap it for 30 more seconds, and serve!
The Recipe: Vegetarian Queso Fundido
- 1.5 Tbsp olive or grapeseed oil
- 4 oz. mini portobellos, roughly chopped
- 1/4 cup sweet or white onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced and crushed
- 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
- 1 Tbsp smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
- 1/2 tsp. chili powder
- 1/4 tsp. ground coriander
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 cups oaxaca cheese, shredded
- 1 cup chihuahua cheese, shredded
- 1 Tbsp cilantro, chopped
- Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and jalapeno and cook for 2 - 3 minutes, until beginning to soften.
- Add the mushrooms, garlic, and all the dry spices and stir to thoroughly combine.
- Sautee the mushrooms until they begin to soften and release some of their juices, about 5 - 7 minutes. Remove from heat.
- Place the cheese in a glass bowl over an inch of simmering water in a saucepan and stir with a rubber spatula until the cheese is mostly melted.
- Fold in the seasoned mushrooms. Continue to heat until the cheese is fully melted and bubbly.
- Spoon the queso into a serving dish and sprinkle with chopped cilantro for garnish.
- If you like a crust on your cheese and you have a small cast-iron skillet, you can transfer your cheese and mushrooms to the skillet and broil on high for 2 - 3 minutes or until the top browns slightly.
- If the double-boiler isn't getting the cheese hot enough, you can pop it in the microwave on high in 1-minute increments until it's melted.
- Serve with flour and corn tortillas and your favorite tortilla chips.