One of the main gripes I used to hear from people about Chipotle was its lack of queso. (And, yes, Ecoli and norovirus.) You can serve all the humanely raised meat you want, but in Texas, if you’re going to serve Tex-Mex, you better have queso.
Of course, the inherent problem with Chipotle and queso is that the company has long made its name on sourcing conscientiously and serving products with no added colors, preservatives or flavors. And, if you’ve looked under the hood on many quesos, you’re going to find products like EZ Melt, Extra Melt and Velveeta. Not exactly paragons of naturalness.
Also,anyone who’s made queso at home using natural cheese also knows that it can be tricky to melt into the same flavor and consistency as dips made with the products mentioned above. Something had to give. And, Chipotle decided it wasn’t its all-natural ethos.
Last week the company rolled out its queso nationwide, earning a lot of cat calls on Twitter and clapbacks from other websites. Even Goldman Sachs got skittish about Chipotle stock following the release. This Texan decided he needed to try it.
The verdict: It’s hard to make all-natural queso taste good. The large bowl ($5.40 with a bag of chips) had a slightly gloopy consistency with a bit of chalkiness. It is obviously a mixture of milk and sharp cheddar, and the predominant flavor from the cheese is an astringent bitterness that lingers after the initial wave of smoky chipotle pepper, cumin and jalapeno. It kind of tastes like I imagine biting into the hardened, dried edge of a block of cheddar would. Any bit of sweetness from tomato paste or yellow onion hid in the gloop.
So, kudos to Chipotle for trying to do things the right way, but there’s a reason some people will always want their queso to be a little fake. Also, take it from someone who ate queso at 10+ places earlier this year for an abandoned story: most queso isn’t that great anyway. If I am eating queso for pleasure, however, it is usually from Fresa’s or Torchy’s (the best thing on their menu).
TL;DR version: I give Chipotle’s queso a 5 out of 10.