How many calories are in Mexican restaurant queso?

Queso, also known as cheese dip, is a popular appetizer at Mexican restaurants. It’s often served with chips, vegetables, or other dippers. But this creamy, cheesy dip can also pack a caloric punch. So how many calories are actually in queso from a Mexican restaurant?

The Calorie Range For Mexican Queso

There is no single answer for how many calories are in queso at a Mexican restaurant. The calorie count can vary considerably depending on factors like:

  • Ingredients used – Queso can be made with different types of cheese, milk or cream, spices, etc. The specific ingredients impact the calories.
  • Serving size – A larger portion of queso will have more calories than a smaller ramekin.
  • Add-ins – Queso with extra ingredients like chorizo, pico de gallo, etc. will be higher in calories.
  • Preparation method – A queso made with a roux and melted cheese may have more calories than one quickly melted in the microwave.
  • Restaurant – Each restaurant may have their own queso recipe, leading to calorie differences between establishments.

That said, most restaurant queso ranges from 150 to 500 calories per serving. A typical 4-6 ounce ladle of queso can provide anywhere from 200 to over 400 calories.

Calories In Specific Restaurant Quesos

Here are the nutrition facts for queso at some popular Mexican restaurant chains:

Restaurant Serving Size Calories
Chevy’s Fresh Mex 1/2 cup (4 oz) 290
Chipotle 2 oz 150
Qdoba 2 oz 170
Taco Cabana 2 oz 210

As you can see, even within chain restaurants there is a wide range of 180-290 calories per typical 2-4 ounce serving. Custom preparation, extra ingredients, and larger portion sizes can all increase the calories to well over 300 or more per dip.

Variables That Impact The Calories In Queso

What accounts for such a wide range of calories in Mexican restaurant queso? Here are some of the key factors at play:

Cheese Type

The base of queso is cheese, so the type used impacts calories. Common cheeses in queso include cheddar, Monterrey jack, queso fresco, and pepper jack. Here’s how they compare per ounce:

Cheese Calories Per Ounce
Cheddar 115
Monterrey Jack 104
Queso Fresco 97
Pepper Jack 108

Using a higher calorie cheese like cheddar will boost the calories versus queso fresco. A blend of cheeses is also common.

Added Cream Or Butter

Many queso recipes call for heavy cream, half and half, milk, or butter to give it a creamy, rich texture. However, these dairy products also add more fat and calories. For example:

  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream: 115 calories
  • 2 tablespoons half and half: 40 calories
  • 2 tablespoons butter: 200 calories

The more full-fat dairy stirred into the queso, the higher the calorie count climbs.

Extra Ingredients

It’s common for restaurants to add ingredients like ground beef, chorizo sausage, pico de gallo, guacamole, spinach, peppers, and more to their queso. While these extras provide more flavor, they can also bulk up the calorie count. For example:

  • 2 tablespoons ground beef: 60 calories
  • 2 tablespoons Mexican chorizo: 80 calories
  • 2 tablespoons pico de gallo: 5-10 calories
  • 2 tablespoons guacamole: 50 calories

Pile on too many additions and your queso could have double the calories of a more classic version before you dip your first chip.

Portion Size

One of the biggest factors in determining queso calories is simply how much of it you get. A larger ladleful means more calories. Here’s a look at calories for different serving sizes:

Serving Size Calories In Basic Queso
2 ounces 140-180
4 ounces 280-360
6 ounces 420-540
8 ounces 560-720

As you can see, calories scale up rapidly with larger serving sizes. A big 16 oz bowl could have well over 1000 calories!

Preparation Method

How the queso is prepared also impacts its nutrition profile. Some key differences include:

  • With roux – Making a blonde roux with flour and butter before adding cheese increases fat and calories.
  • With evaporated milk – Using evaporated milk amps up calories versus regular milk.
  • With cream cheese – Cream cheese adds more calories than other cheeses.
  • Microwaved – Quick microwaved queso tends to have fewer calories than queso made stove top.

In general, more elaborate preparation using higher fat ingredients will drive up the calorie content.

How To Order Lower Calorie Queso

If you want to enjoy queso without going overboard on calories, here are some tips to order a lighter version:

  • Choose fresh queso instead of con queso if available – fresh queso has fewer calories than con queso which is made with evaporated milk.
  • Ask for 2 ounces instead of 4-6 ounces – smaller portions mean fewer calories.
  • Request queso made with 2% milk rather than heavy cream.
  • Avoid extras like chorizo, ground beef, etc.
  • Order on the side and dip lightly with veggies instead of tortilla chips.
  • Share an order as an app for the table.
  • Enjoy queso as an occasional treat, not with every meal.

Healthiest Ways To Eat Queso

To make queso as healthy as possible, here are some tips:

  • Use it as a sauce over baked potatoes or cauliflower instead of sour cream.
  • Dip with fresh vegetables like broccoli, carrots, jicama sticks, etc.
  • Look for queso made with 2% or 1% milk rather than heavy cream.
  • Choose corn over flour tortillas for fewer carbs and calories.
  • Spoon just 1-2 tablespoons over a taco salad instead of full ladleful.
  • Order sliced chicken or steak with queso on the side to control portions.
  • Enjoy as an occasional treat, not a daily habit.

Making Lower Calorie Queso at Home

To lighten up queso at home, you can:

  • Use reduced-fat milk and cheese.
  • Replace some cheese with pureed cauliflower.
  • Omit added cream or butter.
  • Use Greek yogurt instead of sour cream.
  • Boost flavor with spices instead of chorizo.
  • Add veggies like bell pepper, onion, tomatoes.
  • Use smaller serveware like a ramekin.

With simple swaps and smart portions, it’s easy to make homemade queso with all the flavor but less of the calories.

Choosing Healthy Dipping Alternatives

If you’re trying to cut back on queso, some lower calorie dip alternatives include:

  • Salsa
  • Guacamole
  • Frijoles charros (pinto bean dip)
  • Hummus
  • Baba ganoush (roasted eggplant dip)
  • Spicy black bean dip
  • Queso fresco dip
  • Greek yogurt ranch dip

Swapping out queso for one of these lower cal dips can save hundreds of calories. They make it easy to enjoy Mexican dishes without overdoing it on cheese dip.


Mexican restaurant queso can range widely in calories depending on the specific ingredients, portion size, add-ins, and preparation methods used. A typical 2-4 ounce serving provides around 150-300 calories. While queso is high in fat and calories, there are many ways to enjoy it in moderation as part of an overall balanced diet. Some simple strategies include ordering smaller portions, choosing lower calorie preparations, dipping with veggies instead of chips, and treating it as an occasional indulgence rather than an everyday habit.

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