All hail queso, one of the world’s perfect foods. It can be a sauce, a dip, or dinner all on its own. It has the power to completely turn around the most mediocre of days and at least make the terrible ones more bearable. And it is completely suited to the Instant Pot.

Most Instant Pot recipes focus on its pressure-cooker feature, which is indeed a minor modern miracle. But remember, this is called a multicooker for a reason: it boasts several different ways to cook food, and this recipe for queso with beef uses three of them. First you sauté the vegetables and beef; then you pressure cook them into tender submission; and finally you slow cook the cheese until it becomes smooth and melty. If you’re truly brave, you can use the “keep warm” setting for serving, but unless you really like cleaning queso out of a small appliance’s crevices—of which there are many—I recommend serving it in a separate container.

This recipe also borrows a trick from Italy, of all places: cooking the meat in milk. Plenty of Bolognese recipes use this technique to tenderize ground meat for sauce, and I figured since queso is already a dairy party anyhow, milk is the perfect medium for the pressure cooking step. Word of warning, though: when you release the pressure and open up the pot to add the cheese, it won’t be pretty. It will get better once you add the cheese, I promise.

Some notes:

  • It’s worth it to take the time to finely dice the vegetables, about ¼ inch, for a better dipping experience.
  • It’s easier if you put the cheese in the freezer for ten minutes or so before you cube/grate it.
  • You really, truly must use lean ground beef. I normally don’t for other dishes, but fattier grinds produce an unfortunately oily queso.
  • You can skip the meat if you like, but then you don’t really need to do the pressure-cooking step. And that’s technically just slow-cooker queso. Your call.

Instant Pot Queso with Beef

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 poblanos, stemmed, seeded, and finely diced (about 2 cups)
1 jalapeño, stemmed, seeded, and finely diced
4 cloves garlic, chopped (about 2 tablespoons)
½ small white onion, finely diced (about ½ cup)
1 pound lean ground beef
1 teaspoon salt
1 large tomato, seeded and finely diced (about 1 cup)
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon cayenne (optional, for spicier queso)
1 cup whole milk

2 pounds processed cheese, such as Velveeta, cut into cubes
½ pound shredded cheddar or colby cheese
Chopped cilantro and Cholula, for garnish
Chips for serving

On the sauté setting, heat the vegetable oil. Sauté the poblanos, jalapeño, garlic, and onion until softened, 3-4 minutes. Add the ground beef and salt, and sauté until just cooked, about 4 minutes (stir the meat constantly as it sautés to break it into small pieces). Add the tomato, cumin, and cayenne and sauté for one more minute. Add milk, close the lid on the Instant Pot, and cook under high pressure for 20 minutes. Manually release the pressure.

Switch the Instant Pot to slow-cooker mode (medium setting). Add the processed cheese, stir, and allow to melt completely, about 15 minutes. Once the processed cheese is fully incorporated, add the cheddar or colby by the handful, stirring after each addition until fully incorporated before adding the next handful.

Top with cilantro and a few dashes of Cholula, and serve with chips.