Queso Flameado

In this irresistible snack, charred poblano pepper and pureed cilantro and serrano chiles serve as a built-in salsa, layering spicy, garlicky flavors into the rich, melted cheese. Flaming it with tequila makes the whole thing a little extra. The pickled carrots on top add acidity and brightness; feel free to substitute pickled jalapeno slices if you have some on-hand.

Queso Flameado
Photo: Photo by Antonis Achilleos / Food Styling by Ruth Blackburn / Prop Styling by Christina Daley
Active Time:
35 mins
Total Time:
1 hrs
4 to 6 servings


  • 1 medium garlic clove, crushed and peeled

  • 1-2 serrano chiles (3/4 ounce each) (as desired for heat), stemmed, seeded and lightly chopped

  • Pinch kosher salt

  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced (about 1/2 cup)

  • 1 ¼ cups fresh cilantro (leaves and tender stems), about 1 large handful (or 1 1/4 ounces)

  • 1 large (3 ounce) poblano chile

  • ½ large white onion, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)

  • ½ teaspoon dried Mexican oregano

  • 3 ½ cups grated Oaxacan cheese (14 ounces)

  • 1 ¼ cups grated Asadero cheese (5 ounces)

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil, for drizzling

  • 1 tablespoon tequila

  • Charred corn tortillas, Pickled Carrots (recipe follows), and lime wedges, for serving


  1. Prepare a charcoal grill for two-zone cooking and build a medium-high fire, or heat a gas grill to high. Clean and oil grill grates.

    While the grill heats, make the cilantro puree:

  2. Place garlic, serrano chiles, and a pinch of salt in a mini food processor and pulse until finely chopped, about 3 times. Add scallions and cilantro and process until mixture is combined, but still has some texture, about 15 seconds, stopping to scrape down sides as needed. Transfer herb mixture to a bowl and set aside.

  3. When coals are glowing red and covered with a fine gray ash, grill poblano, uncovered, over direct heat until it's blistered and blackened on all sides, flipping as needed for even color, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer chile to a paper bag (or place in a bowl and cover) to steam until softened, about 5 minutes. (Close grill and open vents to keep air flowing to maintain fire.) Stem and seed chile, use your fingers to remove blackened peel, and then thinly slice. Place chile, sliced onion, and Mexican oregano in a small bowl.

  4. Place an 8-inch, cast-iron skillet over direct heat and preheat, covered, for 10 minutes. Place herb puree, onion-chile mixture, a large bowl with combined grated cheeses, olive oil, tequila, salt, and a wooden spoon on a tray or rimmed baking sheet and head to the grill.

  5. Drizzle preheated skillet with enough olive oil to lightly coat (move skillet off direct heat when adding ingredients if heat is too much). Add onion-poblano chile mixture and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring often, until onions have softened and taken on a bit of brown color, about 4-5 minutes. Use a spoon to arrange onion-poblano chile mixture in an even layer, then top with half of grated cheese. Carefully spoon herb puree over the cheese, leaving an inch border around the periphery of the skillet. Top herb puree with remaining cheese, close grill and cook until cheese is warm and bubbly, 5 to 10 minutes. When cheese has reached the desired consistency, splash the top with tequila and carefully light with a match (you may need to tilt skillet away from you to concentrate the alcohol in one area). Allow tequila to burn off and then remove pan from heat and cool for 5 minutes. Serve warm, gooey cheese spooned into charred corn tortillas, topped with a squeeze of fresh lime and pickled carrots.

Pickled Carrots (Makes about 1 ½ cups)

Use a mandolin to thinly slice 8 ounces of peeled carrots. In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup distilled white vinegar, ¾ cup water, ¼ cup granulated sugar, 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt and 2 fresh bay leaves (torn) and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Remove from heat, add sliced carrots, pressing gently to submerge in liquid, and let cool 45 minutes. Transfer carrots to a glass jar, add enough brine to cover and refrigerate until cold and crisp (they'll last up to 2 months).

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