Traditional chile con queso and tortilla chips is delicious, decadent—and loaded with fat and calories. But you can lighten things up with some key ingredient substitutions. (Photo/Betty Cortina)

Healthy makeover: chile con queso with tortilla chips

It may not be traditional Mexican food, but chile con queso—that ubiquitous Tex mex starter—reigns supreme in the pantheon of classic comfort foods. And why not? It’s a decadent and luscious bowl of melted cheeses, accompanied by perfectly fried tortillas. The problem—because such deliciousness rarely comes without a hitch—is that it’s jam packed with fat and calories.

So is it possible to make chile con queso at least a little healthier, while retaining the creaminess and crunch? As it turns out, the trick is to choose the right kind of milk (low-fat but still creamy) and a cheese packed with intense flavor and perfectly melty, so you need less of it overall. Enter 2% evaporated milk and low-fat sharp cheddar, which work together magically in today’s recipe. Amped up with onions, a little Serrano and Jalapeño, and tomatoes, this version is packed with flavor instead of fat. Pair it with oven-baked (instead of fried) tortilla chips, and you’ll have a dip  that’s as guilt-free as it is comforting.

Healthier chile con queso with tortilla chips
Healthier chile con queso_V10 to 12 5 or 6-inch corn tortillas
Cooking spray
1 T olive oil
1 small yellow onion, finely diced onion
1 Serrano chile, cored, seeds, stems and veins removed, finely chopped
1 Jalapeño pepper, cored, seeds, stems and veins removed, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoons cornstarch flour
1 cup 2% low fat evaporated milk
½ cup chopped cilantro
1/2 cup tomato, finely diced
8 ounces 50 percent low fat cheese cheddar cheese, shredded
½ cup non-fat, plain Greek yogurt

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut the tortillas into four equal triangles. Arrange the tortilla triangles in single layers on two rimmed baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Spray with the nonstick oil spray on both sides. Sprinkle with salt.

2. Bake for about 10 to 12 minutes minutes, or until crisp and golden, being careful not to burn. Once the chips are done, remove from the oven to cool. Chips will continue to crisp as they cool. Set aside.

3. Heat the olive oil in a medium sauce pot over medium-low heat. Add the onion and chiles until the onions are translucent, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds.

4. Pour the evaporated milk into the pot, stir to combine and bring to a simmer. Combine 1/4 cup  of water with the cornstarch until smooth, then whisk into the pot. Continue to simmer, whisking constantly, until sauce is thickened about 3 minutes. Stir in the cilantro and tomatoes.

5. Off the heat, add the cheeses a handful at a time, stirring after each addition, until it is completely melted. Repeat until all of the cheese has been added. Stir in the greek yogurt until completely combined. Serve immediately with tortilla chips.

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