Queso Fundido with Soyrizo and Mini Flour Tortillas

What's better than melted cheese? Cheese melted with Soyrizo wrapped up in a freshly made flour tortilla, that's what!

The sound of the onion sizzling the moment it met the hot cast-iron skillet primed my senses for what was to come next. 

I sliced open the plastic sleeve encasing the Soyrizo. The vinegar, chile, and spices perfumed the air. I inhaled deeply, smiling to myself in anticipation. Holding the Soyrizo vertically over the skillet, I squeezed the plant-based sausage out of its sleeve. Pleasantly pungent aromas rose up from the pan, the scent heightened by the heat. I broke the sausage up, cooking it until it began to caramelize.

The other half of the recipe sat in a bowl, shredded by hand and ready to marry the Soyrizo, coating the sausage with its creamy, stringy tanginess, the two becoming one harmonious blend. Today it's the mozzarella-style Oaxaca cheese, but asadero, Chihuahua, or even the easier found Monterey Jack are all good Mexican melting cheeses to use instead. 

I removed half of the slightly caramelized Soyrizo and covered what remained in the skillet with a layer of cheese. I dotted this cheesy layer with half of the Soyrizo I had removed. Another layer of cheese followed then the rest of the sausage. I placed the skillet into the oven until the cheese was bubbling and just starting to brown in places. 

Earlier, I had made masa for mini flour tortillas to serve with the queso, rolling out a dozen tortillas and stacking the raw rounds on a plate until ready to cook them. With the queso now in the oven, I heated my round cast iron comal (griddle) to screaming hot and tossed a tortilla onto it. Immediately the surface of the tortilla broke out in tiny bubbles. After ten seconds, I flipped the tortilla and cooked the second side for about 15 seconds, watching as some bubbles grew from lentil-size bubbles to nearly dime-size. I flipped again and cooked another 10 seconds – the tortilla puffing up like a balloon, indicating it was cooked and ready to come off the comal. One after the other, I cooked a dozen tortillas in less time than it took for the queso to melt. 

Queso fundido – literally, melted cheese – is a type of Mexican appetizer similar to a fondue. It's a dish I didn't grow up eating – at least not in the strictest sense (remember in the 70s when melting Velveta with a jar of hot salsa was de rigueur?). 

I was well into my 30s when I discovered authentic queso fundido while dining with family at a Mexican restaurant that had it on its appetizer menu. It was served with chorizo and came with a stack of hot, fresh off the comal corn tortillas. Red chile oil, melty cheese, and chunks of rich pork chorizo competed for attention in the hot cast-iron skillet the waiter had brought to our table. I tentatively stuck the spoon in and scooped some of the gooey mixture into a tortilla. I folded the tortilla and brought it to my mouth, red oil seeping out, leaving a trail of heat as it slipped between my fingers and onto the vinyl tablecloth. The creamy queso tempered the spicy chorizo while the earthy corn tortilla soaked up the chile oil in what was to become one of my most memorable first bites. 

Of course, it doesn't hurt that I'm addicted to cheese.

But in my defense, it's in my genes. Everyone in my family loves the milky, ooey-gooey, sometimes buttery, sometimes sharp, but always welcomed dairy product. There were grilled cheese sandwiches and countless quesadillas in my childhood, plus homemade pizza, lasagna, and deep-fried mozzarella sticks that, thanks to Dad, we devoured throughout my teens. As an adult, I discovered fondue, melted brie with apricot jam, gorgonzola topped steaks, and the joy of cheese and wine pairings. 

Last fall, while San Diego was still in the middle of its annual October heatwaves, we hosted a Mexican food-themed new patio warming party. To stoke our friend's appetites while we grilled the carne asada and pollo asado, I made a large skillet of this simple, no fuss queso fundido with pork chorizo for our party of 16 with Northgate Market's mini flour tortillas on the side. It was a huge success, with many of our friends asking me for the recipe. This particular method – whether using pork chorizo or plant-based Soyrizo – is so embarrassingly simple that it can barely be called a recipe. 

There are certainly ways to make it more complicated. You could roast mushrooms to top the queso. Or skip the chorizo and add rajas of roasted poblanos, caramelized onions, and maybe some pickled jalapeños. I've even known some people who like to top their queso with carnitas and pico de gallo. Queso fundido is a dish primed for customization. 

Today, I've decided to go with the less greasy but still decadent and flavorful Soyrizo version. Feel free to swap it out for your favorite brand of chorizo. Serve the queso with homemade flour tortillas or corn tortillas from your favorite local tortilleria. Or skip the fuss and tear open a bag of your favorite tortilla chips and dig in. 

As for the homemade tortillas, I made them with rendered pork lard that I picked up at Northgate Market. Since they make and sell carnitas in-store, they package and sell the leftover lard. This light caramel-colored lard has more flavor than its pure white counterpart, but either will work. If you're opposed to lard or prefer a slightly sweeter-tasting tortilla, use an equal amount of vegetable shortening (I use Crisco when I don't have lard in the house).  

This queso fundido is a fabulous addition to Game Day menu offerings. Me? Well, I'm not that into football, so I'll be skipping the big game but not this queso fundido with Soyrizo!

Until next time, friends … stay safe and stay warm.

xo, Ani

Queso Fundido with Soyrizo and Mini Flour Tortillas

Make the tortilla dough first as it needs to rest a minimum of half an hour and up to two hours before rolling and cooking. To keep the flour from compacting, never use the measuring cup to scoop out the flour. Fluff the flour in its container with a large spoon and then scoop it into the measuring cup. Feel free to use your favorite meat-based chorizo. Just be sure to cook it until it starts to caramelize before adding the cheese. The recipe calls for Oaxaca cheese, but you can substitute it with any Mexican melting cheese: queso quesadilla, queso asadero, queso menonita, queso Chihuahua, the more readily available Monterey Jack, or even mozzarella if your grocer doesn't carry any Mexican cheese.  

Serves 6 


For the tortillas:
1 cup water
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 cups fluffed all-purpose flour, plus ½ cup for rolling
1 leveled teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons lard

For the queso fundido:
10-ounce package Oaxaca cheese
1 teaspoon oil
⅓ cup minced onion, red or white
1 (9-ounce) package Soyrizo or soy chorizo


Make the tortilla masa (dough): Add water to a microwavable measuring cup with the salt and heat on high for 2 minutes. Stir to dissolve salt; set aside.

Add the fluffed flour to a mixing bowl and whisk in the baking powder. Drop in the lard. Using your hands, work the fat into the flour until it incorporates fully. You'll know it's mixed in well when you can't see any lard, and the flour holds together in a clump when you squeeze a scoop of it in your hand. 

When the water has cooled enough to touch but is still very warm (you want the water as hot as you can stand it without burning yourself), make a well in the center of the flour and pour in ½ cup of the water. Using a circular motion, use your dominant hand to incorporate the flour into the water, adding ¼ cup more water if needed to hydrate all the flour. The dough will stick to your hand. Add a little flour to your clean hand and use it to scrape off the dough from your mixing hand. Flour your mixing hand, avoiding the temptation to add more flour to the dough (if the dough is still dry, however, and not sticky, add more water a teaspoon at a time until all the flour is hydrated and the dough becomes a little sticky). Knead the dough in the bowl just until the dough comes together to form a ball, about 1½ to 2 minutes. Don't over-knead as you don't want to develop gluten. Cover the dough with a warm damp tea towel and rest the masa for at least 30 minutes and up to two hours. 

Start the queso: Uncoil the cheese (if it's coiled), hand tear into 2-inch pieces, then pull them apart into two or three long shreds; set aside.

Heat an 8-inch oven-proof skillet over medium. Add the oil. Once shimmering, toss in the onions. Sauté until softened, about 2 minutes. Cut one end off the Soyrizo sleeve and squeeze the sausage into the pan, breaking it up with a spatula. Cook until warmed through, about 3 minutes. Transfer half of the sausage to a small bowl and evenly distribute the sausage left in the skillet. Add half of the cheese to the skillet in an even layer. Dot the cheese with have of the reserved sausage. Then repeat with the rest of the cheese, then follow with the sausage. Set aside for now.

Preheat oven to 400° F. 

Roll the tortillas: Create a pedestal by placing a flat dinner plate over a cereal bowl and set aside for now. Divide the masa into 12 even balls of dough. Leave the balls in the bowl, keeping them covered with the tea towel. 

Place the extra ½ cup of flour reserved for rolling into a small, shallow dish. Roll a ball of dough in the flour. Sprinkle a square foot of clean work surface with a three-finger pinch of flour. Holding the ball of dough with the thumb and forefinger of both your hands, flatten the ball, carefully spinning and pressing the dough in your hands to form about a 2-inch sized disk. Lay the disk on the work surface and roll it out by placing the pin in the middle of the disk and rolling upwards, stopping before you move off of the dough. Pick up the pin, return to the middle, and roll downwards, stopping just before you reach the end. Flip the tortilla, laying it down in a quarter-turn. Continue this process of rolling and flipping a quarter-turn until your tortilla is about 4 inches in diameter. Sprinkle a little more flour on the rolling pin or work surface if the tortilla sticks to either. Place the rolled out tortilla on the plate so that it partially hangs off of it. Continue rolling out the rest of the tortillas and placing them, overlapping as needed, around the plate. Set aside. 

Bake the queso: Put the queso-filled skillet on the middle rack of the oven and bake until the cheese is bubbling and just starting to brown in places, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Cook the tortillas: Place a folded over tea towel into a bowl; set aside. While the queso is in the oven, heat a cast-iron griddle or 10-inch skillet on medium-high for 6-8 minutes. Carefully place a tortilla in the center of the hot griddle. Cook for about 10 seconds or until the surface breaks out in tiny bubbles. Flip and cook for 15 seconds until some of the air pockets grow to about the size of a dime. Flip once more and cook for 10 seconds (the air pockets should grow faster with the tortilla puffing up in places). Remove to the tea towel-lined bowl, snuggling the tortilla between the towel layers to steam and keep warm. Repeat with the remaining tortillas. You should be able to cook all the tortillas in about 6 minutes. (See cooking note.)

To serve: Serve the queso in the skillet with the tortillas on the side so diners can make their tacos.

Cooking note: If the tortillas brown or blacken before the bubbles break out on the surface or change to the desired size as indicated in each stage's directions, turn the heat down a bit. Conversely, if the tortillas don't break out in bubbles right away, turn the heat up and wait for the griddle to get hotter before continuing. Tortillas cooked on a surface that isn't hot enough spend too long on the medium heat, becoming hard and cracker-like. To keep tortillas pliable, cook them quickly on a very hot surface, so cast-iron (or carbon steel) is preferred. If possible, avoid using a non-stick surface. Non-stick coatings can become toxic at such extreme high heat.