Kentucky Derby Beer Cheese Dip

With the Kentucky Derby rapidly approaching on May 4th, I already dream of a watch party with a warm bowl of Kentucky Derby Beer Cheese and hot, soft pretzel bites for dipping. This dip comes together quickly and is perfect for any occasion.

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A clear glass bowl of Kentucky Beer Cheese Dip on a white plate with a side of warm, soft pretzel bites to dip.

Whenever I make this Kentucky Derby Beer Cheese Dip, it’s always a crowd-pleaser, and I’m repeatedly asked for the recipe. It’s warm, cheesy, silky smooth, and zesty. You’ll love how quickly it comes together and how adaptable the recipe is. You can change the flavors by using different cheeses or experimenting with other herbs and flavorings. This recipe is a keeper.

What Ingredients Are Needed?

  • Unsalted butter – using unsalted butter ensures that your dip won’t be too salty.
  • Flour – used to make a roux with the butter to thicken the dip.
  • Whole milk—Use full-fat milk for the best mouthfeel and richness. Skim or low-fat milk falls flat. Use heavy cream or half-and-half for a luxurious and velvety dip.
  • Beer
  • Cheese—use whatever cheeses you enjoy. Extra sharp cheese gives the dip a zippy, sharp flavor. Adding a mild, melting cheese, like American cheese, helps give the dip a velvety texture.
  • Garlic – finely mince the garlic for a smooth dip. Crushing the garlic into a paste is also helpful.
  • Worcestershire sauce adds a layer of umami and savory flavor to the dip and adds salt.
  • Onion powder
  • Dijon mustard adds flavor and also acts as an emulsifier, helping to prevent your dip from separating.
  • Hot sauce
  • Salt and pepper
  • Scallions, parsley, or micro greens as garnish

What Type Of Beer Is Best?

While you can use any beer you prefer, different beers add a different flavor profile to the dip.

  • Pilsners, blonde ales, wheat beers, and pale lagers will add a mild, light beer flavor.
  • Hoppy IPAs add flavorful, bitter notes with just a hint of sweetness.
  • Dark beers, like stouts, brown ale, or complex European beers, will provide a deeper, richer, malty flavor.
  • Avoid fruity beers. They’re too sweet for this recipe.
Close up of a clear glass bowl of Kentucky Beer Cheese Dip, garnished with microgreens.

What Is The Best Cheese To Use?

Cheddar cheese is usually used in beer cheese, but different cheeses change the dip’s flavor and keep things interesting.

Keep in mind how the cheese will pair with the beer you’re using. A milder cheese needs a milder-flavored beer. For example, a mild cheddar goes great with a pale ale, while a smoky, full-flavored gouda is made for a moody, dark brew.

Steps To Make This Recipe

  • Make a roux by whisking the butter and flour together in a saucepan.
  • Whisk in the milk, beer, spices, Worcestershire, and hot sauces. Stir until the mixture is smooth and thickened.
  • Whisk in the cheese, a handful at a time, whisking after each addition until melted before adding more cheese.
  • Enjoy warm with dippers of your choice.

Why Is My Beer Cheese Grainy?

If your dip isn’t as smooth and velvety as expected but instead is grainy and gritty, here are a few tips to avoid it and how to fix it if necessary.

  • Grate your own cheese. While convenient, pre-shredded cheese has an anti-caking, anti-mold additive that will make your dip grainy.
  • Add the cheese to your hot bechamel when it is not bubbling. Lower the heat if necessary. Adding the cheese to a bubbling hot liquid will cause it to break down and become gritty.
  • Remove your pot from the heat source before adding the cheese to prevent it from breaking. Return the pot to the stovetop to gently warm the dip until smooth.
  • Consider adding a great melting cheese such as cream cheese, American cheese, or even a ‘cheese food product’ like Velveeta.

Add a squirt of lemon juice or white wine to fix your grainy dip, and whisk vigorously until the sauce is smooth. Start with one or two teaspoons. You don’t want to taste it in the dip, and too much acidity will cause the dip to break and separate, which isn’t good either. Balance is key here.

How To Store Leftovers And Reheat

When I make this dip, we usually don’t have leftovers, but if you do, allow the dip to cool to room temperature and store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

To reheat the dip, remove the dip from the refrigerator and stir vigorously. Spoon the dip into a saucepan and warm it on your stovetop over low heat until warmed through. If it is too thick, use milk or cream to thin it to the desired consistency.

Variations

Although this recipe is technically a dip, it is outstanding in many things. Try it on tacos or nachos, as a sauce for vegetables, or stir it into mashed potatoes. A few simple ingredients can change the flavors and make this easy recipe into another exciting appetizer.

  • Swap the cheddar for Monterey Jack or Pepper Jack cheese, then add canned, chopped Hatch chiles, fire-roasted corn, and a pinch of chili powder for a Southwestern flair. Blue tortilla chips would make a great dipper.
  • Replace the cheddar and American cheeses with provolone and fontina cheese. Then, increase the garlic to 5-6 cloves and add a teaspoon of Italian herb seasoning to make an Italian cheese dip. Sauteed slices of Italian sausage or grilled bruschetta would be excellent dippers.
  • Add cream cheese and gruyere cheese to replace some of the cheddar and American cheese. Stir in Old Bay Seasoning and lump crab meat for a dip straight out of the Chesapeake Bay area. Crackers or vegetables are ideal as dippers.
Top view of aclear glass bowl of Kentucky Beer Cheese Dip on a white plate with a side of warm, soft pretzel bites to dip.

More Cheesy Recipes To Consider

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Close up of a clear glass bowl of Kentucky Beer Cheese Dip, garnished with microgreens.

Kentucky Derby Beer Cheese Dip


Description

With the Kentucky Derby rapidly approaching on May 4th, I’m already dreaming of a watch party with a warm bowl of Kentucky Derby Beer Cheese and hot, soft pretzel bites for dipping. This dip comes together quickly and is perfect for any occasion.


Ingredients

3 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons flour

⅔ cup whole milk

7 ounces beer (I used Corona)

1 pounds (16-ounces) extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated

½ pound (8-ounces) American cheese (I used Boar’s Head)

3 teaspoons finely minced garlic (about 3 large cloves)

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (I used Maille’s)

1 teaspoon hot sauce (I used Frank’s)

⅛ teaspoon salt (more to taste)

½ teaspoon black pepper

Scallions, parsley, or micro greens to garnish


Instructions

In a large, heavy-bottom saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat.

Whisk in the flour until fully incorporated with the butter.

Cook, whisking constantly for 1 minute.

Pour in the milk and continue to whisk until the mixture is smooth and beginning to thicken.

Stir in the garlic, Worcestershire, onion powder, mustard, hot sauce, salt, and pepper.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and add the cheese, a handful at a time, and whisk until melted before adding another handful.

Return to the stovetop and continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the cheese is fully melted and the mixture is thickened and smooth.

Spoon the mixture into a serving bowl and serve with soft pretzel bites, veggies, or chips – tortilla, corn, or potato.

  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 12 minutes
  • Category: Starter – Appetizer
  • Method: Simmer
  • Cuisine: Southern

Keywords: Kentucky Derby Beer Cheese Dip, dip recipes, Kentucky Derby recipes, cheese dip, Southern recipes, cheesy recipes, appetizers

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