Rotel Cheese Dip – A Beautiful Mess

If I had to pick one food that always, always conjures up memories of parties at my grandma Norma’s house, it would be Rotel cheese dip.

My grandma typically makes Rotel cheese dip without meat, although I’ve added some notes to the recipe card below on how you could change that up (if you want).

Related: Check out our Taco Dip, Buffalo Chicken Dip, 50+ Easy BBQ Side Dishes, and our snacks and appetizers archive for more recipes!

What is Rotel Cheese Dip?

I’ve seen people call this different things, like “cowboy dip” or “ugly dip,” but in our family, we just call it Rotel. It’s made of Velveeta, a can of Rotel tomatoes, and a couple spices and herbs.

But truly, you can make this with just two ingredients in about five minutes. It’s that simple!

My grandmother usually makes this in a crockpot (or slow cooker) by adding all the ingredients and cooking on low until melted. This is a great option if you want to have this dip sitting out, but still warm during a longer party or gathering.

Another option is to make Rotel cheese dip on the stovetop. You just add all the ingredients to a pan and melt on low heat, stirring every now and again.

How Do You Make Rotel Cheese Dip Without Velveeta?

I will be the first to admit that we always make this with Velveeta (processed cheese). It’s not an ingredient I use often—in fact, this is probably one of the only recipes I use it in. But there’s just something a little nostalgic about it to me.

That being said, you can substitute the processed cheese for cream cheese and a little shredded cheddar. The consistency will be a little different, but it’s still delicious.

My family typically makes this dip without meat. But, if you want to add some cooked ground beef, sausage, or a vegetarian ground meat to this dip, it’s a great addition!

And, I’m curious, how many of you make this dip at family get-togethers? I sort of think of it as a Midwest thing, but honestly I am not even sure that’s true.

So, let me know in the comments if your family makes a version of this too. xo. Emma


get the recipe
Get the Recipe

a quick and easy cheese dip recipe made from Velveeta cheese

Yield 8 servings

Prep 5 minutes

Cook 5 minutes

Total 10 minutes


  • In a medium size pan or pot, add the cubed cheese, Rotel (do not drain), chili powder, cayenne, and a little salt and pepper.

  • Melt on low heat, stirring occasionally.

  • Once melted, add 2-3 tablespoons of water to thin slightly.

  • Stir in the cilantro. Add more salt and pepper if desired.


You could also cook this in a crockpot on low heat. 
You can add 8-10 ounces of ground beef, sausage, or a vegetarian ground meat. Cook the meat before, then stir in once the other ingredients are melted. 


Nutrition Facts

Rotel Cheese Dip

Amount per Serving

% Daily Value*

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Notice: Nutrition is auto-calculated, using Spoonacular, for your convenience. Where relevant, we recommend using your own nutrition calculations.

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