State Recipes Found Across the USA: Southern Cheese Grits and Arkansas Cheese Dip

The South is known for many things, and amazingly hearty “stick to your ribs,” southern comfort food is one of them. Cheese is, of course, a feature of food recipes worldwide, and the ingredient made from the coagulation of the milk protein casein is top of the comfort list for many.

by Levi & Natalie of Henley’s Happy Trails

“You have to be a romantic to invest yourself, your money, and your time in cheese.” – Anthony Bourdain

In this article, we continue to share some of our favorite dishes we have come across in our seven years of Workamping around the country. Along with some of the history of those tasty foods, you’ll find the recipes so you can make them in your own RV.

The South is known for many things, and amazingly hearty “stick to your ribs,” southern comfort food is one of them. Cheese is, of course, a feature of food recipes worldwide, and the ingredient made from the coagulation of the milk protein casein is top of the comfort list for many.

While our previous recipe article focused on two recipes from the Southwestern United States, we will be staying in the south but heading a bit eastward for two cheese-based delights, Southern Cheese Grits and Arkansas Cheese Dip. The first can be enjoyed as a side dish or a meal in itself, while the second is a perfect fit for your next RV park potluck.

Southern Cheese Grits


The History of Grits

If you are unfamiliar with grits, they are basically porridge made from boiled ground corn. Grits can be made from many types of corn, including hominy (corn that has been treated with an alkali). Many corn-based dishes in the U.S. originated with Native Americans, and grits are no exception. The earliest grits can be traced back to the Muscogee tribe, and the dish quickly became an American staple after colonists learned how to make it from local tribes.

According to Wikipedia, “Three-quarters of the grits sold in the U.S. are bought in the South, in an area stretching from Lower Texas to Washington, D.C., that is sometimes called the “grits belt”.[7] The state of Georgia declared grits to be its official prepared food in 2002.[8]”

While in the western U.S., you are likely to find grits prepared more like oatmeal with milk, butter, and sugar, southern grit recipes are often of the more savory type like cheese grits. Cheese grits are often served as a breakfast dish; it also makes the perfect side dish that seems to go with, well, anything. It’s savory, starchy, wonderfully cheesy, and best of all, it’s super easy to make in about 10 minutes (if using quick grits).

How to Make Cheese Grits

Southern Cheese Grits only require one large saucepan

You will need:

  • 1 large saucepan
  • 1 whisk
  • 1 cube chicken bouillon
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups of milk (We used almond milk.)
  • 1 cup quick grits (Regular grits are a coarser grind and take about 15 minutes to cook.)
  • 3 cups shredded cheese (sharp cheddar and/or Monterey Jack)
  • pepper


  1. Dissolve the bullion into 1 cup of hot water and add to the saucepan.
  2. Pour in an additional 1 cup of water and the milk.
  3. Bring to a boil on the stovetop while stirring with a whisk occasionally.
  4. Once the liquid mixture comes to a boil, add the salt and grits.
  5. Reduce heat to low and frequently whisk until creamy. (quick grits: 5 minutes, old-fashioned: 15-20 minutes)
  6. Turn the stove off and add sharp cheddar and/or Monterey Jack (3 cups total). We used 2 cups cheddar and 1 cup Monterey Jack.
  7. Stir in until melted.
  8. Spoon into bowls, sprinkle additional cheese, and add pepper to taste.

Optionally, you can add chopped bacon and garnish with rosemary or garlic.

It’s the ultimate in rainy weather food.

Cheese Dip – Arkansas

Many Arkansans have their own cheese dip recipes they have perfected.

The History of Arkansas Cheese Dip

According to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas, “Cheese dip is considered to be an important part of Arkansas’s food culture…According to Nick Rogers, who has researched the history of cheese dip, the dish was invented by Blackie Donnely, the original owner of Mexico Chiquito restaurants.”

Cheese dip is a big deal in Arkansas regardless of where it was invented. But another southern state likes dipping chips in melted cheese, and that’s Texas. Texas makes a dish known as queso, and some queso recipes are almost identical to Arkansas cheese dip, which has caused some debate about which came first, the cheese dip or the queso.

Some sources point out that the original queso used only real cheese while Arkansas cheese dip combines processed cheese like Velveeta with real cheese, which stays smooth even when it cools. But like I said, it seems that the cheese dip and queso dip recipe lines have blurred a bit over the years. So suffice it to say, I’m staying out of the debate and just enjoying the food. Truth be told, if you put a bowl of spiced melted cheese in front of me with chips, I’ll call it whatever you want.

Making Cheese Dip

Making cheese dip at home tastes way better than anything we have ever bought at a store.

This is one of those excellent dishes for an RV park potluck or even a great snack to have around the firepit when RVing with a large group. Regardless of the occasion, it’s a dish made for sharing, and the following recipe is wonderfully cheesy and satisfyingly creamy with just enough spicy kick. You won’t have any leftovers at the end of the evening.

Watching the cheese slowly melt is quite satisfying.

You will need:

  • Instant Pot/crockpot
  • 8oz brick of Velveeta cheese
  • 8oz Monterrey Jack (Use Pepper Jack if you want a spicier dip.)
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup canned crushed tomatoes, drained
  • 1 medium fresh jalapeno, seeds removed, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh chopped cilantro
  • 8 oz can diced green chiles
  • 1 medium fresh Poblano pepper, seeds removed and finely chopped
  • 2 tsp dark chili powder
  • 6 tbsp dried minced onion
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tsp garlic salt (or garlic powder for less sodium)
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 4 tbsp flour
  • cayenne pepper to taste
  • 1 each of mini sweet red and orange peppers
We were going for a dip with mild to medium heat, but you can use hotter peppers if you like it spicy.


  1. Set your Instant Pot to the slow cooker setting or your crockpot to low.
  2. Slice the Velveeta cheese into small 1 inch cubes to make it easier to melt and add to the Instant Pot/crockpot.
  3. Add Monterrey or Pepper Jack and milk.
  4. While prepping the other ingredients, periodically stir the cheese/milk mixture.
  5. Drain crushed tomatoes using a strainer and add to the pot.
  6. Remove the seeds, finely chop/mince the jalapeno and Poblano peppers and toss those in.
  7. Drain and add the diced green chiles.
  8. Continue to stir the cheese dip periodically.
  9. Now add spices: chili powder, minced onion, black pepper, garlic salt, and cumin.
  10. Make the roux with the butter and flour (see below for instructions) and add to the Instant Pot/crockpot.
  11. Once the cheese is fully melted, and the dip is hot, you’re ready to serve. Keep the Instant Pot/crockpot on low, spoon the cheese dip into a bowl or onto a plate, and serve with corn tortilla chips.
  12. Optionally, you can garnish with thinly sliced mini sweet red and orange peppers and cayenne pepper on top.
It looks like a lot of healthy stuff going into the pot of melted cheese and whole milk.

Making the Roux

A roux is basically flour and any fat cooked together in a pan to the desired color. It provides creaminess and consistency while helping to combine fatty ingredients like cream or cheese. In other words, it gives thick creamy sauces their thick creaminess.

We are using butter as the fat for this cheese dip recipe to make the roux.

  1. Melt butter in a saucepan on medium until hot.
  2. And flour, stir together, and cook for 3-5 minutes.
  3. Add the roux to the cheese mixture in the pot and stir well.
The final step is adding the roux, making sure the cheese is melted, and all is well combined.

Experience Southern Comfort Food While Workamping

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