A Belizean favourite, appetizer and snack that is easy to make, almost impossible to stop eating and found at most any social activity in Belize. Be it a wedding, birthday, sporting event, TV time with the kids, the Belize cheese dip is a tangy blend of soft cheese, evaporated milk and pepper that melds flavours. Served with crisp corn torilla chips, it can be filling enough for a meal. Think of the diced tomato and sweet pepper and its almost a health food.
The foundation of Belize Cheese Dip is soft processed cheese. According to Bon Apetit:
“Processed cheese is not 100% cheese. Most of the time it hovers around 50% cheese, sometimes more and sometimes less, but at a base level, processed cheese is real cheese cut with other, non-cheese ingredients. Those extra ingredients can include salt, food dyes, preservatives, extra dairy, emulsifiers, or other artificial ingredients.”
Like many Belize food items, processed cheese has its roots in the old days when there was no refrigeration. Processed cheese, like other high sodium content food, for example pig tails and corned beef, can sit around a long time in warm tropical conditions without going bad. In Belize the best selling cheeses are very high sodium brands such as Happy Cow and the hard “Dutch Cheese”. We do not recommend this. Consider using cream cheese or ricotta.
Belizean Cheese Dip Recipe
1 lb processed cheese cubed
½ lb Green Sweet (Bell) Pepper, diced
½ can of salsa Mexicana Casera
1 can of evaporated milk
Marie Sharp’s hot sauce to taste, or ½ habanero (Salsa Casera contains a little habanero sauce, so extra pepper is not really needed).
A small bunch of fresh cilantro
On clean cutting board, chop up the cheese and sweet pepper and place in blender.
Start the blending process and slowly add the salsa and milk. Now add the cilantro and
habanero. The final product should be smooth and creamy.
Serve with fresh corn tortilla chips and enjoy.
Belize Cheese Production
The largest dairy and cheese producer in Belize is Western Dairies at the Mennonite community in Spanish Lookout. But local consumers and chefs have stated in public interviews that the quality needs to be improved, and the prices reduced. The attention to local milk and cheese in Belize has been driven by government moves in 2021 to try and reduce dairy imports in favour of local production. Most milk consumed in Belize originates from Mexico (Tetra Pak cartons) and in powder form from Mexico and Europe. Cheese originates from the U.S.A. and Europe.
From a recent television interview: Simone De Angelis, Chef, La Dolce Vita “The cheese I use most is the mozzarella cheese, we prefer to use the imported one for several reasons. The first reason is the price which is about 30% cheaper than what is the price for the local cheese.
Enrique Awe, Chef, The Artisan: “With Western Dairies I use their milk, I use some of their cheeses, but their mozzarella is just not up to par to the imported one. They still need some work to do with it.”
At the other extreme are artisan cheese producers, mostly expats that have relocated to Belize. These producers make cheese in small batches. But their output is inconsistent and the high prices puts them out of reach of the general public.