A Genius Cheese Dip That’s As Easy As 1-2-3

August  9, 2017

I cannot stress enough how quickly this elegant cheese dip from Heidi Swanson materializes in front of you—or how many situations you may find yourself grateful for it.

Your in-laws—or coworkers or dogsitters—are passing through the neighborhood. You spaced on appetizers for your dinner party. Or, whoops, the party is suddenly pacing an hour behind schedule (cheese dip). You have a hankering for a quick, salty snack with some substance, but all you’ve got in the cheese drawer is that stiff, ageless block of Parm. The key, my friends, is this cheese dip.

If you’re thinking: But Parmesan doesn’t melt!—you’re right. Dry, well-aged Parmesan won’t readily change states in fondues and quesos like other, meltier cheeses do—if anything, you might see it layered in as a sharp accent flavor on something a little younger and more impressionable, like ricotta or Jack.

Nominated for Single Most Productive Use of a Microplane.

The trick is all in the Microplaning, which shears the hard, crumbly cheese into a mound of weightless feathers. You’ve done this a million times over pasta, but you might not have realized that by stirring in a little liquid (here, olive oil and a splash of wine), the soft curls of cheese settle comfortably into a very smooth spread. Voilà! Instant appetizer, care of the darkest recesses of your cheese drawer.

Don't mess around with faux Parmesan here. It has nothing to hide behind.

But Swanson would want you to know: “It's more of an idea than a recipe,” as she wrote to me. “And, adding stuff to it is where the fun/magic happens.” My easy go-tos are heavy-handed black pepper and a squirt of lemon juice, but she also suggests all sorts of herbs, spices, dried fruit, and other doodads that would be fun to toss in, depending on your mood and pantry stores.

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In fact, the day of our photo shoot, I shopped for nothing! I prepared nothing. I knew we had Parmesan, olive oil, and wine kicking around, and took my chances on there being something for me to dunk into it. Naturally, Sarah Jampel had sourced some eensy Thumbelina carrots, baby squash, and wiggly crackers for another much-better-planned photo, so I went ahead and borrowed some of those—but any bread/cracker/crudité-like vehicle will do. You have half a bag of carrots or celery in the back of the fridge, right? Back by the Parm? You're golden.

Photos by Emily Dryden

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Top Comment:
“I'd not be in the mood to microplane cheese long enough to produce this quantity of shred. Think I'll do like Ina instead and throw the chunk into the food processor. How easy was that??”

Got a genius recipe to share—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected]. Thank you to tiny vegetable forager Sarah Jampel for this one.

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Tracy
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  • JOEY
I'm an ex-economist, lifelong-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007, before returning to the land of Dutch Crunch bread and tri-tip barbecues in 2020. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."


Tracy December 27, 2017
I would love the recipe for the squiggly crackers, please!
Kristen M. December 30, 2017
Those crackers were actually store-bought, but here's a good one! https://food52.com/recipes/27555-peter-reinhart-s-crispy-rye-and-seed-crackers
Tracy December 30, 2017
Thanks!!! I actually found this recipe and several others that look tasty a few days ago!!
Keira December 27, 2017
Truly dreadful. Rescued it by heating it to melt the cheese.
Ellen December 27, 2017
I think this wasn't popular because no one wants to spend the time to microplane 2 1/2 cups of parm!! I never will.
shiraz.moola October 29, 2017
what non alcoholic option can I sub for 1/4 cup of white wine
Kristen M. January 31, 2018
Shiraz.moola, I'm sorry I missed your comment—lemon juice, extra olive oil, and maybe a splash of olive oil should get you to a nice consistency and flavor, but feel free to riff with other non-alcoholic liquids (apple cider vinegar? a little cream? some brine from a jar of olives?) to taste if you like.
JOEY August 10, 2017
I'd not be in the mood to microplane cheese long enough to produce this quantity of shred. Think I'll do like Ina instead and throw the chunk into the food processor. How easy was that??
Kotryne August 9, 2017
Just one comment - technically this is not a 'vegetarian' recipe per se. As good quality parmesan cheese is unfortunately non-veggie! Just a disclaimer. Otherwise, looks delish!