This Extra-Cheesy Spinach-Artichoke Dip Is Any Party’s Favorite Appetizer

December  4, 2018

A Big Little Recipe has the smallest-possible ingredient list and big, BIG everything else: flavor, ideas, holy-cow factor. Psst: We don't count water, salt, pepper, and certain fats (say, olive oil to dress greens or sauté onions), since we're guessing you have those covered. This week, we’re making a five-ingredient spinach-artichoke dip. Can you guess the other three?

Here’s a holiday party hack: Instead of bringing the host a bottle of wine, bring some spinach-artichoke dip and box of crackers. Because eleven other people are already bringing wine and everyone in the world loves spinach-artichoke dip. That’s a fact.

Well...I guess I don’t love spinach-artichoke dip. I love the idea, sure, but the execution usually bums me out. I call it: The Creaminess Conundrum. Or, when a recipe gets too hung up on being creamy and forgets everything else.

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Don’t get me wrong—spinach-artichoke dip should be melty and gooey and cozy. Even the meltiest and gooeyest and coziest. But it should also be vegetal and balanced, and not so heavy that you eat a few bites and want to go take a nap.

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Top Comment:
“Good flavor but I will go back to my recipe with sour cream and may and parm. ”
— Diane B.

Recipes for this dish turn to all sorts of fats to provide creaminess. Mozzarella is popular, as are mayonnaise and sour cream. But cream cheese is the big one—the ingredient you’ll find in just about any spinach dip recipe.

Cream cheese is milky, mild, and slightly tangy. But more than anything else, it’s creamy. Hence my goal: to replace it with something sharper. I tried swapping in tart Greek yogurt more times than I care to admit and every test turned out dry or kinda curdled. Verdict: Hot spinach-artichoke dip needs cream cheese. It melts like a champ and makes the whole thing dip-able.

Which leaves us with one big Q: How do you balance all that cream cheese? Bring in some acidic ingredients to cut through the richness. And no, I don’t mean lemon juice or cider vinegar. I mean: more cheese.

That's one good-looking ingredient list. Photo by Rocky Luten

It sounds counterintuitive, but hear me out. As Samin Nosrat writes in Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: “Let cultured dairy products be the secret weapon in your quest for acid balance.” Say, crumbled feta on avocado toast, or a smear of goat cheese on a prosciutto sandwich.

This dip’s secret weapon? Aged cheddar. This variety not only brings plenty of funk, but it melts well, too—a crucial component since we’re using equal amounts of both cheeses. (Yep, equal amounts!)

But I wanted it even brighter. That’s where Dijon comes in. This French-style mustard is spicy, vinegary, and depending on the brand, boozy from wine, all of which give that creamy, cuddly cream cheese a real jolt.

The result? A minimally-tweaked but totally transformed version of the dip everyone loves—and I bet you a pecan cookie that, come that holiday party, not one person will be wishing you had brought a bottle of wine instead.

What's your go-to holiday party appetizer? Tell us in the comments!

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cosmiccook December 9, 2018
Saveur's recipe--; stated frozen 'chokes held up better than jarred. I wonder if adding creme fraiche to this dish would give it the creaminess that some commenters said it lacked. I really don't care for the "cream cheese & mayo elements--seems to me there should be an alternative. I plan on doing test batches to see which one is a winner.
Diane B. December 8, 2018
I made this for a party this past week. I found I had to add mayo to sort of loosen it up a bit. Good flavor but I will go back to my recipe with sour cream and may and parm.<br />
tamater S. December 7, 2018
Hey, that's Keto! Now all I need is a Keto cracker.... but zucchini chips or rounds may have to suffice. Thanks, I'm sure this recipe will be delicious.
Lil C. December 6, 2018
I wish I had Wonkavision right now so I could have a taste of this wonderful dip! Looks delicious and you're right, more cheese, is not a thing!