Genius Recipes

The #1 Most Fun Way to Eat More Vegetables

And fast, too—a Genius recipe for happier desk lunches, picnics, and road trips from Sohla El-Waylly.

July 22, 2020

Every week in Genius Recipes—often with your help!—Food52 Creative Director and lifelong Genius-hunter Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that will change the way you cook.

Sohla El-Waylly started with a mission to make a refreshing, Dorito-free road trip snack—that could compete with the deliciousness of Doritos.

But, along the way, she invented a happy trick for loving and eating more vegetables anytime, anywhere. On a blanket in the park, on your back porch, or—maybe most conveniently right now—at your desk, as an instant crunchy side for all those slapped together work-from-home lunches.

Dorito-free. Photo by Kristen Miglore

Sohla was developing recipes last winter for a road trip story at Bon Appétit magazine, where she’s the Associate Food Editor, back when our plans for this summer were more care-free. “The idea was just to get a healthy snack in there, in between potato chips,” Sohla told me.

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Top Comment:
“I'd love a fun dip packet that had ranch, cheddar or nacho cheese, and sour cream and onion seasoning. I can't be the only one who eats snack foods like cheetos, doritos, and Utz sour cream and onion chips because I love licking the powder off. The snacks themselves are good, but I'm there for the flavorings and would happily eat them off a spoon. I have low blood pressure, so I'm encouraged to eat salty things.”
— TheSouthernBlackbird

The solution she came up with was Ranch Fun Dip: a little jar of an umami-packed spice blend with the herby, oniony flavors of ranch dressing, a bigger jar with crudités (and a splash of water to keep them fresh). All of it is happy at room temperature (or car temperature) for hours. It even fits in a cup holder!

Sohla was inspired by idli podi (also called milagai or milaga podi or gunpowder spice), a dry mix of toasted lentils, sesame, chiles, and spices in South Asian cuisine that she grew up dipping idli (steamed rice and lentil cakes) into. And the name stems from Fun Dip, the candy that can only be defined as sugar sticks dipped in flavored powdered sugar, which she also loved and had to sneak past her parents. (1)

"I love dipping stuff into dry powders,” Sohla said. “It brings me a lot of nostalgia, both for the Fun Dip angle and the idli podi angle, and I’m glad that it’s something that a lot of people seem to relate to.”

Sohla wanted to make sure the flavors were widely appealing to everyone in the car—kids and adults, adventurous palates and less so—so she made the ranch powder not-too-spicy and heavy on the salty, savory nutritional yeast, with flickers of dried dill and garlic, pistachios and fruity Aleppo-style pepper.

But you can also take Sohla’s concept—and your own cravings—and run with them. In the video above, for example, Sohla invents a satay-inspired Fun Dip, with charred cashews, dried shrimp, coconut sugar, and extra-spicy ground chiles (and I get very hungry).

Whatever ingredients you’re using, all of it blitzes in moments in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle, or anything else that grinds to the texture of coarse sand: food processor, blender, cocktail muddler—you just want it to be fine enough to stick to the veggies, without grinding so far that it becomes clumpy.

Bang around any cut-up vegetable in a mix like this and you’ll never get bored. It taught my one-year-old how to dip, and then got her eating a lot of raw beets and cauliflower, among other things. It has ushered so many more vegetables to our weekday lunches at home, when cooking them or even salad-ing them seems too consuming.

No matter how busy the day, there is always time to cut up a carrot, and, with Sohla’s Fun Dip, I’m always happier I did.

(1) For more on the packaging history of Fun Dip, please see this incredibly detailed accounting on (Fun fact: Both the sticks and the sugar have been sold separately—but, clearly, they're at their best together.)

Got a genius recipe to share—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Perhaps something perfect for beginners? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected]—thank you to Food52 Food Editor and Big Little Recipe creator Emma Laperruque for this one!

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • TheSouthernBlackbird
  • StevenJC123
  • gotligirl
  • Jason
  • frizz
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."


TheSouthernBlackbird February 23, 2021
I really want a sour cream and onion version that tastes like Utz Sour Cream and Onion potato chips. I'd love a fun dip packet that had ranch, cheddar or nacho cheese, and sour cream and onion seasoning. I can't be the only one who eats snack foods like cheetos, doritos, and Utz sour cream and onion chips because I love licking the powder off. The snacks themselves are good, but I'm there for the flavorings and would happily eat them off a spoon. I have low blood pressure, so I'm encouraged to eat salty things.
StevenJC123 January 27, 2021
I love everything about this recipe - the ease of preparation, the nostalgic aspect, the versatility (basically you could put it on anything but fruit lol) and of course the deliciousness!

Post-prep, a few questions came to mind and am wondering if anyone in the community may know the answers or can share their experience.

(1) SCALING: Has anyone tried to scaling this recipe up? I ate it all in two sittings (🤭) and am planning on making 3-5x as much next time (more for me and also to share with friends as pandemic gifts!).

(2) ELIMINATING SUGAR: Has anyone tried eliminating (or substituting) the sugar? If so, what was the result?

(3) VEGAN VARIATIONS?: I realized post-prep that I really enjoy dry-seasonings to add to simple dishes table side and am wondering if anyone has come up with vegan-friendly variations to share?

gotligirl August 22, 2020
What could you use instead of nutritional yeast? Thanks!
Kristen M. August 26, 2020
That's a tricky one to substitute for directly, but Sohla had some great ideas for riffing in the video. I'm guessing if you up the quantity of nuts and tweak the seasoning to taste, you'll still come out with something delicious without the yeast.
Jason July 27, 2020
Thanks for this! I used it to finish off olive oil roasted cauliflower and broccoli....DELICIOSO!
frizz July 23, 2020
I have missed videos with Sohla! Love the video and can't wait to try!
Kaile Z. July 22, 2020
You are so enjoyably pleasant to watch; plus, your food is delicious.
Michelle L. July 22, 2020
What would be a good substitute for cashews?
Michelle L. July 22, 2020
Amanda T. July 26, 2020
If you watch the video, Sohla says it's a really forgiving recipe. In the video she uses cashews, along with some dried shrimp. I think you could sub cashews or maybe pine nuts. Just a thought. Experiment. :-)
mlsjazz July 22, 2020
What length shelf life would this mixture have? Any advice would be welcome.
marilu July 22, 2020
Yum!! I love this so much! This is the perfect way to plow through my csa box when I have the pregnancy munchies. I think I’ll also sprinkle some of this on my popcorn tonight!
vrinda July 22, 2020
nothing like gun powder ! so if this is even a patch on that I'm on it.
abbyarnold July 22, 2020
Y'all are missing out on the best ranch mix ever, if I do say so myself (all my ranch-loving friends agree!) I'm shamelessly posting the link. Check it out here:
TheSouthernBlackbird February 23, 2021
Thank you for linking that. I love to makes dip out of Greek yogurt and a little plain kefir and homemade ranch dressing mix. I put buttermilk powder in mine, and even though it's in an airtight container it got all clumpy. But the buttermilk tang is really good. I love that it encourages me to eat more yogurt and kefir, and I don't feel guilty about using lots of ranch.
Sarah H. July 22, 2020
This seems like such a fun addition to a crudité platter and also sprinkled on grilled vegetables? More Sohla please!
Priya R. July 22, 2020
As a South Indian, I grew up on and love all manner of podi (the Tamil word for powder). There's milagu podi for idlis but also paruppu podi - shelf stable blends of powdered roasted lentils and spices that you can mix with rice and ghee/sesame oil. They make great on-the-go lunches. That being said, I never thought of applying that to veggie dips - and it's brilliant. Will definitely try this!