Dips are the unsung heroes of the kitchen.

Ready to fill in as an appetizer, dessert or a lazy summer dinner, dips can be as simple or as complex — and even healthy — as a cook wants them to be. They appeal to all ages, are an ideal vehicle for vegetables and add a little levity to the table, whether it's a backyard barbecue, family reunion or Tuesday night supper.

Inspired by a colleague's recent story on Top the Tater, the wildly popular Minnesota condiment that was made to coexist with Fritos Scoops and ruffled potato chips, we took a deep dive into dips. Also providing inspiration (and recipes) was the new book "Big Dip Energy" by Alyse Whitney ($29.99, William Morrow), which rightfully calls the food "a universal love language."

But like the basics of any language, there are rules to follow:

• Consistency is key. Too runny and it veers into sauce territory. Too thick and it resembles ice cream. Find your happy dippable medium.

• Use convenience ingredients with caution. Grating your own cheese is best; pre-shredded varieties have added ingredients to keep the shreds from clumping together, and that can affect its taste, texture and ability to melt. And using fresh garlic is better than jarred minced garlic, which loses nutrients and flavor in the packaging process.

• Cream cheese is indispensable. It's wise to keep a brick of cream cheese on hand for last-minute entertaining. But many dip recipes call for it to be at room temperature, and you don't always have time to let it soften. Whitney has a great tip for that: Microwave an empty glass bowl for 2 minutes, remove and add the cream cheese to the hot bowl, where it will soften without melting.

• Enlist appliances. With plenty of chopping to be done, a food processor will make your dip life (and overall kitchen life) much easier. Whitney also suggests having slow cookers and/or dip warmers at the ready.

• It's all in the presentation. Some dips are vibrant and colorful, others ... aren't. A stash of bright or unique dishes and an array of vegetables can make even the most ho-hum dips look as good as they taste. Think out of the box and put martini glasses, vintage bowls, dishes or fun garage sale finds to use.

• Have fun. If ever there was a food that begs to not be taken seriously, it's dip. Use the following recipes as a canvas for your cream cheese-based art, and remember the most important rule of all: no double-dipping.

Say Kimcheese! Dip

Serves 4 to 6.

From "Big Dip Energy," by Alyse Whitney, who writes: "Kimchi and cream cheese are two core ingredients to my identity, being Korean and Jewish, so it thrilled me to find they pair together so effortlessly. The spicy funk from the kimchi is toned down by the creamy, slightly tangy cheese and even creamier Kewpie mayonnaise. Toasted sesame oil adds a nice warm note that is complemented by a slight bite of whole scallions. Garlic powder rather than raw garlic adds its signature touch without overwhelming your palate. Quick-pickled vegetables are a key dipper choice, but you should definitely keep bagels handy, too." (William Morrow, 2024).

• 1 (8-oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened at room temperature

• 1 c. kimchi, snipped into small pieces or roughly chopped

• 1/2 c. Kewpie mayonnaise

• 3 tbsp. kimchi brine

• 2 tsp. toasted sesame oil

• 1/2 tsp. garlic powder

• 4 scallions, thinly sliced on the bias, a few sliced greens reserved for garnish


In a large bowl, combine cream cheese, kimchi, Kewpie mayonnaise, kimchi brine, sesame oil, garlic powder and scallions. Transfer to a small serving bowl, top with the reserved scallions, and serve.

Tips: Use kitchen shears to cut the kimchi directly into the dip so you don't stain your hands or cutting board. Have a jar of kimchi that's been sitting around for a while and has soured? Sauté it in a small skillet over medium heat with a tablespoon of neutral oil or butter until lightly caramelized. (If it's really funky, add a teaspoon of sugar or honey.) The dip will keep up to a week in an airtight container at room temperature. After that, the kimchi can age a bit and get a little funkier, so add a sprinkle of sugar to offset that flavor and you can still eat it for a few more days.

Elote to Love Dip

Serves 4 to 6.

From "Big Dip Energy," by Alyse Whitney, who writes: "Some of the simplest dips in the book were the most 'dipficult' to get right, including this elote dip. It almost broke me — because the dip kept breaking. When mayonnaise is heated to too high a temperature or for too long, it can separate and become a greasy mess. So after baking, broiling and cooking this dip on the stovetop, I realized the best way to make it is in the microwave without the mayonnaise, stirring in the mayo after everything else is melty, cheesy goodness. That way it just gets a kiss of residual heat and won't cause a breakdown in the dip, or in your psyche. And although Tajín is prominent in classic elote, I found that more than just a finishing dash of it overpowered the dip with sourness." (William Morrow, 2024).

• 1 (8-oz.) pkg. cream cheese, cut into chunks for quicker melting

• 1 c. frozen or drained canned corn

• 1 tsp. garlic powder

• 1 tsp. chili powder

• 1/2 jalapeño, seeded and minced

• 1/4 c. crumbled cotija cheese, plus more for garnish

• 1/2 c. mayonnaise

• 2 tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice, about 1 lime

• 3 tbsp. roughly chopped fresh cilantro leaves

• Tajín or chili-lime powder, for optional garnish


In a medium microwave-safe bowl, place the cream cheese, corn, garlic powder, chili powder, jalapeño and cotija cheese. Microwave for 1 minute, stir to combine, then microwave for another 30 seconds and stir again. Everything should be smooth and thoroughly combined, but if not, microwave for another 30 seconds. (You also can do this over medium-low heat in a small saucepan.

Stir in the mayonnaise, lime juice and 2 tablespoons of the cilantro. Top with the remaining 1 tablespoon cilantro, as much cotija as you want, and a sprinkle of Tajín, if using.

Tips: To make in advance, mix the initial ingredients in a bowl and refrigerate, then heat and finish the dip later. The dip keeps up to a week in the refrigerator in an airtight container. This dip also can be served cold. Try omitting the corn and making dippers out of baby corn, corn ribs, or small pieces of corn on the cob (messy but worth it).

Saag Paneer Artichoke Dip

Serves 4 to 6.

This recipe can be made in advance and refrigerated for up to a week in an airtight container. To reheat, warm dip in a 350-degree oven for about 15 minutes, microwave for 3 to 5 minutes or in a slow cooker on low for at least an hour. From "Big Dip Energy," by Alyse Whitney (William Morrow, 2024).

• 1 (14-oz.) can artichoke hearts, drained, wrung out in a towel, and roughly chopped

• 1 (10-oz.) box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and wrung out in a towel

• 3 tbsp. ghee or neutral oil, such as vegetable or canola

• 1 medium yellow onion, roughly chopped

• 1 large green serrano pepper or jalapeño, seeded and minced

• 1 tbsp. peeled and finely minced fresh ginger

• 4 cloves garlic, minced

• 2 ½ tsp. garam masala, divided

• 1 tsp. kosher salt

• 1 (8-oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened at room temperature

• ½ c. whole milk plain yogurt

• ½ c. mayonnaise

• ½ c. plus 2 tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided

• Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon

• 1/4 c. roughly chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish

• 1 tsp. chopped pimiento peppers, for optional garnish


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Combine the artichokes and spinach in a medium bowl and set aside.

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the ghee. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent and just starting to brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the serrano pepper and sauté for 2 minutes, then add the ginger and garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons of the garam masala and the salt to the mixture and toast until fragrant, about 1 minute. Set aside to cool.

Add the spinach, artichokes and onion mixture to the bowl of a food processor or a blender. Run the motor until the mixture is as smooth as possible, scraping down the sides if needed. Add cream cheese, yogurt, mayonnaise, 1/2 cup Parmesan, lemon zest and juice, and remaining 1 teaspoon of garam masala, and run the motor until combined. (This can also be done in a large bowl with an immersion blender.)

Transfer the mixture to a 9-inch pie plate, top with the remaining 2 tablespoons of Parmesan, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until bubbly and lightly browned on top. Top with the cilantro and optional pimientos for a pop of color.