[Photographs: Vicky Wasik, Morgan Eisenberg, Kristin Donnelly, J. Kenji López-Alt]
Like finger foods, dips are a natural choice for game day snacking because of how easy they are to eat on the couch. But they have other advantages, too: They're easy to make in large quantities and light enough to eat for a couple hours straight. If I watched the game with nothing more than a spread of dips, I'd be perfectly happy.
The challenge, then, is deciding which ones to serve. Guacamole is a must, either a simple one or a more flavorful variation. Salsa (red and green, please) is another obvious choice. And, of course, you need some cheese—you could go with a classic nacho cheese sauce or opt for something more refined, like a baked goat cheese dip. Keep reading to find all of these, plus the rest of our favorite Super Bowl dip recipes.
Classic Pico de Gallo
An easy way to elevate chips and salsa is to ditch the jarred stuff and make your own. This pico de gallo, made with tomatoes, onions, chilies, and cilantro, is a particularly refreshing option. Stay away from full-size tomatoes this time of year—cherry, plum, or Roma tomatoes are better choices.
There's nothing wrong with making salsa with raw tomatoes, but taking the time to roast them deepens their flavor and brings out a little extra sweetness. And while the oven's going, you might as well broil the jalapeños, onions, and garlic, too. The result is a smokier salsa with just the right amount of heat (cooking the peppers tames them slightly).
Charred Salsa Verde
This smoky salsa verde shows that broiling works just as well for tomatillos as it does for tomatoes. To further intensify the flavor of the salsa, we pour it into a smoking-hot pan after blending. Salsa verde is supposed to be tart, but if the tomatillos are especially mouth-puckering, you might want to add a dash of agave for balance.
Basic Salsa Verde (Mexican Tomatillo Salsa)
This more traditional salsa verde is made by simmering the tomatillos, jalapeños, and onion before blending with cilantro and salt and finishing with lime juice. Salsa verde is more than a dip—it's a versatile sauce, too—so make a big batch and use the extras for steak and corn salad or chilaquiles.
Hot and Creamy Salsa Verde
Blending a dollop of sour cream into your salsa produces a smoother, creamier dip that's nevertheless plenty punchy when the salsa component is made with a combination of hot Poblanos and hotter serranos. Tomatillo, cilantro, garlic, and lime juice round out the flavors.
Yucatán-Style Hot Dried-Chili Salsa (K'uut Bi Ik)
The salsas of the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico are famously fiery, but this homemade take on k'uut bi ik isn't just about the heat: A combination of dried pasilla and árbol chilies provides plenty of fruity and smoky notes for a complex flavor. If you can't locate hard-to-find Seville orange juice, replacing it with a combination of lime, orange, and grapefruit juice works well. You may want to go easy on this stuff—it's really hot. (For the die-hard chili-heads among them, you can always offer up an even hotter chile tamulado, made of roasted habaneros and garlic, of which a little dab will truly do you.)
This recipe combines two of the country's favorite dips: salsa and ketchup. The two complement each other perfectly, with the chopped tomatoes in the salsa enhancing the texture of the ketchup and the sweetness of the ketchup balancing out the intense flavor of the chili-, garlic-, and cayenne-spiked salsa.
The Best Basic Guacamole
Super Bowl Sunday is the biggest day of the year for guacamole, so you should absolutely make it part of your spread. This version keeps things simple: We pound onion, serrano pepper, cilantro, and lime juice using a mortar and pestle and then add avocado. Mashing the avocados with a whisk gives the guac a great texture—mostly creamy but with some bigger chunks for contrast.
Guacamole With Roasted Garlic
I'm happy to stop at basic guacamole, but if you want something a little unusual, try this garlicky version. We rub a head of garlic with olive oil and roast it to get a softer, sweeter flavor and then pound the cloves into a paste and mix them into the guacamole.
Guacamole With Roasted Tomatillos
Here, we take our basic guacamole and give it a salsa verde–inspired twist, flavoring the avocado with a purée of charred tomatillos, garlic, onion, and serrano. If you think regular guacamole is too boring, this tart, spicy variation might be for you.
Guacamole With Charred Corn, Black Beans, and Scallions
This recipe bulks the guacamole up into something more substantial by adding black beans, corn, and green onions. Canned black beans are totally fine here as is out-of-season corn—the kernels get charred in a skillet, which gives them plenty of flavor.
Guacamole With Jicama and Mango
Perhaps our most unusual guacamole recipe, this one pairs avocado with crisp diced jicama and sweet mango. Fruity and refreshing, the dip is a good alternative to some of the heavier foods you'll likely be eating during the game.
Cheese Sauce for Cheese Fries and Nachos
My number-one guilty pleasure is without a doubt nacho cheese sauce—the more unnaturally yellow and shiny, the better. This version is just as satisfying, but a little bit less guilt-inducing, because it's made with unprocessed cheese. To replicate the consistency of cheese sauce made with American or Velveeta, we use a mixture of evaporated milk and cornstarch.
Gooey Cheeseburger Dip
If we're going to make tacos into cheese dip, then why not burgers, too? Traditional cheeseburger dip is made with Velveeta, Ro-Tel, and ground beef. Rather than Velveeta, we base the dip on a blend of American cheese, sharp cheddar, evaporated milk, and cornstarch, similar to the recipe for our cheese sauce. Since Ro-Tel tomatoes aren't available everywhere, we go with a homemade mix of tomatoes and roasted chilies.
Philly Cheesesteak Dip
Yep, it's exactly what it sounds like—thinly sliced and chopped rib eye and sautéed onion, mixed into a base of Cheez Whiz or similar cheese spread (you want this to be authentic, don't you?) for a creamy and savory dip. It's not a hard sell (especially for Eagles fans).
Chorizo, Mushroom, and Onion Queso
This chorizo-laden cheese dip is made with Oaxacan cheese, which gives it a pleasantly stringy texture. A small handful of grated Monterey Jack adds some heat to the queso. The real secret is mixing in earthy chopped mushrooms—we use shiitakes, but feel free to use more affordable creminis.
Taco Queso Dip
Straight cheese sauce is great for burgers and fries, but for dipping chips, I prefer something heartier. Enter this dip, which distills a whole taco night into one bowl. The base is equal parts Monterey Jack, sharp cheddar, and ground beef, plus sour cream for a tangy edge. We amp up the taco flavor with oregano, cumin, chili powder, jalapeño, onions, and garlic.
Green Chili Queso Dip
If I'm eating a green chili queso dip, I want to really taste the chilies—especially if it's made with Hatch chilies rather than Poblanos. This means keeping the other ingredients relatively subtle so as to not overpower the peppers. We like to use equal amounts of Monterey Jack and white American cheeses, plus a pinch of cayenne.
Pimento Cheese Dip
This sauce tastes just like a melted, chip-friendly version of pimento cheese. We make it like our basic cheese sauce, but with the addition of mayo, sour cream, and peppers. Jarred pimentos work fine and keep the dip super easy, but for the best flavor char, peel, and chop your own fresh red peppers.
French Onion Soup Cheese Dip
Thanks to sweet caramelized onions, sharp Gruyère cheese, savory Worcestershire sauce, and aromatic thyme, this dip ends up tasting remarkably similar to the French bistro classic it's inspired by. If it comes out thicker than you'd like, just add more evaporated milk.
Our beer cheese recipe uses robust brown ale for a nice bitterness, which is balanced by Dijon, Worcestershire, and hot sauce. Soft pretzels are the most traditional accompaniment, but this dip tastes awesome on just about everything.
7-Layer Buffalo Chicken Dip
This recipe starts with the Buffalo sauce, chicken, and cream cheese found in a standard Buffalo chicken dip and gives them the seven-layer treatment by adding refried beans, crispy bacon, pepper Jack cheese, blue cheese crumbles, and scallions. We cut the cream cheese with Ranch and the beans with Buffalo sauce—not only does this add flavor, but it keeps the dip thin enough to actually get a chip into.
Slow-Cooker Chicken Cordon Bleu Dip
This chicken cordon bleu–inspired dip is easy to make, but if you're watching the game on the West Coast, you're going to have to get started pretty early to have it ready for kickoff. Rich and thick, it's made with cream cheese, Swiss, shredded chicken, and diced ham. Keep the lid closed during cooking—if you peek, you'll let out steam, and the dip will get dry.
Balsamic-Strawberry Baked Goat Cheese Dip
Significantly more elegant than typical game-day fare, this warm dip is made with whipped goat cheese, cream cheese, and honey and topped with strawberries and basil that have been coated in a tangy balsamic reduction. Since the balsamic is reduced down to a glaze, there's nothing wrong with using a cheaper bottle.
Whipped Feta Dip
On its own, feta cheese isn't particularly spreadable. But mixed with Greek yogurt, the salty cheese takes on a velvety, smooth texture. The yogurt complements the cheese while balancing its extreme saltiness. The basic recipe can be fancied up with fresh herbs, like dill, mint, or oregano.
Cranberry-Jalapeño Baked Brie Dip
Warm, melted Brie is fantastic on its own. To take it to the next level, we top the cheese with minced cranberries and a bit of jalapeño to give it a spicy-sweet kick. Consider this the last-minute appetizer you make when you decide you want a little bit of that Super Bowl party feel even if you don't have any guests coming over.
Blue Cheese and Toasted-Pecan Dip
This spin on a traditional blue cheese dip features toasted pecans, which add both crunch and a subtle sweetness to the sharp, salty cheese. Spread it on sandwiches, or serve it with chips and an assortment of sliced raw vegetables.
Israeli-Style Extra-Smooth Hummus
It's a bit more time-consuming than grabbing a tub of Sabra at the supermarket, but there's no better way to get hummus with fantastic flavor and texture than by making your own. Cooking dried chickpeas with aromatics takes care of the superior flavor; puréeing them while they're still hot in a high-powered blender or food processor allows you to achieve an incredibly smooth consistency. We finish the hummus by whisking in homemade tahini sauce. For a variation on the theme, try Daniel's hummus masabacha, which lends a chunky texture with whole chickpeas.
Fully Loaded Vegan Queso Dip
One of the absolute best cheese dips I've ever had doesn't contain a single shred of cheese—in fact, it's totally vegan. It starts with our vegan nacho cheese sauce, which is remarkably creamy thanks to potatoes, cashews, almond milk, and vegetable shortening. We top the sauce with homemade vegan chorizo, beans, Ro-Tel (if you can get it), and fresh vegetables.
Creamy Shrimp Dip With Shallots, Dill, and Lemon
Home cooks tend to be a little scared of working with seafood, so shrimp dip might sound more intimidating than it is. But with our baking soda trick and foolproof poaching technique (or our sous vide one), it's easy to cook the shrimp perfectly. After that, all you have to do is chop the shrimp up and mix them with mayo, sour cream, and a variety of herbs and aromatics.
Maryland Crab Imperial With Buttery Golden Bread Crumbs
If you love crab cakes but aren't exactly a purist about them (and if you don't love the care that goes into forming and flipping them), crab imperial may just be your jam. It's like a warm, creamy crab dip, seasoned heavily with Old Bay, lemon, and mustard and topped with buttery bread crumbs. Pop it in the oven until the bread crumbs are golden, set out some baguette toasts on the side, and be sure to grab a healthy spoonful for yourself before it all disappears.
Easy Pork Rillettes (Slow-Cooked Pork Spread)
Perhaps it's technically more of a spread than a dip, but as long as you've got crackers or toast on hand, what's the difference, really? Disregard the fancy name—rillettes, a sort of whipped confit made by slow-roasting meat in its own fat and then blending it, are as cheap and simple as they are delicious. To roast the pork, we like to pack it tightly into a casserole or Dutch oven, which means less added fat is needed. A stand mixer makes short work of whipping it all up at the end. Check out Daniel's salmon rillettes recipe, too!
Clams Casino Dip
Clams casino is a dish often reserved for special occasions, and we can think of no more special occasion that enjoying an isolated Super Bowl with a bowl of dip packed with all the flavors of the classic recipe.
Hummus Fries With Spicy Tahini Dip
This spicy, garlicky tahini dip is accompanied by crisp and flavorful fries inspired by panisses, chickpea-flour fritters from the South of France. The fries use that same chickpea flour base but are given more hummus-like flavor with the addition of tahini, garlic, lemon, and cumin.
Bagna Càuda (Northern Italian Anchovy-Garlic Dip)
Bagna càuda, a classic dish of the Piedmont region in northwestern Italy, is a rich, salty dip made by mixing warm olive oil with plenty of garlic and anchovies, and cooked together until elements of the combination begin to dissolve and come together. Paired with an arrangement of vegetables, it's equal parts easy and delicious.
Vegan Spinach and Artichoke Dip
This vegan take on a classic spinach and artichoke dip doesn't give up any flavor. A combination of cauliflower and cashews creates a thick, rich, creamy base for earthy spinach, garlic, and a bit of cheesy nutritional yeast. Serve the dip with toasted bread or lots of tortilla chips.