An unquestionable potluck hit and game-day favorite, a well-executed seven-layer dip truly succeeds on all fronts. It’s hearty enough to be filling, it includes both soft and crunchy textures, and it features a pleasing blend of spice, tang, and creaminess. All you need is a bowl of sturdy tortilla chips, and you’re in for a satisfying snack.
The traditional seven-layer dip includes a base layer of refried beans, followed by a blend of seasoned cream cheese and sour cream, guacamole, salsa, or pico de gallo, shredded cheese, scallions, and sliced black olives. However, there’s plenty of room for freestyling, and the pro chefs we spoke to enthusiastically encourage experimentation. We asked these skilled seven-layer-dip aficionados for their top dip-making tips, and we’re bringing you five of the most useful pieces of advice (along with three 7-layer dip recipes to try on your own).
Add texture by mixing refried beans and whole beans
The base layer of refried beans represents the foundation of the dip, and its thick texture and earthy flavor play well with the zestier ingredients like guac and salsa. But if you’d like to add some textural intrigue to the bean portion, follow the advice of chef Jonathan Fox of Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q in Atlanta, Georgia and mix whole beans in with the refried version. “I love looking at each layer and how I can add more flavor or textures to the dip. Starting with the beans, I love to take a mix of refried beans and whole beans and combine them, so you get a good [blend] of textures,” Fox says.
Sour cream is an excellent vehicle for flavor
The cool temperature and gentle tang of sour cream is an appealing contrast to the more assertive tastes in the other six layers. However, it also presents an opportunity to infuse the dip with even more bold flavors. “Mix [ingredients] like taco seasoning, ranch powder, or spices into the sour cream for added flavor,” Fox tells us.
To prevent chip spillage, add a binding layer to the top.
One of the trickiest aspects of the seven-layer dip centers around the fact that the top few layers (scallions, cheese, and olives) are loose items that can easily topple off of a tortilla chip, completely unbalancing your bite. To avoid that grievous fate, head chef Yankel Polak of ButcherBox in Boston, Massachusetts has a recommendation: “To solve this issue, I add a layer of cheese sauce. Your basic queso dip plus some shredded cheese make the perfect upper level, and then [you add the] scallions and olives. I also add jalapeños and bacon bits, because I haven’t found a time when they didn’t please the crowd.”
Consider a trifle dish for an Instagrammable seven-layer dip.
For better or worse, seven-layer dip isn’t typically the most photogenic of foodstuffs. But if you want to show off your party platter on your Insta feed, up your aesthetic game by layering the dip in a glass trifle bowl rather than a baking dish or a foil tray. “It can be a challenge to make seven-layer bean dip look good in terms of food styling. Use a trifle dish if you have one, and when you’re building it out, be sure to spread each layer all the way to the edge so the layers don’t mix. Also, season each layer individually — that way, all of the different flavors will stand out,” advises chef Andres Figueroa of Siete Family Foods in Austin, Texas.
Get creative with your proteins.
To add an extra layer of substance to their party snack, some seven-layer dip makers choose to mix another protein into either the beans or the pico de gallo. Seasoned ground beef and chorizo are popular options for this variation, but executive chef Jim August of Cortland’s Garage in Chicago, Illinois opts for shrimp instead. “Incorporating small, cooked shrimp into the [pico de gallo layer of the] dip gives it a twist that complements the guacamole and the bean [layer],” August tells The Manual.
Want to put some of these tips into practice? Try these three seven-layer dip recipes.
(Created by Hailey McKenna, Cooking and Cussing)
When making a seven-layer dip, blogger and recipe developer Hailey McKenna likes to stick to traditional methods with a personal spin. “Seven-layer dip was a fixture of celebrations when I was a kid. I grew up in South Texas, where this Tex-Mex layered dip and football are both adored. I still love to share this dish with family and friends while watching my beloved Oklahoma Sooners!” McKenna says of this festive treat.
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 4 oz chorizo pork sausage
- 1 16 oz can of refried beans
- 2 tbsp pico de gallo liquid
- 2 cups sour cream
- 1 tbsp chipotle chili powder
- Zest of 2 limes
- .5 tsp salt
- 4 ripe avocados
- 1 small jalapeño
- Juice of 2 limes
- 1 c pico de gallo, store-bought or homemade
- 1 c shredded Pepper Jack cheese
- 1 2.25 oz can sliced black olives, drained
- Cilantro to taste, roughly chopped
- Heat a small pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the oil and the chorizo to the pan. Cook for about 6 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Once the chorizo is browned, turn off the heat and allow it to cool for a few minutes. Then, place the chorizo in a small food processor and grind to a fine crumb. If you don’t have a processor, you can finely chop by hand.
- Place the chorizo and refried beans into a small mixing bowl and stir well to combine. Add 1-2 tbsp of pico de gallo liquid to the beans and mix well so that they have a spreadable consistency. Place the bean layer on the bottom of the dish.
- Mix together the sour cream, chili powder, lime zest, and salt. Spread over the bean layer. Place in the refrigerator while you smash the avocados to let the sour cream firm up a bit.
- Halve each avocado and remove the pits. Remove the skin and place the avocados into a large mixing bowl. Using a potato masher, mash the avocados until they are mostly smooth. Add the juice from 2 limes, and combine with a spatula. Halve the jalapeño and remove the seeds and stem. Mince finely and add to the avocados.
- Take the dip dish out of the fridge and spread the mashed avocados over the sour cream layer. Top with pico de gallo, shredded cheese, sliced olives, and cilantro to taste. Serve with tortilla chips.
(Created by Chef Chris Scott, Institute of Culinary Education, New York City)
The customizability of a seven-layer dip counts among its most desirable traits, and “Top Chef” alum Chris Scott prefers an Indian-inspired twist. “My version of the dish is a little different, drawing from classic Indian dishes like curries and chutneys. I stay true to the seven-layer dip by making a trifle with authentic flavors that highlights different textures. Keep it fun!” Scott tells The Manual.
Ingredients for cucumber raita:
- 1 c Greek yogurt
- 2 cucumbers, finely diced or grated
- 1 c fresh mint, chopped
- .5 tsp salt
- 1 tsp lemon zest
Ingredients for tamarind chutney:
- 1 tbsp canola oil
- 1 tsp cumin seed
- 1 tsp ginger powder
- .5 tsp cayenne pepper
- .5 tsp fennel seeds
- .5 tsp asafoetida powder
- .5 tsp garam masala
- 2 c water
- 2 c granulated sugar
- 3 tbsp tamarind paste
Ingredients for cilantro mint chutney:
- .5 c yogurt
- 3 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 bunch cilantro
- 1 c mint leaves
- 1 jalapeño, sliced
- 2 tbsp ginger, sliced
- 1 clove garlic
- .25 tsp salt
- .5 tsp honey
- 1 tbsp water
Ingredients for garlic chutney:
- 1 tbsp cumin seed
- 1 clove garlic
- 5 chilis
- 2 tsp red chili powder
- 1 tbsp mustard seed
- 4 tbsp water
- 4 tbsp oil
- Salt to taste
Ingredients for eggplant dip:
- 1 large eggplant, roasted
- 3 cloves garlic
- 3 tbsp oil
- 1 tsp nigella seeds
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp grated ginger
- 1 jalapeño, finely chopped
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2 tomatoes, finely chopped
- 1 tsp red chili powder
- 1 tbsp coriander
- .5 tsp turmeric
- Salt to taste
- Pickled mango
- Pickled onions
- Make cucumber raita by mixing ingredients together in a bowl and allowing to sit for 30 minutes so the flavors can infuse.
- Make tamarind chutney by heating oil and spices in a saucepan and toasting the spices until fragrant. Add water, sugar, and tamarind and cook over low heat for 30 minutes. Add to blender and blend until smooth.
- Make cilantro mint chutney by adding all ingredients to a blender and blending until smooth.
- Make garlic chutney by combining garlic, chilis, cumin, salt, and water to make a smooth paste. Heat oil in a sauté pan and add mustard seeds. Cook seeds until fragrant, then add the chutney. Stir well and let cook over medium heat until chutney is thick and loses an oily residue.
- Make eggplant dip by roasting eggplant and garlic in an oven at 375 degrees Fahrenheit until tender. Peel away the eggplant skin, reserving the eggplant juices and the pulp. Chop all the eggplant and roasted garlic together and set aside. In a separate sauté pan, add the oil and toast the nigella seeds. Once fragrant, add the garlic, ginger, jalapeño, onion, and tomato. Cook all of this together over medium-high heat for 3 to 5 minutes. Add in the chopped eggplant mixture and the spices. Cook all of this for 20 minutes over medium-low heat.
- Layer in a dish, starting with the raita, then the tamarind chutney, then the cilantro mint chutney, then the garlic chutney, then the eggplant dip, then the pickled mangos, and then the pickled onions. Serve with pita chips or falafel balls.
(Created by Chefs Joe Giacomino + John Vermiglio, Second Best, Detroit)
To capture the flavors of a seven-layer dip in a more compact package, chefs Joe Giacomino and John Vermiglio of Second Best in Detroit channel the party dip into a deviled-eggs recipe, adding the benefits of portability to this crave-worthy snack.
- 24 eggs
- 2 tbsp taco seasoning
- 1 can black beans
- 1 c mayonnaise
- Juice of 2 limes
- Salt to taste
- Grape tomatoes, sliced
- Black olives, sliced
- Iceberg lettuce, julienned
- Avocado, whipped
- Tortilla chips, crumbled
- Line the bottom of a large saucepot with 1 inch of salt. Place eggs on the bed of salt and cover with cold water.
- Place the pot on a stove burner set to high. When the water reaches a simmer, set a timer for 11 minutes and cook.
- Remove pot from stove, drain hot water, and cover eggs with cold water and ice. Allow to cool in the ice bath for 15 minutes.
- Once cooled, peel the eggs and split in half. Reserve whites and yolks separately.
- Using a food processor, whip the yolks and black beans until pureed. Slowly incorporate mayonnaise and spin until smooth.
- Add taco seasoning, along with salt and lime juice to taste. Once smooth and seasoned, pour the filling into a pastry bag and cool in the refrigerator for 2 hours or until stiff.
- Use the piping bag to fill the egg whites with the filling, slightly above the shell. Serve over a bed of iceberg lettuce and garnish with avocado, tomato, olives, and tortilla chip shards. Serve chilled.
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