LONDON, Ont.—Although dipping sauces are part of many party scenarios, it’s easy to treat them as an afterthought.
Most supermarkets have the usual suspects—jars of salsa or plastic tubs of onion, dill or spinach dip, hummus or tzatziki. Buy one, take the lid off and you’re good to go.
But they’re not cheap; they’re often high in salt and/or sugar; they may contain preservatives; and they’re so “been there, done that.”
It’s much more interesting to concoct your own flavour combinations to wow guests with little effort and at a lower cost.
Dips are also a great way to encourage guests to eat their veggies, says Brooke Bulloch, owner of Food to Fit, a nutrition consultation firm in Saskatoon.
Then there’s the nutrition factor of the dips themselves.
“With homemade dips, we can better control the ingredients,” she says. “A lot of dips have full-fat cream cheese or mayonnaise. With homemade, you could lighten up a guacamole by adding yogurt and salsa. You can also make it go farther.”
“You could lighten up a spinach dip with light cream cheese and plain yogurt instead of full-fat cream cheese and mayonnaise.”
Bulloch, who is also a spokesperson for Dietitians of Canada, is a huge fan of plain two per cent Greek yogurt as a dip base.
“It doesn’t have to be zero fat because that’s where a lot of the flavour comes,” she says. “But it’s rich in protein and you actually get some nutrients, B12 and calcium. And because Greek yogurt is so thick, it gives the texture we look for in dips.”
For example, she makes a Mexican-style dip by adding cumin, chili powder and a little salt to the yogurt; a Greek-style tzatziki by combining the yogurt with lemon and cucumber; or a spicy dip by adding sriracha (Asian hot sauce), garlic and chili powder to the yogurt.
Bulloch is also partial to bean-based dips.
“We know chick peas and lentils and black beans are loaded with fibre and folate, a little bit of protein. They’re super nutritious, low in fat. You can also spice them up and they can make a really thick dip consistency.”
They also have the advantage of filling you up so you eat less, she says. People also tend to eat smaller portions of spicy dips.
Many dip recipes are cheese-based. Generally Bulloch says she prefers a fuller-fat version of cheese because of the flavour factor.
“But if it comes to a dip that I know I’m going to eat quite a bit of it and the main ingredient is cheese, I will always opt for a light cream cheese or ricotta or two per cent cottage cheese.”
She also suggests smoked paprika in dips as a substitute for bacon and recommends avoiding the use of dried onion soup mix, which she says is “just loaded with preservatives and fillers and salt.” Instead, add garlic powder, onion powder and salt to taste to simulate the same flavour.
Price-wise, although you might have a few ingredients to buy to make dip, compared to buying one tub of commercial dip, you’re going to get a lot more volume, she says.
Some dips do double duty as condiments with a meal or fruit dips as a topping for pancakes, for example. Many leftover dips can be frozen for later use.
But Bulloch suggests that while it’s always important to be conscious of what we’re serving and consuming, it’s also important to remember the reason for entertaining.
“Sometimes we try too hard to healthify everything and to make everything lower calories. But if I’m going to make a spinach dip, I want the real thing. I know a lot of people feel this way.”
The bottom line is that it’s the holiday season and you want guests to enjoy themselves and enjoy the food.