15 Ingredients That Make A Simple Base For Dips

You've got surprise company popping in to watch the game in less than two hours. Comfort food will be necessary. Time to panic? Not if you have one of these simple, everyday ingredients hanging out or stashed away in your fridge, freezer, or in the back of your cabinet. Dips — the magical creations made for dunking vegetables, fruit, tortilla chips, flatbreads, and everything in between — are the ultimate TV-watching, tailgating, snacking, and appetizer item. 

Savory or sweet, they come together quickly and saved many a get-together from near starvation and disaster. By stocking your home with budget-friendly items that pull double (and triple) duty as weeknight meal savers, pieces of an epic culinary puzzle, or what we're focused on: bases for easy-to-execute dips. You'll be able to easily navigate the appetizer dip game for anyone who pops in. Below, we've rounded up 15 easily accessible items to keep on hand for all of your dip recipes. 

Canned white beans

If you're entertaining on a budget and need a dip in record time, canned white beans, either white cannellini, great northern, or navy beans, are a wonderful option. If you have beans, garlic, and herbs (yes, the half-dead rosemary plant on your counter absolutely counts), you have the makings of a flavorful, delicious, and — dare we say — healthy dip.

Although not completely interchangeable, if you're looking into using white beans for a dip, it doesn't matter too much which variety you have on hand. Navy beans tend to be the smallest, cook the fastest and are ideal for mashing and pureeing in dips. Great northern beans tend to have a little more of an actual taste than the navy beans but absorb other flavors exceedingly well. Cannellini beans, or white kidney beans, are earthy and tender; they can be easily blended into a yummy dip. Regardless of your bean choice, additions like fresh rosemary or other fresh herbs, roasted vegetables, or even sun-dried tomatoes can add a layer of flavor to entice guests to another bite. 


If you've ever had hummus — and of course you have — you're already a chickpea fan. Also called garbanzo beans, chickpeas are legumes that are just at home in pasta as they are in salads and dips.

And when it comes to chickpeas creating something dippable and dunkable, most of us immediately think of hummus: the creamy Middle Eastern combination of ground chickpeas, tahini (or thick plain yogurt), olive oil, and spices. If you've got those basics on hand, you're already halfway to a creamy spread. A few quick tips from Chefs Mike Solomonov and Rawia Bishara on how to create the best hummus ever include boiling the absolute heck out of your chickpeas; leaning into the addition of baking soda (it softens the skins without making the beans mushy); and getting creative with your flavors. Try adding harissa for a zing of flavor, or blend in that overripe avocado you can't use anyway. You can even add in cooked beets for an earthy bite and a shockingly red dip as a centerpiece. 

Frozen spinach

Is there anyone in America who doesn't have a frozen-solid bag of chopped spinach stashed and forgotten in the back of their freezer? If so, we'd like to meet them. Endlessly versatile for everything from dips to smoothies to healthy-ish pasta dinners, frozen spinach is an easy and budget-friendly item to keep on hand for dip emergencies.

In terms of dips, frozen spinach lends itself well to both hot and cold dips extremely well. We all know and, maybe, don't care to admit how quickly fresh spinach goes bad in the fridge — becoming a wilted, slimy mess. Additionally, one big container of fresh spinach shrinks down to, what, less than a cup of cooked spinach? Frozen spinach, on the other hand, lasts longer, is already cooked and ready to use (save the squeezing and straining), and is much more budget-friendly. 

So, what spinach-heavy dip should you make in a hurry? We recommend this very easy creamy spinach dip which features a lot of melty cheese and is easy to create on the fly.

Leftover mashed potatoes

If you've just had family over, hosted a barbecue, or are reeling after the horrors of Thanksgiving, chances are, you have leftover mashed potatoes in your refrigerator. But instead of reheating them, again, with the usual pats of butter, salt, pepper, and sour cream, maybe it's time to punch them up with a lot — like, really, a ton — of garlic, lemon, and olive oil to create the Greek skordalia dip.

Never heard of skordalia? The dip hearkens back to the Byzantine Empire and may have originally been made with potatoes, garlic, olive oil, and vinegar. Today, lemon juice frequently takes the place of the vinegar, and instead of the traditional mortar and pestle, the entire concoction — namely, that garlic and almond paste — can be thrown in the blender.

The result is a smooth, creamy, and earthy dip that pairs sharp garlic with the luscious richness of mashed potatoes. The addition of lemon juice brings the whole dip up in brightness, making for a wonderfully complex bite. If you've already got your mashed potatoes, reheat them and add a good deal of olive oil. Separately, create your garlic and almond paste, add lemon juice, and combine.


The mystery block of orange, shelf-stable "cheese" may have a bit of a storied past and questionable motives, but we'd be lying if we didn't say that we loved classic Velveeta dip. Classified as a pasteurized and prepared cheese product (not unlike American cheese), Velveeta isn't so much marketed as a great accompaniment to the Boar's Head on your sandwich, but, rather, as a vehicle for dips, of which there are many.

First, there's the famous Rotel dip, featuring melted Velveeta with a can of Rotel diced tomatoes with green chilies. Chorizo can be added. Although not necessary, it does sound pretty delicious. We'd recommend it slathered over nachos. Also, there's chili con queso dip, made with Velveeta and a can of Hormel chili. Now, if you wanted to make that one less college-dorm-esque, you could just combine Velveeta with your own freshly made chili. Fewer cans, fewer mystery products. Third, there's classic Velveeta queso, made by melting your Velveeta and adding diced fresh jalapeños and maybe several dashes of hot sauce.

Cream cheese

Whether you're intent is to make a savory dip or a sweet one, cream cheese is a refrigerator staple that's always good to have on hand in case of appetizer emergencies. Inspired by the French Neufchâtel cheese (but less grainy and less tangy), cream cheese's origins are debated. That smoothness and the ability to easily spread cream cheese make it a perfect base ingredient for dips.

This classic bean dip recipe is one of the most budget-friendly in our roundup, featuring cream cheese, canned refried beans, shredded cheddar, and taco seasoning. This seems like a dorm-friendly dish if ever there was one. In a larger bowl, mash the refried beans with the softened cream cheese and taco seasoning, then spread into a baking dish. Top with shredded cheddar and bake under bubbly.

Another fast dip option using cream cheese? Beer cheese dip is a festive way to get rid of the pumpkin beer you have on hand. 

Greek yogurt

If you've been on a bit of a health kick, you may have thick, tangy Greek yogurt in your refrigerator. The plain yogurt is more acidic than plain American yogurt, and not quite as thick as Icelandic skyrr. This blank canvas of an ingredient lends itself well to both savory and sweet dips, so regardless of what you're serving, this is a good base for a variety of items.

This yogurt and feta dip, for example, promises to marry the cool, rich flavor of your Greek yogurt with the salty tang of feta. There's also the added funkiness of buttermilk and the brightness of lemon. A sprinkling of fresh herbs at the end brings the whole dish together for a balanced bite. The best part of this one — it's a one-dish dip from start to finish. Everything is mixed in the same bowl it can be served out of.

If you're more of a purist, grab that Greek yogurt and create the gyro's bestie: tzatziki sauce, which is comprised of diced cucumbers, plain Greek yogurt, garlic, lemon juice, and herbs like dill and parsley. You can easily create your own by following one of thousands of online recipes. 


Our good friend mayo is most definitely currently sitting in everyone's fridge or pantry. The emulsion of eggs, oil, and either lemon juice or vinegar can be homemade or a shelf-stable white goop just as at home on sandwiches as in potato salads, pasta, basting grilled cheese, and slathered on street corn.

When it comes to dips and things into which we are actively dunking, mayonnaise is a solid base ingredient to keep on hand. Take, for example, decadent and luscious smoked trout dip: The concoction — created by Chef Amanda Baumgarten of Herringbone in San Diego — uses the freshwater fish, smoked and flaked, into a mixture of mayonnaise, sour cream, and several other ingredients. The resulting dip can be slathered on flatbreads or, if you're feeling daring, smeared on toast and stuck under the broiler, resulting in a browned, melty, and gooey dip.

If you're simply not feeling that fancy, you can easily turn a cup of mayonnaise into good, old-fashioned ranch dip by adding sour cream and a packet of ranch seasoning. Pass the crudités.

Sour cream

No longer relegated to the top of your chili or baked potato, sour cream is here to be the star of all of your dips. Made by souring — or adding acid to and fermenting — regular cream, sour cream is a kitchen staple for both cooking and baking. It provides cakes, brownies, and other goods with unctuousness and needed moisture. Crème fraîche is just sour cream that studied abroad.

And if the bag of half-stale sour cream and onion chips aren't cutting it for your guests, and you have a nearby tub of sour cream in the fridge (who doesn't, honestly?), may we suggest a real, good, old-fashioned sour cream and onion dip? The dip can be committed to memory thanks to its simplicity. Mix sour cream, sautéed or caramelized onions, salt, and pepper. A snip of fresh chives or a smattering of fresh dill wouldn't hurt, either. Serve with more sour cream and onion chips if you're feeling especially meta, or slice up some fresh celery and carrots.   


We'd be remiss if we didn't mention avocados — and, therefore — guacamole in an article about dips. Guacamole — whose main ingredient is the avocado — originated in Mexico, where avocados have been grown and harvested for nearly 10,000 years. The first guacamoles were believed to be just smashed avocados and nothing else; a dream for all of the purists out there. The smooth, mashable, and cooling, nearly neutral flavor of the avocado, though, makes it a natural fit with Mexican chilies and spices.

For classic guacamole, we turn to this crave-worthy guacamole recipe: add tomatoes, garlic, onion, salt, lime, cilantro, and spice to the mashed avocados, keeping things simple but bright and fresh.

For something outside the guacamole realm, a creamy green goddess-type dip can be easily concocted, too. Simply mix mashed and smooth avocados with either sour cream or mayonnaise and fresh herbs like cilantro, parsley, thyme, or whatever you have on hand. Usually a dressing, you can keep the consistency thick by going with a higher ratio of avocado to sour cream. It's all about your preferences, too: add salt and pepper to taste. 


The crunchy yet creamy tree nuts are a nut mix staple, seem at home in stir-fries and curries, and are a must-have for those looking to make nut milk. The humble cashew is frequently used in vegan cooking to lend creaminess when dairy isn't being utilized, and using it in dips gives the same result. Buying cashews can be a bit on the expensive side due to the labor-intensive nature of farming and shelling them, but the versatility of this nut makes it worthwhile. 

Take, for example, chipotle and cashew dip. The chipotle lends heat and moisture while the cashews add body and creaminess. This luxurious and complex dip comes together by blending raw cashews and chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. Though there is a recipe to follow, don't be afraid to taste and add more cashews or more chipotle as you go. Toss in fresh herbs like parsley, cilantro, and even thyme to further elevate this dip without too much fuss; you can even throw in caramelized onions or garlic to take it to the next level. 

Marshmallow fluff

The star of your childhood fluffernutter sandwiches is here to be your party dip hero. Instead of throwing a bunch of cookies, brownies, or other boring bites out for dessert, create a dip with the tub of marshmallow fluff that's been sitting in your pantry.

Fall and football go together like peanut butter and marshmallow fluff, right? Create a dip in the spirit of the season with a pecan pie cheesecake fruit dip. Equal parts cream cheese and marshmallow fluff are blended together with pecans, vanilla yogurt, and store-bought caramel sauce. Serve alongside crisp green apples, graham crackers, or pretzel sticks.

Another option on the slightly less decadent side is a basic fruit dip. The recipe starts with equal parts cream cheese and marshmallow fluff — and can be left there. But, you're free to get creative here by adding anything from vanilla extract to cinnamon. Of course, you can eat either dip in any season. 

Roasted red peppers

If you bought a bunch of roasted red peppers for your culinary adventures and have forgotten about them in the jar in the back of your pantry, have no fear. A litany of dips depend on this humble roasted vegetable. There's Spain's beloved romesco sauce, which blends roasted red peppers with day-old bread, toasted almonds, and vinegar. The dip can be served with anything from crackers to celery sticks. There's roasted red pepper hummus, which can be easily whipped up by adding roasted red peppers with the blender with your chickpeas and tahini; no recipe needed.

You can also try your hand at the Syrian dip, muhammara. It's sweet, spicy, and complex bringing together Mediterranean flavors in a familiar way. Although it has a bit of an ingredient list, the dip easily comes together in a blender, where the roasted red peppers are combined with Aleppo chili, olive oil, lemon juice, breadcrumbs, salt, garlic, cumin, and sugar.


Is there any dip more frequently inhaled than salsa? Be it straight out of the jar, at the local Mexican restaurant, or slathered on microwaved nachos, salsa is probably one of the most approachable and beloved of all dips. And you can't have good salsa without fresh, bright, sweet, tomatoes in some capacity.

To make your own salsa at home, start with a basic pico de gallo recipe. Pico isn't expected to be smooth, so a knife and good chopping skills are all that's required. This recipe uses only fresh tomatoes, onion, jalapeño, cilantro, lime juice, and salt. Cut and combine all of your ingredients, toss, and serve.

If you've got a little more time and want an even more impressive salsa to serve your guests, roasted tomatoes may be the way to go. The best news: you don't need fresh tomatoes for this one. Canned fire-roasted tomatoes work for many easy-to-execute, fast recipes. Just dump the can in a blender with garlic, jalapeño, cilantro, onion, lime juice, and spices for an easy dip ready for tortilla chips.

Roasted eggplant

Though it may seem a little out of the ordinary to have on hand, roasted eggplant is a star when it comes to dips. The classic dip, baba ganoush, is built on the back of this roasted nightshade and is delicious with warm pita or crudité. You can also think about baba ganoush dip as a richer, creamier, and more complex hummus. Though it may take a bit of prep — what with cubing and roasting your eggplant, the end result is a creamy, luxurious dip heavy with the flavors of the Mediterranean.

If you're grilling or already have a bonfire of sorts going, you can expand on the simple roasted eggplant and char it all the way for a new layer of flavor. Once the eggplant is totally blackened, peel back the skin and scoop out the flesh, which becomes a completely different consistency than the starchy, almost stringy stuff you're used to. Combine with lemon juice, tahini (or hummus, if you have it on hand), and plain Greek yogurt. The smoky, creamy dip will impress your guests and have everyone asking for the recipe.