Craig’s Kitchen: Seven-Layer Dip

Seven layers of yummy goodness.

I love a good dip.  Mom’s classic French Onion Dip made with sour cream and some old-fashioned Lipton’s Onion Soup Mix was always a staple.  Something about that combination of savory onion flavor with cool, smooth sour cream on top of a crisp salty chip was tantalizing.  I could eat that by the pound (I’m afraid).  I think it was that combination of textures and flavors that was so appealing.  Mixing multiple things into one scrumptious bite was fun, and when it worked, was the best.

You can imagine how Seven-Layer Dip was something that would grab my attention.  Not only did it mix the crispness of a tortilla chip with the soft flavors of a dip, but the dip itself had multiple textures and flavors on its own!  Over the years, I’ve worked hard to craft it to my liking and so far its a hit at church potlucks, but you can be the judge.  Obviously the fun is creating your own mix of seven layers (or more).  I would love to try yours!

IMG_1512Anyway, my seven layers are (in order from bottom to top):

  1. Refried beans (1 regular can) – A good base as it holds the rest of the dip steady and makes it a bit easier to spread the guacamole on top of the ground beef.  I use Rosarita refried beans (traditional – not any other kind).  For me the flavor of Rosarita and the texture when refrigerated is the best.
  2.  Ground beef (1 lb) – Because the goal is to create a harmony of flavors, I don’t use anything more fatty than an 85/15 ground beef.  90/10 works great in this dish because you don’t want tons of the beef juice to make the rest of the dish compromised.
  3. Guacamole – Something hearty and spreadable.  Not an avocado dip since the sour cream has to go on top and ideally each one should be its own layer.  I love a small half-pint container of Whole Foods guacamole made in store.  Usually I need the whole container.
  4. Sour cream – Surprisingly I use almost a whole small container of sour cream!  Normally, my favorite is Clover Organic, but its so thick its harder to spread.  Something like regular Knudsen’s has a good flavor and a desirable thickness.
  5. Cheddar cheese (1 8oz block) – Please shred your own cheese.  And personally, I use the second smallest grater size.  I like that the cheese is fine, but not too wispy.  A good fine cheese adds a delicate flavor to the mix.  I found that sharp cheddar works best since it’s competing with the flavors of all the other ingredients.
  6. Diced tomatoes – I like Roma tomatoes because they are easy to slice and I tend not to use the mushy middle but just the meat of the tomato nearest the outer skin.  Roma tomatoes cut down on wasting the mushy middle.
  7. Chopped Olives – Whatever you like works here.  You just want that olive taste to balance out some of the other flavors and add a little something extra.  Here especially is where people get creative and add their own seventh layer.  I find the last two layers are open to interpretation.

Putting it together

  1. If you have two small pans, cook both the refried beans and the ground beef at the same time.  If not, beans first.  If the ground beef is too wet, I do drain it some.  Beans layer first and then ground beef.  Set aside and let sit until not quite so hot.  You don’t want it heating up the guacamole and sour cream!
  2. Grate the cheese and chop the tomatoes and olives while you wait for the beans and beef to cool.
  3. Gently spread the guacamole on top of the ground beef, being careful not to displace the beef too much.  Then spread the sour cream gently over the guacamole.  You don’t want to mix the two but try to have two distinct layers.
  4. Cover it all with the grated cheese, then layer the tomatoes and olives together on the top.
  5. Refrigerate until the whole dish is cool and then remove and serve with your favorite tortilla chip.  Here, I favor the thicker tortilla chip or make my own, but something without enough heft won’t carry the dip!


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