Can You Make Spinach-Artichoke Dip Healthy? No. But You Can Make It More Delicious.

Slate's Culture Blog
Dec. 4 2013 9:08 AM

You’re Doing It Wrong: Artichoke Dip

1386114860
A spinach-artichoke dip that tastes like spinach and artichokes. (And cheese. But not too much.)

Juliana Jiménez Jaramillo for Slate

Adding animal fat is a tried and true method for making things taste better. Pasta sauce too wan? Stir in some heavy cream. Watermelon too sweet? Crumble a little feta on top. Chili too vegetarian-friendly? Cook it with bacon grease. Nine times out of 10, this works like a charm.

The 10th time, it renders a dish nauseatingly heavy and obscenely oleaginous. Such is the case with many recipes for spinach-artichoke dip, a crowd-pleaser that shows up at virtually every holiday party this time of year. Many artichoke dip recipes call for Parmesan, mozzarella, cream cheese, sour cream, and mayonnaise, a quintet that coagulates into a pool of glop slicked with a layer of grease. Such a condiment is great for slowing alcohol’s absorption into your body, but not so great for conveying the nuanced, sunny flavor of artichoke hearts. Your standard artichoke dip has about as much nuance as Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” and is not nearly as healthy.

L.V. Anderson L.V. Anderson

L.V. Anderson is a Slate assistant editor. She edits Slate's food and drink sections and writes Brow Beat's recipe column, You're Doing It Wrong. 

Advertisement

It is possible to make spinach-artichoke dip that is rich but not overwhelming, creamy but not unguent-like, cheesy but not chewy—an artichoke dip that tastes like artichokes, enhanced. The key is to figure out which fats you need and which fats you don’t. Cream cheese you need, as it’s what gives artichoke dip its thick, spreadable texture. Parmesan you definitely need—its nutty, umami-rich flavor is the essence of savory party snacks.

Mozzarella, though? Not very flavorful, and too stretchy—you end up with elastic strings trailing from your pita chip or baguette slice, which make for messy eating. Mayonnaise is pointless: It doesn’t add much in the way of texture, and it’s mostly oil, anyway. You’re better off skipping the middleman and adding a drizzle of flavorful extra-virgin olive oil to thin out the cream cheese. As for sour cream, its primary contribution is tartness, but lemon juice adds acidity much more efficiently.

An artichoke dip made with cream cheese, Parmesan, olive oil, and lemon juice isn’t healthy, exactly, but it is more elegant and flavorful than the usual cholesterol-laden version. As for the vegetables, thawed frozen artichoke hearts and spinach are the easiest options, but you can use two cans of artichoke hearts, well drained, if they’re all you can find. You can also steam fresh spinach, if you like, but whether you use fresh or frozen, be sure to squeeze as much water out of it as possible—nothing ruins the texture and appearance of artichoke dip like excess spinach juice.

Spinach-Artichoke Dip
Yield: 12 to 16 servings
Time: About 30 minutes

8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1½ cups grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of 2 lemons
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
Salt and black pepper
1 pound frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and roughly chopped
10 ounces frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

Heat the oven to 450°F. Put the cream cheese, Parmesan, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and crushed red pepper in a large bowl. Season with salt and black pepper, and stir to combine. Stir in the artichoke hearts and spinach. Transfer to an 8- or 9-inch square pan or a gratin dish and bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Serve hot.

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

The XX Factor

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Politics

Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

Trending News Channel
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 20 2014 3:21 PM “The More You Know (About Black People)” Uses Very Funny PSAs to Condemn Black Stereotypes
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 21 2014 8:00 AM An Astronaut’s Guided Video Tour of Earth
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.