As far as classic party dips go, seven-layer dip ranks among the very best. It is also everything you love about a taco, from the beans and guac to sour cream and pico de gallo, served dip-style -- meaning it's hearty enough for dinner, but just as appropriate to eat as a snack with friends.
Defining the seven layers
The key to the best-ever seven-layer dip is knowing which layers to focus on and which to shortcut. Here's my advice.
1. Beans: Choose the best-tasting can of refried beans at the grocery store and spread it in the bottom of the dish. Since they're about to be covered in guacamole, don't overthink this layer. My top choice is the Roasarita brand of refried beans. They don't get as much real estate on the grocer's taco aisle as the big brands; look for them on the bottom shelf.
2. Guacamole: The key is making a garlic paste, which gives the guac a gentler garlic flavor and incorporates more seamlessly than minced garlic. Mash the guac to a smoother consistency than you would if serving it straight up, making it easier to scoop.
3. Taco-seasoned sour cream: Mix half a block of very soft cream cheese (you may need to microwave the unwrapped block for a few seconds) with sour cream and a package of reduced-sodium taco seasoning. The cream cheese adds richness and body to the sour cream. Be sure to cover the guacamole completely to seal it in, ensuring it doesn't dull or brown. When prepping for a party, I make the dip up to this point and refrigerate until serving time.
4. Salsa: Spread your favorite salsa over the sour cream. Choose any variety you like: chunky or restaurant-style, mild or hot, salsa verde or fire roasted.
5. Cheese: Use a blend of shredded Mexican cheeses. A thicker, off-the-block-style looks and tastes more like you grated it yourself.
6. Pico de gallo: Technically, this layer doesn't contain any chile peppers or lime juice like a classic pico does, but this version is easier: You just need chopped tomatoes, finely diced red onion (leftover from making the guacamole), cilantro and a pinch of salt. This layer adds freshness and texture -- a welcome contrast to the creamy and rich layers below. If you'd like, substitute a store-bought pico de gallo here.
7. Olives: This feels like an odd choice for a final layer (is there a subculture of taco-lovers who put olives on top?), but it's classic. Scatter one small can of drained, sliced black olives over top, and the dip is finished. If olives aren't your thing, sliced scallions are a good substitute.
How to serve the dip
Trifle dishes and deep glass bowls are often used for this dip because they illustrate the layers, but they make it almost impossible to get all the layers with just one dip of your chip. The better choice is a clear, shallow casserole dish, so the layers are still visible but dipping is much easier.
Serves 10 to 12 as an appetizer
1 (16-ounce) can refried beans
2 large cloves garlic
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for the tomatoes
4 medium avocados
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (from about 2 limes)
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion (from 1 small red onion), divided
2 tablespoons finely chopped unseeded jalapeno (from 1 small jalapeño, optional)
16 ounces sour cream
4 ounces cream cheese, very soft
1 (1-ounce) package 25 percent less-sodium taco seasoning mix
2 cups salsa
2 cups shredded Mexican-blend cheese (8 ounces)
2 plum or Roma tomatoes, diced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
1 (2.25-ounce) can sliced black olives, drained
Tortilla chips, for serving
Spread the bean mixture into an even layer in a 9-by-13-inch or 7-by-11-inch baking dish.
Make garlic paste by first mincing the garlic, then sprinkling with the salt. Then hold the blunt side of the knife with both hands, and scrape the sharp end of a knife against the pile of garlic at an angle to flatten the garlic. Work the garlic back into a tidy pile and repeat, pressing and scraping the knife through the pile for 2 to 3 minutes until you have a smooth paste. Transfer the garlic paste to a large bowl.
Slice the avocados in half lengthwise, and remove and discard the pits. Scoop the avocado flesh into the bowl of garlic. Add the lime juice and half of the red onion, then use a fork or potato masher to mash to desired consistency. Stir in the jalapeno, if using. Spread the guacamole into an even layer on top of the refried beans.
Mix the sour cream, cream cheese and taco seasoning together in a large mixing bowl with a hand mixer until smooth. Then spread the sour cream mixture over the guacamole into an even layer, covering the guacamole completely.
Spread the salsa over the sour cream layer, spreading into an even layer and top with the cheese.
Stir the tomato, cilantro, remaining 2 tablespoons red onion, and a pinch of salt together in a small bowl. Scatter evenly over the cheese. Sprinkle the olives on top.
Recipe notes: The dip can be made one day in advance. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Cover leftovers and refrigerate for up to two days.
This article is written by Patty Catalano from The Kitchn and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.