Dips are my favourite food group. Yes, food group. If I ever got a tattoo, it would probably say something like: “pass the hummus”.
I was recently hosting a party-for-no-reason, and like most of my get togethers they involve a lot of food. But I didn’t feel like making a fallback dip, like tzatziki, or baba ganoush. No. I felt like leveling up and creating something I hadn’t tried to before. Something with BIG DIP ENERGY – a chunky, spicy, creamy, and above all impressive layer dip. I’d cooked pinto beans the night before, had a little tin of chipotle chilies kicking around the pantry, and I knew that if I cut a couple corners, this thing would come together so I’d still have time to tizz myself up before the guests arrived.
My childhood memories of layer dip involve many cans and jars of processed food being dumped into a large bowl, but the current-reality-holistic-nutritionist version definitely involves making every single one of those things from scratch. Mama don’t have time for that! So I simplified things by cutting out the guacamole (don’t yell at me like that – add it if you want to!), and using jarred salsa. Everything else was homemade, but came together quickly and easily.
First, I sautéed the pre-cooked pinto beans with onions, garlic, spices, and the chipotle peppers. While that was on the stove, I whipped up the hemp seed “queso” (no soaking required!). And the salsa got an upgrade with some fresh, chopped cherry tomatoes. This is such an easy hack btw, since it makes the salsa taste more alive and juicy, while giving it a lot more texture, which I personally dig. All it takes after that is mushing the beans up a bit in the pan, which you can do with a bean masher, or an immersion blender, if you don’t want to haul out yet another large piece of equipment. Then layer away! All in all, this took me about 20 minutes, start to finish, and the party people hung around this bowl like it was the last dip on planet earth.
The delicious, creamy “cheese” sauce is a riff off my cashew queso, but in the interest of keeping this allergen-free, I used hemp seeds instead. I love this change-up, since it’s less expensive, and contains way more omega-3 fats and protein. You can dial up the heat here if you like, but because both the salsa and the bean layer have quite a kick to them, I kept the queso pretty mild. Did I mention that this is delicious on its own next to a platter of veggie sticks?! Or chips. Let’s be honest.
Pinto Bean Dreams
See those beautiful beans? Don’t they look gorgeous in all of their tone-on-tone mottled-ness? “Pinto” actually means “painted” in Spanish, and when you take a close look at pinto beans you can clearly see how they’ve earned their moniker. Their speckles fade when cooking, and turn a lovely pale pink colour. They also gain a super creamy interior that is perfect in soups and stews, but also dips.
Pintos, like all beans, are a mixture of protein and complex carbohydrates, making them incredibly filling, but won’t spike blood sugar levels. Pinto beans are low in calories and fat, but contain the highest amount of fiber out of all the legumes (wow!). Key nutrients in pinto beans include potassium to maintain normal blood pressure, calcium for supporting muscle and nerve function, iron to enhance oxygen transport, and zinc for skin health.
Like all beans, pintos can cause an increase in intestinal gas (burps! farts! abdominal discomfort!), due to the oligosaccharides in the beans fermenting in the lower intestine. Because these starchy molecules live in the skin of the beans, a simple soak in water overnight usually does the trick. The soaking process will help leach out many of these fermenting properties, which is why it is so important to discard the soaking water and then boil them in fresh water. Adding a strip of kombu seaweed to the pot will further help to reduce the gas-producing potential of pinto beans (and all legumes), acting like a sponge to absorb those raffinose sugar toot culprits. Try these two tricks to reduce your toilet tunes, and stay social!
I used a clear glass bowl to serve the dip in so that they layers are visible, and it was not until after pouring in two layers did I have the idea to put cilantro stems up on the sides of it. Doh! But knowing it would be #worthit, I painstakingly scooped out the beans and salsa trying to keep everything separate, cleaned the bowl, and started over. I lightly brushed the tiniest amount of olive oil on the leaves to act as glue, then pressed them to the walls of bowl. This is completely unnecessary, but it makes the dip look less monotone and more enticing in my opinion – green always does it! This step takes an extra two minutes and adds a decorative touch, but it’s your call. Maybe you need those two minutes to tizz yourself up?
If you want to change up the recipe, try using black beans or kidney beans in place of the pintos. If you want to add another layer to this already boss situation, go on and add the guac! I was just trying to keep things a little easier for ya’ll. And if you’d like to make your own salsa, I have a stellar raw recipe right here.
Lastly, I want to add that my bowl for this was roughly 1½ quarts / litres capacity, and everything it fit perfectly. I would only suggest sizing up if you don’t have this exact container size.
Legendary Layer Bean Dip
1 Tbsp. coconut oil (or ghee)
1 medium yellow onion, diced
½ tsp. fine sea salt
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. dried Mexican oregano (substitute with regular oregano)
½ tsp. ground sweet paprika
3 cups / 500g cooked pinto beans (about 2 cans)
½ can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (use more or less to suit your taste)
water as needed
1 small bunch cilantro, washed and dried
1 pint / 280g cherry tomatoes, divided
1 green onion, sliced (white and green part)
1 small jar (15.5 oz. / 415ml) store bought salsa, mild medium or hot, depending on your tastes
1 cup / 145g hulled hemp seeds
1 medium red bell pepper, seeds removed and roughly chopped
½ tsp. fine sea salt
3 Tbsp. nutritional yeast
2-3 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste
½ clove garlic
1 small piece fresh turmeric, chopped (substitute with ½ tsp. dried)
ground cayenne, to taste
3 Tbsp. water, if needed
1. Melt oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onions, salt, and stir to combine. Cook until lightly caramelized (about 10 minutes), then add the garlic and cook for a couple minutes until fragrant. Stir in cumin, oregano and paprika, cook for 2 minutes, then add the beans and chipotles in adobo (use as much or as little as you like). Cover and cook on low heat while you make the queso. If the pot becomes dry, add a little water and stir.
2. To make the queso, put all ingredients, except water, in a high-speed blender or food processor and blend until smooth and creamy. If needed, add water one tablespoon at a time until the desired consistency is reached. If you want a thick cream, use less water, for a thinner sauce, use more. (You will not achieve a perfectly smooth sauce with a food processor, but it is still delicious!).
3. Slice the cherry tomatoes into quarters. Add half of them to the salsa and stir to combine. Save the other half for later.
4. Smash the beans with a bean masher, potato masher, immersion blender, or put them into your high-speed blender (remove the queso first, but don’t worry about cleaning it). The goal is to get the beans creamy, but not perfectly smooth. Add water if necessary, and season to taste.
5. Pick out a few stems of the most attractive cilantro, brush them with a little olive oil and stick them to the inside wall of the bowl (this step is optional). Chop the remaining cilantro and set aside.
6. Combine the remaining cherry tomatoes and combine them with the sliced spring onion. Sprinkle with a little salt, and fold to combine.
7. To assemble the dip, Spread the bean layer in the bottom first, followed by the salsa and finally the hemp queso. Top with the chopped cilantro, and finally the fresh tomato mix. Serve with whatever you like to dip! Party on!
Hope you’re all doing well out there. If you are experiencing any semblance of Spring weather where you are, please send some my way. K thanks. Happy dipping!
xo, Sarah B