I Wrote the Book on Dips — This Is the $5 Bakery Find I Swear by for the Best Dessert Dip Ever

published Apr 16, 2024
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The bakery department of a Publix grocery store where all sorts of tasty baked goods are displayed.
Credit: Joni Hanebutt / Shutterstock

Alyse Whitney has never met a dip she didn’t like. Her inaugural cookbook, Big Dip Energy, available now, is equal parts love letter and road map to her “first favorite food.” The 88 dips will take you as far back as her mom’s Bunco parties (where she’d “steal” snacks) or just around the corner to one of her favorite Los Angeles bakeries.

The book is loaded with dips for snacking, of course, but you’ll also find a whole chapter on dip for dinner (and another one on “dipsserts,” which is exactly what you think it is). Some are very easy (think: five minutes and fewer than five ingredients), most are under 45 minutes, and nearly all provide a shortcut (or two). 

“I’m very high-low as a person,” says Alyse. “And it just makes life easier to rely on something store-bought.” I chatted with the food columnist, TV host/judge, and self-described dip queen to learn about her favorite dip tips — like measuring black pepper in cranks (not teaspoons) — and the most surprising groceries she relies on to make dips happen. Here’s what she had to say.

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

1. Angel Food Cake 

“I soak store-bought angel food cake in cream and whip it,” says Alyse, who tried making her own angel food cake (from a box) for her strawberry shortcake dip and was unimpressed with the results. “You don’t even really need to soak it overnight.” The cake, which she steeps in heavy cream and then whips with powdered sugar, “disintegrates pretty quickly,” she says. “There’s no grittiness — it completely dissolves and makes this incredible dip base that you can’t replicate with anything other than a grocery store cake.” She folds in homemade strawberry jam and calls it a dipssert.

While most any angel food cake in your neighborhood grocer’s bakery section will do, Alyse does have a favorite: “Ralphs angel food cake has sour cream in it, which is a little bit different — a little tangier and a little more rich.” She says it gives the dip a little bit of oomph. (She also uses vanilla and chocolate cake slices — frosting and all — in another one of her dips.)

Buy: Bakery Fresh Goodness Plain Angel Food Cake, $4.99 for 13 ounces at Ralphs

Credit: Mara Weinraub

2. Silken Tofu

“Silken tofu makes the smoothest, creamiest, can’t-even-tell-there’s-no-dairy-in-it” dips, which she first discovered while creating the book’s (vegan!) miso eggplant dip. (“It’s also the best for soups and with eggs.”) Silken “just carries the flavor in this really luscious way.” She’s not super picky about which brand she picks up (whatever is on sale at H Mart) — “especially in a dip where it takes on the flavor of other things,” she says. 

“For many dips that have dairy, if you’re vegan you can attempt to use silken tofu instead,” she says. She didn’t test it with every recipe, but notes that “it just whips into oblivion very quickly in a food processor.” If you want a little more heartiness, you can try any firmness of tofu; “it just takes a little more blitzing.”

Buy: Pulmuone Extra Silken Tofu, $1.49 (on sale!) for 16 ounces at H Mart

Credit: Mara Weinraub

3. Guava Paste

Inspired by the guava cream cheese pastry from Porto’s Bakery in California, Alyse tried several different ingredients (juice, concentrate, jam) for her three-ingredient guava cheesecake dip before settling on guava paste — specifically, the one from Melissa’s. “It’s a little bit more bright pink and has a really nice toothsome texture,” she says. The paste also doesn’t fully blend into the cream cheese/sour cream mixture, so guava chunks add a “terrazzo” or “gemstone” look to the dip, which takes five minutes to make. It’s undeniably pretty, and it’s just as appealing to your taste buds. “It’s this delightful, bright, tart fruitiness that complements the sweetness or savoriness of this dip.” 

Beyond dips, Alyse adds this guava paste to cheese boards and spreads it on toast with cream cheese (or even wrapped in a crescent roll). She also thinks it would be great dissolved in boiling water and added to iced tea or turned into a simple syrup. Basically “anywhere you’d have a jam, just less of it because it’s a concentrated little paste.” 

Buy: Melissa’s Guava Paste, $6.99 for 8 ounces at Instacart

What’s one grocery shortcut you use to make your favorite dip? Tell us about it in the comments below.