A hearty crowd-pleaser, seven-layer dip typically features Mexican-style ingredients. The inclusion of sour cream and cheese are reminiscent of basic dips; with its seven distinct layers, however, this dip offers a greater variety of flavorful ingredients. The blend of sharp and creamy flavors and the array of bright colors make this dip suitable for a Superbowl party, an outdoor picnic or as an appetizer for a Mexican fiesta when served with tortilla chips. For an Italian version, swap out the beans, taco seasoning and cheddar cheese for some chunky marinara sauce, Italian seasoning and Mozzarella cheese and serve with crusty bread slices.
Start your dip with a layer of refried beans. This provides a stable basis for the dip. These beans can be used straight out of the can: Just spread them evenly on the bottom of the serving dish. You can also heat the beans over low heat in a small pan on the stove. To give them added flavor, stir in a little cumin and a few dashes of hot sauce, allow flavors to blend and beans to heat through, then spread in the dish.
Top the layer of beans with another dense ingredient, such as sour cream or guacamole. Store-bought refrigerated guacamole works well, but you can also use chunkier, homemade guacamole if preferred. Plain sour cream is fine as a layer on its own, but you can also spice it up by blending in some taco seasoning mix. As an alternative, mix the sour cream with an equal amount of softened, flavored cream cheese. Spread either the sour cream or the guacamole on top of the bean layer, and save the other for layering with other ingredients.
Continue layering the dip with your choice of additional ingredients, such as shredded cheddar, Monterey Jack or Mexican cheese blend; spicy salsa or pico de gallo; diced tomatoes, chilies or olives; and crushed tortilla chips. For a heartier version, add a layer of seasoned ground meat or shredded chicken, seasoned black beans or sliced avocados. Top off the seven completed layers with a dollop of sour cream and some chopped green onions; add sliced black olives if desired. Serve the dip with sturdy tortilla chips.
Use a can of Rotel diced tomatoes and chilies instead of fresh tomatoes and chilies, if desired. Drain and reserve the liquid from the Rotel and mix a bit of it in with the refried beans or sour cream for added spiciness.
Make and refrigerate the dip ahead of time to allow the flavors to blend and the softer ingredients to firm up, particularly if the dip will be sitting out for an extended time.
For a more taco-like dish, use shredded lettuce for one layer.
Guacamole is an optional ingredient for these dips and can readily be omitted.