The best thing about spring, besides the lovely weather of course, is that our meals get lighter and easier to make. With more fresh produce on the shelves and from the farmers’ market, our fridge is always full and I’ve been known to turn homemade dips and dressings into dinner.
Plus, I appreciate meals that don’t require cooking — as in, that time when the oven or stove heat up our kitchen while our air conditioner fights to cool it alll back down.
Some of these ideas for homemade dips and dressings may be a little indulgent, but dip for dinner (yes, really!), especially when veggies are the vehicle to get them from bowl to mouth, is casual, simple, and can be healthier than you think.
Plus, our kids love it. Which is always a win!
10 of Our Favorite Homemade Dips and Dressings that Make a Meal
The Kitchn’s Quick Ranch Dressing is so easy! Don’t have buttermilk? Use powdered buttermilk as an alternative for a semi-homemade ranch. Pro tip: a lot of dogs love a dash of powdered buttermilk on their food, and it’s also delicious on popcorn.
We love steamed artichokes dipped in Bagna Cauda, a homemade dip of olive oil, garlic, and anchovie fillets that hails from Piedmont, Italy. This recipe from Bon Appétit happens to be fantastic. You’ll find the dip is just as good on other vegetables or crusty bread, too.
The first time I made the Carrot & Ginger Dressing from Goop, I was doing some cleanse-type thing for a week. Our whole family liked it, so I’ve since added it to our regular rotation. It’s probably not filling enough for a whole meal, but makes for a perfect spring/summer dressing over salad.
Pimiento cheese is a southern classic, and I’m not here to tell you it’s the healthiest thing, but it sure is good. Dipping celery and carrots instead of chips will at least make it a little healthy (but chips are also VERY good). My best homemade pimiento cheese dip is made with all the little bits and pieces of assorted cheese we have left in the fridge at the end of the week and it’s always great not to have to waste food. Click over for more tips about pimento than you’d ever hope to know!
Photo: © Elise Bauer for Simply Recipes
There was a time when my children were young that I swore I’d never eat hummus again, because every darn potluck included multiple versions of it. Thank goodness I changed my tune, because as far as homemade dips and dressings go, hummus is a delicious, easy, protein-filled options for crisp vegetables, and this Simply Recipes hummus recipe is a snap to make. She’s got some fantastic tips and variations too, like beet or basil hummus. I would just follow one tip in particular of Elise’s: Don’t make your chickpeas from scratch; there’s really no need,
Related: Next week’s meal plan: Avoid the oven with these summery 6 slow cooker and Instant Pot recipes.
Speaking of playgroup recipes, another mother once turned me on to her recipe for mushroom and almond pâté which I shared on The Kitchn a few years back. Now, all this time later, we still love it. This dip is vegetarian, and if you want a vegan recipe, you could substitute vegan margarine for butter if you like.
Another favorite vegan option in my homemade dips and dressings repertoires is Spicy Garlic dip, a recipe I lifted from Vegan Vittles, and added my own twist. I even shared it on my long ago and far away blog.
A basic basil pesto like this one from the fantastic Florence Fabricant for the New York Times makes for a delicious dip or dressing, and the recipe can be modified in so many ways. We love arugula pesto with feta, and often substitute almonds or pecans for the pine nuts, while lots of families love walnuts in theirs. The options are endless!
However-Many-Layer Bean Dip, Ree Drummond’s popular dip, is seven layers, but when you’re cleaning out the fridge, you can always add an extra layer or two if you have a vegetable on hand that might fit. Believe it or not, you may even be able to sneak some peas in there, right between the cheese — and the other cheese.
And this final option for homemade dips and dressings that summer meals lighter and easier may not be for every family, but I’m a fan of fish rillettes. This is essentially a crostini spread with a simple, clean shredded fish and crème fraîche mixture. Fine Cooking’s Smoked Trout Rillettes is a great recie to get you started. However I happen make mine with leftover fish, and swap in Duke’s mayonnaise instead of crème fraîche — mainly because Duke’s is more readily available in my fridge.
See? I’m all about easy.
Top photo © Anne Wolfe Postic for Cool Mom Eats