This smoky black bean dip is rich, spicy, and one of my most popular recipes ever. I’ve shared it with many people over the years, and it always gets raves. In fact, years ago one of the NY Times columnists for their “Fifth Down” NFL blog asked for Super Bowl recipe submissions so I posted it, and my dip was deemed “ideal” and one of the top three favorites. Pretty cool, huh? That turned out to be a particularly good Super Bowl year for me all around, as my Giants stunned the Patriots with a final-drive victory in the last minute of the game. Sadly it won’t be happening again this year, but I’ll still enjoy a batch of this dip as I watch the Birds [hopefully] beat the Pats!
This dip only takes a few minutes to make, and it’s perfectly acceptable to use canned beans if you don’t want to cook a batch from dried. If you’re using canned beans I recommend seeking out a low sodium or no-salt-added option so you have total control over the seasoning of the dip. Also, be sure to rinse and drain the beans well. Fresh garlic and onion are musts in this dip, but in moderate amounts so as not to overwhelm. They provide just enough bite to make their presence known, and the onion contributes a little moisture.
Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce are pretty much front and center in the flavor department here, adding a ton of smoky, spicy flavor. If you have Celiac please read the label and be sure your canned chipotles are gluten-free, as some brands contain wheat flour. I’m partial to Casa Fiesta because they’re always fat, tender chilies in a flavorful sauce, but there are several other widely available GF options including La Costena, Roland and Goya. Ground cumin, chili powder, smoked paprika, Kosher salt and black pepper round out the spices.
These are my whole chipotles in adobo sauce. They’re pretty large, so I ended up only using one pepper for this particular batch of dip. See the two peppers on the far left and far right? Both from the same can, and both sliced open to reveal the inside. The one on the left is loaded with seeds – which contain a lot of the pepper’s actual heat – while the one on the right only has a few seeds so it’s a milder pepper. Be sure to do this with your chipotles to assess the spice level before adding them to your dip. You can always blend in a bit more at the end, but if you add to much from the start, your only option will be to add more of all the other ingredients to tame the heat.
Okay, which fresh herb immediately comes to mind when I say black beans? Cilantro, of course! I know, it’s one of those extreme ingredients that you either love or hate. And yes, there’s a genetic component to the way we perceive this particular flavor, but I’m walking talking proof that you can grow to love it. Believe it or not, I used to be a hater – I thought cilantro tasted like soap. I’m not sure what happened to my taste buds, but it’s now one of my favorite ingredients. Grassy and citrusy with a hint of peppery bite, I load it onto my tacos, and it’s a major player in this recipe. If you’re not a fan of cilantro this dip may not be for you, but you should check out my Tuscan White Bean Dip or Roasted Cauliflower Hummus. I promise there’s no cilantro in either of those. If you’re still with me, yay. And if the stems of your bunch of cilantro are nice and tender, you can include those in the measurement as well. The stems have a ton of flavor! Just don’t use any tough, woody pieces.
Cilantro, oh how I love thee! Your flavor and aroma are like no other.
Fresh lime is a natural partner for cilantro. And yes, you should absolutely use an actual lime for this dip. Bottled juice is sharp, acidic, and way too puckery. Fresh lime juice is still bracing but in a softer and more flavorful way. Plus, when you use the whole fruit you can take advantage of the zest as well, and I usually add a bit to punch up the lime flavor without adding more liquid when I’m doing the final tasting/seasoning.
The only thing left to cover is the sour cream or yogurt. If you’d like to keep this dip vegan/dairy-free you can absolutely use a dairy-free alternative, just don’t omit this ingredient entirely. It serves an important purpose in the recipe, adding richness and body, and serving as a cooling counterpoint to the heat from the chipotle. Trust me, I’ve tried to make this dip without it and it inevitably feels like something is missing and tastes a little too spice-forward. If you’re really in a pinch and don’t have anything resembling creamy, cooling dairy on hand, toss in a quarter of a fresh avocado. It won’t have quite the same cooling effect, but it will provide that luxurious mouthfeel.
Here are all my ingredients, ready to go. You can see that I only left a few of the seeds in my chipotle to start. I can add more pepper, seeds, or both later on, but I’m sharing this with people who aren’t as into hot chilies as I am, so I’ll probably leave it as-is. Now go toss all these things into your food processor, whip up your bold, spicy and smoky dip, and serve it with assorted crudités or your favorite chips for dipping.
- 12 oz cooked black beans*
- 1 small garlic clove, coarsely chopped
- 1 oz (2 Tbsp) roughly chopped onion
- ½ cup loosely packed fresh cilantro (leaves & tender stems)
- One lime, zested and juiced (reserve zest)
- 1 oz (2 Tbsp) sour cream or yogurt** (or non-dairy alternative)
- 1-2 Tbsp chipotle chiles in adobo***, coarsely chopped
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- ½ tsp red chili powder
- ¼ tsp smoked paprika
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- Chopped cilantro leaves for garnish
- Add beans, garlic, onion, cilantro, 1 tablespoon of lime juice, sour cream or yogurt, chipotle, cumin, chili powder and paprika, ¼ teaspoon salt and several grinds pepper to food processor. Puree until relatively smooth. We're not making a true puree here so you'll probably still see tiny bits of cilantro, bean, onion and garlic. I prefer it that way because the texture is more interesting. Taste and add more salt and pepper, remaining lime juice and reserved lime zest as desired.
- If you prefer a thinner dip, add water one tablespoon at a time and continue processing until it reaches the consistency you're looking for.
- Transfer to a container, and if time allows, refrigerate overnight to let the flavors develop.
- Garnish with chopped cilantro before serving.
**Full fat or low-fat options are fine here, but I don't recommend fat-free.
***Canned chipotles vary in heat level and size by brand and batch, so take a tiny taste of yours first to determine how spicy they are before using. Also cut he chilies open to reveal the seeds are inside, and discard most of them to keep the heat level down if desired. You can always add extra chipotle to amp up the spice later, but you can't take it away once you process the dip! Start with one piece equivalent to a tablespoon and go from there.