My most requested recipe. The easiest cheese dip made better thanks to monterey jack cheese with jalapenos and roasted sunflower seeds. Pepper Jack Cheese Dip is the appetizer or party dip recipe you'll be asked to bring time and time again.
Right after graduating from college, I sold pharmaceuticals. Yes, the legal kind. I sat in a lot of doctors' offices...waiting. And waiting. The waiting turned to skimming magazines which brought me this Pepper Jack Cheese Dip recipe that literally changed my life.
You ask..."changed your life? Really?" When you have a recipe that practically everyone loves and you can bring it anywhere—for any occasion, I think that classifies as life changing. (And for another super easy appetizer, check out my Whipped Ricotta Toast with Roasted Figs...another holiday superstar!)
The best cheese dip recipe
I know —it's a bold claim. But here's why this monterey jack cheese dip is the best dip recipe:
- Memorable. There are only 5 ingredients. You'll make it so often you'll be able to make it in your sleep. Even after too many margaritas.
- Easy. Not only is it easy to put together, the ingredients are easy to shop for and keep on hand.
- Big flavor with lots of texture. Spicy, creamy, crunchy. This dip has got them all.
- Portable. You'll literally bring this dip everywhere. See further down for a list of serving suggestions and location.
What is pepper jack cheese?
Closest probably to havarti, monterey jack is a semi-soft cheese that melts beautifully thanks to its creamy texture. Pepper jack is just an amped up monterey jack spiced with peppers like habaneros, jalapenos and more. Different brands use different peppers so the spiciness of your cheese dip recipe will vary depending on the brand you use. I find Kraft or a store brand is the mildest and the hot habanero pepper jack cheese from Cabot is the most flavorful if you can find it.
The unexpected ingredients
While there are only 5 ingredients, two of them make this dip. One subtlety and the other boldy.
Bottled garlic. I know - I'm Italian. Using a minced garlic in a jar doesn't make any sense. The original recipe actually called for it and at the time, I was young so I used it. But it does makes a subtle difference in the recipe (probably that garlic infused water it's in). If you already have fresh garlic, by all means chop it up and put it in!
Roasted sunflower seeds. They add the perfect amount of salty crunch and nuttiness without overpowering and are a bold and unexpected twist. Totally all about that.
Easiest dip ever
Assembling this dip is as easy as:
- grate the jack cheese into a bowl (1)
- scoop out the portions of mayo and sour cream (1)
- stir in the bottled garlic and flour (2)
- spread in a dish and rim with sunflower seeds and green onions (3).
- bake for 30 minutes.
What to serve with spicy cheese dip
- Tortilla chips - because you can scoop up a lot of dip with a nice big chip.
- Cubed bread like a pumpernickel or dark rye adds unexpected flavor
- Hard veggies like carrots or jicama; thick cucumber slices
- cheese crackers because cheeeeese
Where to serve it
- Tailgate, March Madness and football parties alongside JP's Chex Party Mix.
- Graduation party appetizer spread (make a double batch in a large baker) including a Pressed Italian Sandwich and some Farro and Orange Salad.
- Cinco de Mayo menu including Authentic Guacamole, Chipotle Chicken Enchiladas and your favorite salsa.
You can definitely use a lower fat mayonnaise and sour cream. I haven't tested this recipe with a non-dairy cheese but if you have one that you know melts well, I say go for it!
In my grocery store, they're typically near the nuts, baking or popcorn section of the store. Sometimes they'll be in baking or even available to buy in bulk.
Sunflower seeds out of the shell can turn pretty quickly so I suggest you buy what you need. This isn't something to buy in large quantities. If they smell funny, your spicy cheese dip will taste funny.
Storing, Freezing, Reheating
Pepped up cheese bake (that's what we call it) can be made the day before or the day you plan to serve it. Add the sunflower seeds and onions right before baking.
Refrigerate until ready to serve. Also refrigerate any leftovers either in the original pan covered with plastic wrap for up to three days.
I don't recommend freezing this cheese dip.
To reheat, sprinkle on a few more sunflower seeds and pop in the oven until melted. Or microwave in the pan for 5 minutes if ½ pan or more is left. Reduce the time is there's less in the pan.
Pepper Jack Cheese Dip
- 1 block monterey jack with jalapeno peppers, 8-10 oz; freshly grated recommended
- 2 Tablespoons all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons minced bottled garlic, or 2-3 cloves fresh minced
- ½ cup mayonnaise, light ok
- 8 ounces sour cream, light ok
- ½ cup roasted salted sunflower seeds out of the shell, or more if needed
- 3 green onions, thinly sliced including green part
- Preheat oven to 350°.
- Grate the cheese into a medium sized bowl. Gently stir in the flour with a fork.
- To the bowl, add the next three ingredients ending with the sour cream. Stir with a wooden spoon until completely combined.
- Evenly spread the dip into a pie plate (approx 8-9" works).
- Sprinkle the sunflower seeds around the edge of the pie plate creating a 1-2" thick band.
- Fill the center with the green onions.
- Sprinkle with a little paprika for color, if desired.
- Bake at 350° for 30 minutes until golden.
- In my grocery store, they're typically near the nuts, baking or popcorn section of the store. Sometimes they'll be in the baking aisle or even available to buy in bulk.
- If the sunflower seeds have an "off" or paint like smell, don't use them as it will affect the taste of the dip.