This recipe takes me straight back to the tiny galley kitchen in the first apartment that my husband and I shared. We were still in college, and the only good things about the apartment were that it was near the walking trails and had a beautiful view of the Eau Claire River. Everything else was creepy and dingy, including the yellow laminate countertops in the kitchen. Despite the kitchen’s obvious flaws, I did my best to make delicious meals for us throughout each week. This dip was an invention that I created during midterms so we could do some serious stress eating. Like many people, I am a stress eater, and usually, when I am at my maximum level of stress, I crave three things: pickles, chips and dip, and ice cream. While it would be a terrible idea to combine all three of those items together, it occurred to me that two of those foods could mix together in a pretty great way.
I decided to start experimenting with a combination of my grandma’s chip dip recipe and pickles. Grandma’s dip was a fairly simple recipe. It had four ingredients: cream cheese, garlic powder, onion powder, and water. Basically, you mixed water and cream cheese together until it looked to be a smooth consistency, and then you shook in the two seasonings until you were happy with the way it tasted. There were absolutely no exact measurements to follow.
My grandma’s recipe relied heavily on both the garlic and onion flavors, but I knew I wanted to focus my attention on the pickle. I dialed back the seasonings in my grandma’s dip, added in chunks of pickle, and to finish it off, I substituted pickle juice for water. I loved the result that I was able to come up with in the end, but I think what made me happiest was that I was able to take a family recipe as a base and make it completely my own with just a few simple changes. There’s something so special about a family recipe being passed down, but it’s also fun to be able to call it my own and know that I used my grandma as an inspiration.
12 oz Cream Cheese
⅓ to ½ cup Kosher Dill Pickles (chopped)
4 oz Pickle Juice
¼ tsp Onion Powder
⅛ tsp Garlic Powder
When making this dip you have two different options for how to mix it together, and your method of choice depends entirely on what type of cream cheese you buy. Personally, I like to buy my cream cheese in blocks because it is quite a bit cheaper. However, you can buy it in the tub instead. When you buy cream cheese in the tub it will already have a pretty smooth consistency. This allows you the ability to make this dip with just a bowl and spoon since you should be able to stir in all the ingredients with ease. If you are like me and prefer to buy the blocks, you will need to have either a hand mixer or a standing mixer. While the blocks of cream cheese are cheaper, they are also a lot sturdier and need the power of the mixer to break them down.
No matter what approach you are taking, start by stirring/mixing just the cream cheese by itself to thin out the consistency. It will not get entirely smooth on it’s own, so after it seems like it has a slightly smoother consistency, add in your pickle juice. If you are using a tub of cream cheese, the pickle juice is going to stir in pretty quickly, but if you are using a mixer, you may have to stop occasionally and scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula to help the two ingredients combine together.
Once the pickle juice and cream cheese are mixed together your dip base should be smooth and creamy. Then you can move on to chopping up your pickles. I prefer to use whole pickles over pickle spears or coins. Whole pickles seem to retain a bit more of their crunchiness, which adds a nice texture to your dip. However, it DOESN’T matter if your whole pickles start out as giant, regular, or baby-sized, because you are going to chop them up anyway.
As much as I love to have exact measurements, I do have some leeway when it comes to the amount of chopped pickles in this recipe. It really depends on each individual and their own personal preferences. I really enjoy the crunchy element that the pickles bring to the table, so I lean toward the ½ cup measurement; that way I can hopefully get a chunk of pickle in every bite of dip, but if you prefer your dips to be on the creamier side you can always stick to just a ⅓ cup.
Of course, if you are unsure of what you would like best, you can always start with a ⅓ cup and then add more later if you decide your dip is missing something. My mom always says, “You can always add more of an ingredient in, but you can’t take it out.” That is a rule that definitely applies here.
Even though you are chopping up the pickles, do not feel like you have to dice them up into the world’s tiniest morsels, or that all the chunks need to be identical in size. This is a very forgiving dip, and will taste good no matter what size of pickles you have in it.
After your pickles are chopped, add them into the cream cheese mixture. I kept using the mixer throughout this entire process, but you would not have to at this point. After being mixed the first time, your dip should be creamy enough that even if you started with a block instead of a tub, you should be able to mix the pickles and seasonings in easily.
Once you pickles are mixed in, add in the seasonings. Just like potato salad it can be really tempting to start digging into this dip at that point because it is “done,” but do yourself a favor and let it refrigerate for at least an hour. The refrigeration time allows all the flavors to mix and develop together, making for an even better dip.
Each time you take the dip out of the refrigerator you will most likely have to stir it a little bit before serving. Some of the pickle juice usually likes to rise to the top, and it can come off a little bit strong if you don’t stir it back in. My favorite way to eat this dip is with pretzels, but I’ve had it with Ruffles before and that works just as well. This dip will remain one of my favorite dishes to eat when I am stressed or had a bad day. It may not be the world’s healthiest snack, but it certainly brings the joy of pickles and dip together!