Refried beans should be served warm.
There, I've said it. I don't usually put my foot down about food preferences, but cold refried beans are about as appealing as a cold hamburger. This is why I make 7-layer dip starting with a layer of hot refried beans.
How to Make 7-Layer Dip
Shredded cheese is added directly to the top of the warm beans so it melts from the heat of the beans. Then the layers of tomato, avocado, olives, and chilies, onions (all mostly room temp) are added.
Ways to Adapt this Recipe
By the way, depending on what you have on hand, your 7-layer dip may end up with eight or nine layers, or six. The basics are refried beans, grated cheese, avocados (or guacamole), chilies (or salsa), sour cream, and olives. Improvise with more or fewer toppings to your own taste.
You can also add a layer of seasoned ground beef or shredded chicken. Warm them up and add them along with the refried beans and cheese.
What You Can Do Ahead of Time
While the dip itself should be assembled and served while the beans are hot, there are some components you can do ahead to make the final steps easier on yourself.
- If you're making your refried beans from scratch, you can make those a day or two ahead and then just re-warm them as directed in the recipe below when you're ready to assemble the dip.
- Shred the cheese up to a day ahead, and keep it refrigerated in an air-tight container until needed
- Chop the chiles or or pickled jalapeños up to a day ahead, and keep refrigerated in an airtight container until needed
- WAIT to prep the avocado and tomato: The avocado will turn brown if prepped in advance and the tomatoes will turn mushy and lose flavor if refrigerated.
How to Serve 7-Layer Dip
Serve your 7-layer dip with plenty of corn tortilla chips for dipping! This is a fairly thick and heavy dip, so make sure to buy thick, sturdy chips, not the super-thin kind.
Blue corn tortilla chips are a fun alternative to regular white or yellow corn chips.
More Favorite Party Dips
- Whipped Goat Cheese 7-Layer Dip
- Quick and Easy Artichoke Dip
- Buffalo Chicken Dip
- Hot Reuben Dip
- Caramelized Onion Dip
- Spinach and Artichoke Dip with Bacon
7 Layer Bean Dip
- 2 cups refried beans, from one 15-ounce can or homemade
- 1 teaspoon (or more) of bacon fat (or 1 strip of bacon, cooked and minced), optional
- 1 teaspoon chipotle powder, Tabasco chipotle sauce, or adobo sauce, more to taste (or plain chili powder to taste)
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 cup shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese
- 1/4 cup chopped green Anaheim chiles (canned) OR 1 tablespoon chopped pickled jalapeños (more to taste)
- 1 avocado, peeled and chopped
- 1 hot house tomato, cut in half horizontally, seeds and juice gently squeezed out and discarded, chopped
- 1/3 cup sour cream, or if you can get it Crema Mexicana (Mexican sour cream)
- 1 cup sliced ripe black olives, from a 15-ounce can
- Corn tortilla chips, to serve
Prepare the refried beans
Heat the refried beans in a medium sauté pan or cast iron skillet. Stir in enough water to get a creamy, easily dip-able consistency, about 1/4 of a cup.
The taste of refried beans is greatly enhanced by bacon fat; we'll add a teaspoon to canned beans or a tablespoon or more to taste if we are making the beans from scratch.
If you don't have bacon fat, you can cook up a strip of bacon, chop it up fine and add that to the beans.
If you are trying to avoid pork, note that most canned refried beans are made with added lard, so check the ingredients. You can use olive oil instead, to help the consistency of the beans.
Mix in the chipotle chili powder (or Tabasco, or adobo, or regular chili powder) and cumin to taste. Note that the avocados and the sour cream will cool down the spiciness of the beans considerably, so you can afford to be a bit more spicy than you might think.
Stir in salt to taste, depending on how salted your refried beans are to begin with, and depending on how salty the tortilla chips are that you are serving with the dip.
Spread on serving dish, top with cheese
Once the beans are hot and bubbly, spread them over the bottom of a warmed serving dish. Immediately add the shredded cheese so that the heat from the beans helps melt the cheese.
(The cheese doesn't need to be completely melted, but even if it is just a little, it will help the dip stay on the chip.)
Layer on toppings
Layer on the chopped green chilies, chopped avocado, chopped tomato. Spoon on the sour cream (or crema Mexicana, crema fresca, or even cream fraiche).
Top with sliced green onions and olives.
Serve immediately with tortilla chips.