Monday, January 30, 2012

California Clam Dip

California Clam Dip

The Ultimate Party Dip – Perfect for the Super Bowl

Everybody knows California Dip, a/k/a Lipton Onion Soup Dip. Food Timeline says it’s probably "America's most beloved" dip.

But good as this recipe is, it’s even better when you kick it up with clams.

Throw this dip together, add some chips, combine with friends — and it’s instant party.  Perfect for your annual Super Bowl view-fest.

California Clam Dip

Recipe:  California Clam Dip

The basic (non-clam) version of this recipe was called California Dip because it originated in Los Angeles.  No one knows the name of the inspired party animal who concocted the first batch.  Because it was made with Lipton Onion Soup mix – and because the Lipton people started printing the recipe on their packages in 1958 – it’s also called Lipton Onion Soup Dip.  This clam-enhanced version is just one of countless riffs on the basic California Dip.

When I make this dip, I use the traditional trinity of ingredients:  dried onion soup mix, sour cream, and canned clams.  In the notes, we discuss some ways of jazzing up the taste with optional additions. 

This recipe makes about 2 cups of dip, enough for a big package of chips.  Ridged potato chips work best (those little ridges do seem to make the chips stronger), but any kind of chip is an appropriate vehicle for hoisting the dip from bowl to mouth.  Leftovers, in an airtight container, keep a day or two in the refrigerator (as if you’ll have leftovers).

  • 1 16-ounce container of sour cream (full-fat or light; your choice)
  • 1 envelope dried onion soup mix (Lipton is traditional, but store brands work well too)
  • 1 6½ ounce can chopped or minced clams, drained
  •  see Notes for optional ingredient suggestions
  1. Dump sour cream into a bowl.
  2. Open and add soup mix (along with any optional ingredients you may elect to use).
  3. Open and drain clams, and add to the mix.
  4. Stir thoroughly, and chill for an hour or two before serving.
California Clam Dip

  • When it comes to this dip, I’m a purist:  I don’t add any additional ingredients.  I like the traditional flavor.
  • But it’s pretty easy to add some interest to the basic dip.  One common addition is Worcestershire Sauce (start with half a teaspoon, taste, and add more to taste if necessary).  For a nice zing, try a shot of lemon juice (perhaps a tablespoon).  
  • Aromatics like chopped chives or scallions marry well with the flavors of this dip – you can mix them in or sprinkle on top as a garnish.  Or you could add some minced parsley or cilantro.  
  • Cayenne pepper or hot sauce is great if you want to add a bit of zip.  Old Bay Seasoning might be an interesting addition (I haven’t tried that, but it sounds good).  Or you could add onion powder, garlic powder — you get the point.  If something sounds good to you, it’s worth experimenting.
  • Some people like to add cream cheese to this dip.  Or substitute cream cheese for the sour cream.  But that’s a little too fancy for me.
  • I haven’t done a formal taste test of canned clams, but over the years I’ve used all the major brands in this recipe.  I don’t discern much difference among them, so I always buy the cheapest.
  • There is a taste difference among potato chips.  Some of those high-buck brands really are a cut above your mass-market chip.  But are they necessary as a dip vehicle?  I don’t think so.  The chip plays two roles in this dish.  First, functional:  You use it to get the dip to your mouth.  Second, flavor balancer:  The saltiness of the chip is a great flavor enhancer for the dip.  A less expensive chip performs both of these tasks quite adequately.
California Clam Dip

Double Dips

Dips are perfect for a party.  But one just isn’t enough.  So later this week, we’ll feature another chip-ready recipe, just in time for your Super Bowl shopping.

“More dip, eh?” asked Mrs Kitchen Riffs.

“Yes, it’s a brand strategy, you see.  Readers need to know they can rely on Kitchen Riffs for their entertaining needs.”   Sometimes I have to explain this high-level blog stuff to Mrs K R.

“Right.  So now when people see Kitchen Riffs, they’ll think ‘a bunch of dips’”?

“Yes!” I beamed enthusiastically.

“I thought so,” she smiled.

Not sure what she meant by that.

You may also enjoy reading about:
Velveeta Tex-Mex Dip
Homemade Chex Mix
Frito Pie with Chili
Chili Basics
Cheddar Cheese Curry
Best chocolate Drop Cookie Ever


Katherine Martinelli said...

I was first introduced to Lipton soup onion dip by my husband and in-laws who love it and I am a total convert. We love to dip chips in it, but it's also a must when we set out a crudite platter. I love it with raw veggies! I didn't know it was also called California dip, and have never thought to add anything to it but clams sound like an incredible addition! Thanks! Looking forward to your next dip installment :-)

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Katherine, I've never had Lipton Onion Soup as a soup but it's a terrific ingredient. And the dip is great with raw veggies - you're quite right. Do try it with clams sometime - I'll bet you'll love it. Thanks for commenting.

Alviana Kalin said...

I've never eaten California Dip before..but they look delicious!

VISIT ME? viethefoodamateur.

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Alviana, gosh! You'll have to make some of this! It's a great dip, and I'll bet you'll enjoy it. Thanks for stopping by. said...

Oh yeah baby! I've never had california dip so, I will be trying it cause I just love chips and dip in the late night hours. Thanks for sharing.

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Cookinglady, I'm delighted to introduce this dish to you! I'll bet you enjoy it. And you're right, chips & dip are great late night fare. Thanks for commenting.

Vicki Bensinger said...

You know I've never used Lipton's to make a clam dip but have used it millions of times for onion soup dip which I love. This sounds great.

By the way your photo is beautiful! I love the reflection. What program did you use to post your name - Picnik? I ask because I know it's shutting down and looking for another alternative.

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Vicki, it's a fun dip! Junky, but flavorful. And how often do you eat it? At least that's how I justify it to myself. Thanks for kind words re photos. I use Photoshop as my RAW convertor and editor. It's a complicated program, though, and there are now plenty of good alternatives out there. I've not used, but heard good things about, Photoshop Elements. (I don't know if it has a RAW converter, though; but if you're shooting JPEGs, that's not an issue.) Anyway, thanks for your comments.

zenchef said...

Great shot! And delicious bite too, I'm sure.

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi zenchef, thanks! I love the look of ruffled potato chips on black acrylic. Although this dip is delicious, it's also rather ordinary - it's nice to look at it in a different way. Thanks for your comment.

Abbe@This is How I Cook said...

Going to visit my mother who always made onion dip like this! Never added clams though so I guess I'll have to teach her something. Thanks John!

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Abbe, always fun to teach your mom something, isn't it? :-) Thanks for the comment.

Anonymous said...

My mom used to have me make this dip for her house parties back in the 70's when i was a kid... I remembered it the other day when I was eating some rippled potatoe chips and had a Deja Vu moment and suddenly missed it so much I had to go out and by the ingredeients ... it is so good!

Anonymous said...

She used cream chees though

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Anonymous, cream cheese sounds like a great ingredient! Thanks for the comment.