I’m not sure when or where it very first began, but sometime in the past few years I noticed a wondrous thing of beauty starting to appear on the appetizer table at social gatherings. It was warm and creamy and spicy, and it elicited publicly inappropriate yum-noises from yours truly. I’ve heard it go by many names, but I’m sure you’ll recognize it when I say: buffalo chicken dip.
My favorite version of this dip came courtesy of my friend Courtney. Every time she’d bring it to a gathering, I’d gasp in delight and proceed to hover over the dish the entire night. She was even kind enough to send me the recipe. I made it once, and, after what ensued, I realized that if I were to retain any shred of dignity I should probably never make it again. (It had turned into a “one dish equals one serving” situation.)
But I couldn’t give up on my beloved buffalo dip entirely. I determined to create a lighter, more figure-friendly version so I could indulge without the guilt. I turned to tofu for its creamy texture and relatively neutral flavor, thinking I could simultaneously veganize the dish as well. Several batches later, I gave up. It just wasn’t right, wasn’t hitting all the spots. There wasn’t a single yum-noise to be heard.
Fast forward a couple years to December 2011. As we were preparing for the family holiday party on Chris’ side, I decided that I wanted to have buffalo dip. Since I was firmly on the veggie train and tofu hadn’t worked previously, I figured I could just use vegan cream cheese and Vegenaise to get there instead. Screw figure-friendly.
Except, my sister-in-law is mega allergic to soy. Whenever I make something to bring to a family gathering, I try to make sure as many people can eat it as possible; food is always best when shared. I just couldn’t bring a soy-laden dish to the party in good conscience. And then I had an epiphany. Why not use beans as the base—they get nice and creamy when blended—and add some raw cashews for extra richness?
And I’ll be damned if it didn’t come out every bit as delicious as the original.
It has that classic buffalo flavor that you can only get from Frank’s Red Hot sauce. Fresh parsley and chives hint at the ranch dressing that would typically be stirred in. Whole chickpeas go in for texture, replacing the usual chunks of chicken. Cheddar-style Daiya shreds contribute a buttery cheesiness and a hint of guilt to what otherwise turned out to be the lightened up dip I was originally trying for.
Also, I’m just going to put this out there: this Buffalo Chickpea Dip sat right next to a non-veg version at the holiday party. Not only was this one gone at the end of the night, but its neighbor had hardly been touched. Indeed, many a yum-noise was made.
Buffalo Chickpea Dip
The cashews do not need to be soaked for this dip, but if you’re the soaking type or don’t feel terribly confident in your blender/food processor’s capabilities, feel free to soak them overnight. Also, I have found that this dip tastes its very best when made at least a few hours ahead to allow all the flavors time to meld together; cover with plastic wrap, refrigerate, and bake off just before serving.
1 15-oz can white beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup raw cashews
¾ cup original Frank’s Red Hot sauce
1/2 cup unflavored, unsweetened non-dairy milk
2 teaspoons lemon juice (about ½ lemon)
1 rounded tablespoon nutritional yeast (optional)
½ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon garlic powder
Ground black pepper
1 teaspoon fresh, finely-chopped parsley
1 teaspoon fresh chopped chives
1 15-oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 cup Daiya cheddar-style cheese, divided
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Add the beans and cashews to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse several times to break them up a bit. Add the hot sauce, non-dairy milk, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, onion powder, garlic powder, and a pinch of black pepper. Process until the mixture is entirely smooth (this will take several minutes), stopping to scrape down the bowl as necessary. Adjust salt to taste.
Scrape the bean mixture into a bowl and stir in the parsley and chives to evenly distribute. Stir in the chickpeas and 3/4 cup of the Daiya. Transfer the dip to a 9×9-inch square baking dish and sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of Daiya on top. (Note: Dip can be made up to this point a day or two ahead. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to heat and serve.) Cover baking dish tightly with foil and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until warmed through. Serve with tortilla chips or veggies for dipping.