This Super Bowl season, you can have cold—and likely congealed—seven-layer dip from the supermarket, or…you can make this warm, melty version begging to be scooped up and eaten. This take combines two homemade game-day icons—rich, creamy refried beans and unctuous cheese sauce—and tops them off with a handful of simple garnishes. (If your favorite store-bought salsa is chunky but watery, drain it over a fine-mesh strainer first to save the dip from turning soupy.) The queso stays fluid at room temperature for a good while, so you can spend your time screaming at the television rather than racing to eat before it solidifies. Let’s take a sec to talk about why.
Yes, this recipe calls for American cheese, and if you’re already plotting a way to replace it, don’t. American cheeses contain sodium citrate or sodium phosphate, salts that keep the cheese’s fat and water together in a perfect emulsion, even as it melts. Try this with another cheese like Parmesan or even extra-sharp cheddar and the fat simply squeezes its way out, resulting in a broken, grainy mess. Buy a block of American cheese at the deli counter and shred it yourself for the smoothest sauce. Avoid blocks or shreds of Velveeta—they contain too much water and not enough fat.