Chips and dip is my favorite category of snack. It’s flavorful, easy to consume while multi-tasking, and a satisfying mish-mash of textures. French onion dip, which apparently, is the same thing as sour cream and onion dip (not sure why I thought they were two different dips?!?), has got to be one of my all-time favorite dips. Ruffles sour cream and onion dip is so good!
And because I like to give things a twist here-and-there, I thought it would pair really well with a spicy tadka. Tadka is a South Asian method of blooming spices to extract their essential flavors.If you've ever heard of dal tadka, it uses a similar technique. You can read more about this here: How to Bloom Spices. The creaminess of the sour cream dip, the caramelized flavors of the onions, and the bloomed spices work well together.
There are a few different ways to make French onion dip, but here, we’ll be cooking the onions from scratch. It takes a little bit longer, but it’s totally worth the effort.
And as a bonus, if you do have leftovers, or want to make a double batch, this dip can be repurposed in a few different ways. It would be great spread on a plate, topped with crispy mushrooms, roasted cauliflower, or charred broccoli. Orrrrr, dollop some on top of fried or smashed potatoes for a fun weeknight side dish.
Alliums: I call for sweet onions (such as Vidalia onions), garlic, and scallions here. If you can’t find sweet onions, any old onion will still work. Chives are a more classic topping, but I much more often have scallions at home, and I prefer their sharper flavor — especially paired with more pungent spices. You can absolutely use chives, though! In general, you can use whatever alliums you have at home, but just keep in mind, you’ll want some sort of caramelized onion element, some sort of garlicky flavor, and a fresh, mild onion topping.
Sour cream: Sour cream serves as the base for this dip, but I’ve also tested it with greek yogurt and it’s a great substitute. Sour cream is a little bit looser in texture than greek yogurt, but you can replace it 1-1.
Lemon juice: Even though sour cream is a bit acidic, a little bit of additional tang from the lemon juice is key here. Otherwise, I find the dip is a bit sweeter than I’d like.
Spicy tadka: The spicy tadka (or spiced oil) includes cumin seeds, mustard seeds, chili powder, and minced garlic. You can use whatever combination of whole spices you’d like! And if you don’t want a spicy dip, just omit the chili powder.
How to Make This Recipe
First, you’ll "caramelize" the onions and garlic. These onions take a bit of time to cook, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s shorter than a classic caramelized onion recipe in that you’re only sauteeing them for about 30 minutes (as opposed to a couple hours). Still, even in that 30 minute time, you’ll be able to output a lot of sweet onion flavor. Remove the onions and garlic, and let them cool slightly in your serving bowl.
Next, you’ll fold in the sour cream, scallions, and lemon juice into the dip, and season the whole thing with salt and pepper. Let that sit in the fridge for at least 30 minutes (up to 1 day) to allow the flavors to develop. Don’t skip this step! That marination time ensures that the onion flavors penetrate the sour cream properly.
Finally, you’ll make the tadka. In a small pan, heat oil and cook garlic and spices until sizzling. Then, pour the hot tadka over the dip and you’re ready to serve.
Storage and Make-Ahead Instructions
You can make the base sour cream dip up to 1 day ahead. Just before serving, make the spicy tadka topping. Once you’ve made the full dip (sour cream and the topping), it can technically last an additional 3 days in the refrigerator, but I find that it tastes the best up to 1 ½ days after making.
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Sour Cream Dip With Spicy Tadka Recipe
For the sour cream base
- 2 tablespoons canola oil, or other neutral oil
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped to yield 1 ½ cups
- 3 garlic cloves, minced to yield 4 teaspoons
- Salt and black pepper
- ½ teaspoon granulated white sugar
- 1 scallion
- ½ lemon
- 1 cup sour cream, or greek yogurt
For the spicy tadka
- 1 tablespoon canola oil, or other neutral oil
- 1 small clove garlic, finely minced
- ½ teaspoon brown or black mustard seeds
- ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
- ½ teaspoon kashmiri chili powder, optional, yields a pretty mild heat; for a bit of a kick, double the amount of chili powder, or use ½ teaspoon of a spicier chili powder
For the sour cream base
- Start cooking the onions and garlic: Set a heavy, medium-sized cast-iron pan or skillet to medium heat and add oil. Once hot, add the onions and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes, until the onions are soft and translucent. During this initial cooking, very mild, golden-brown edges are okay, but if you notice anything deeper in color, lower the heat. You can also add a splash of water to the pan to immediately reduce the heat if needed. Season with salt and pepper, and stir in the sugar.2 tablespoons canola oil, 1 medium onion, 3 garlic cloves, Salt and black pepper, ½ teaspoon granulated white sugar
- Caramelize the onions: Lower the heat to medium-low, and cook the onions and garlic for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally, and adjust the heat as needed to prevent any burning. At the end of the 30 minutes, onions should be deep-golden brown in color (but not burnt) and taste quite sweet. If you have the time, you can also continue caramelizing the onions for an additional 30 minutes to bring out even more sweetness and complexity. Season with salt and pepper.
- Cool the mixture: Remove the mixture from the heat and transfer to your serving bowl. Let cool until mixture feels just slightly lukewarm, about 5 minutes.
- Prep the scallions and lemon: While the mixture cools, thinly slice the scallions. Juice half of the lemon (you should have about 1 tablespoon of juice).1 scallion, ½ lemon
- Mix the base: Stir in the sour cream, lemon juice, and most of the sliced scallions (save about a tablespoon for garnish) into the onion mixture. Season with salt and pepper.1 cup sour cream
- Chill the base: Place the serving bowl, covered, into the refrigerator for 30 minutes (and up to 1 day) to allow the flavors to develop. When ready to serve, take the dip out of the fridge and taste a spoonful. At this point, you can season again with salt and pepper. If the dip tastes slightly too "sweet", you probably need to add a little bit more salt or lemon juice, depending on your preference. I find those little adjustments make a huge difference in the flavor.
For the spicy tadka
- Just before serving, make the spicy tadka. This process happens really quickly, so to prevent burning, try to be attentive and don't walk away at any point here. Heat a small saute pan or tadka pan on medium-low heat and add the oil. Add the garlic, and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the garlic is just starting to turn a pale yellow color.1 tablespoon canola oil, 1 small clove garlic
- Immediately add the mustard seeds and cumin seeds, and swirl the pan to ensure even distribution.½ teaspoon brown or black mustard seeds, ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
- Once the seeds are sizzling, immediately remove the pan from the heat and stir in the chili powder.½ teaspoon kashmiri chili powder
- Immediately, pour half of the hot, sizzling tadka over the sour cream, and mix to combine thoroughly. Create a few swooshes at the top of the dip, and drizzle the remaining tadka on top.
- Garnish with the reserved scallions, and enjoy!