Lighter Seven-Layer Dip from The Best of America’s Test Kitchen 2012

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I know what you’re thinking. This is only five layers. Yeah, I noticed that too. I’m willing to forgive the oversight of two layers though.

You wouldn’t know why unless you had the magazine and read the process that Rachel Tommey-Kelsey went through when coming up with this recipe. It’s one of the things that I love about Cook’s Illustrated and Cook’s Country; each recipe comes with detailed notes on what the author did to get to the result upon which they settled.

I could tell you what all is written there, but nah, I’m not going to. You should get the magazine. There are 96 amazing recipes in here and I can only make what I make in a month.

Just out of curiosity, can you tell me what the two layers are that are missing?

The Process

Oy, the process. While I appreciate the fact that the folks in America’s Test Kitchen believe in product purity, they don’t make my job in the kitchen any easier. There’s a strainer and bowl for the tomato mixture. There’s the bowl of a food processor for the beans. Add another bowl for the sour cream layer (and yes, those are chipotles in adobo in there). Guacamole? Oh yeah, that’s another bowl.

The pieces in the layered puzzle are all easy to make, but they do cause quite a mess in the kitchen. Be ready for that.

One of my concerns while making this was the fact that I was serving it at a gathering that had adults and children in it. With the chilies in adobo, chili powder and scallions, would it be too hot for the younger mouths? It was that thought in mind that kept me from using all six scallions and had me using just two. The whites of both went into the tomato and the greens make up the fifth layer. I would not have discarded the whites if I used all six.

I also found that putting this in a 1-quart glass bowl wasn’t going to work. The one I used is 2 quarts. If I had gone with one, there would have been overflowage.

If you look at the first instructions below, there’s a whole process to the tomatoes instead of simply cutting them up and mixing them with the green stuff. The process is supposed to remove the liquid. If you look at the close side of the bowl where the tomatoes are, you’ll see liquid. There’s actually still quite a bit of it so either I didn’t wait long enough (45 minutes) or it doesn’t always work as hoped.

The Verdict

The group that I made this for loved it. They did a good job devouring it as well. There still was a liquid issue and I had tomato water at the bottom of the bowl, but it didn’t matter. What the magazine says about people not missing the cheese (oops, just gave away one of the missing layers) is true. There’s already so much creaminess going on that it doesn’t matter. I heard comments on how much people liked the bite that the chiles in adobo gave, but it wasn’t overwhelmingly hot (which was my fear). Hubby was very surprised to learn that there was guacamole in it because he doesn’t really care for the stuff. He did chow down on the dip though.

What I’d Do Different Next Time

The tomatoes are a bit of an issue. I think the tomato water would have been less if I had used a regular colander instead of a fine mesh strainer. Not sure why that was called for instead since there weren’t any fine particles I wanted to hold back.  For the rest of the recipe, it’s spot on. Not a single thing I’d do differently.

Lighter Seven-Layer Dip from The Best of America's Test Kitchen 2012
Prep time
Total time
Reviewed by:
Recipe type: Dip
Cuisine: American
Serves: 12
  • 2 pounds ripe tomatoes (5-6 medium), cored, seeded and chopped
  • Salt
  • 6 scallions, 2 minced and 4 with green parts sliced thin (white parts discarded)
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
  • 5 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice (about 3 limes)
  • 2 jalapeno chiles, stemmed, seeded and minced
  • 1 15-ounce can black beans, drained but not rinsed
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ¾ teaspoon chili powder
  • 1½ cups low-fat sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon minced canned chipotle chiles in adobo saurce
  • 2 ripe avocados, halved, pitted and cubed
  1. Place tomatoes in fine-mesh strainer set over bowl, sprinkle with ½ teaspoon salt, and let drain until tomatoes begin to soften, about 30 minutes. Discard tomato liquid. Stir in minced scallions, 2 tablespoons lime juice, cilantro and jalapenos. Season tomato mixture with salt to taste and set aside.
  2. Pulse 2 teaspoons more lime juice, beans, garlic and chili powder together in food processor until mixture resembles chunky paste. Season bean mixture with salt to taste and set aside. Whisk sour cream and chipotles together in bowl and set aside.
  3. Combine remaining 3 tablespoons lime juice, avocados, and ¼ teaspoon salt in a lage bowl an dmash with potato masher until mixture is smooth. Season avocado mixture with salt to taste.
  4. Spread bean mixture evenly over bottom of 8-inch square baking dish or 1-quart glass bowl. Spread avocado mixture evenly over bean layer. Spread sour cream mixture evenly over avocado mixture, then top with tomato mixture. Sprinkle tomato mixture with sliced scallions and serve.
  5. Dip can be covered tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 1 day; let sit at room temperature for 1 hour before serving.
What I'd Do Different Next Time
The tomatoes are a bit of an issue. I think the tomato water would have been less if I had used a regular colander instead of a fine mesh strainer. Not sure why that was called for instead since there weren't any fine particles I wanted to hold back. For the rest of the recipe, it's spot on. Not a single thing I'd do differently.


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5 thoughts on “Lighter Seven-Layer Dip from The Best of America’s Test Kitchen 2012

  • March 18, 2017 at 1:31 pm

    FTI- I don’t think I see cilantro on your ingredients list

    • March 19, 2017 at 11:06 am

      Thanks for catching that, Ruth. I\’ve added 3 tablespoons minced cilantro to the ingredient list.

  • April 22, 2014 at 10:04 pm

    You might try lightly salting them first and letting them sit for about 30 minutes to drain. That's worked for me before. You can even rinse them afterwards if you're worried about the salt.

  • January 20, 2014 at 12:22 pm

    Hunh. I wonder if tomato type would make any difference? I usually use Romas for things like this and might just deseed them to alleviate the liquid issue.

    • January 20, 2014 at 12:40 pm

      I don't think the type of tomato matters as long as, like you said, it's well seeded and the liquid gets drained.


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