Cheddar's Casual Cafe is one of my all-time favorite restaurants. They serve wonderful comfort food at affordable prices. If you've never heard of Cheddar's, it is a restaurant chain only found in the Southeastern United States.
They have several dishes I love, but my favorite is their Santa Fe Spinach Dip. It is creamy and cheesy. This spinach dip is so good that I sometimes go to the restaurant just for an order of it. When we feel like treating ourselves, my husband and I sometimes order two to-go orders of the dip and enjoy one each at home. We don't like to share, so two orders allows us to pig out on an amazing treat. When I moved to the Midwest three years ago, Cheddar's spinach dip was the one food I missed dearly. Every time I'm in the Southeastern U.S. visiting relatives, I try to find a Cheddar's.
Since I couldn't get it in the Midwest, I decided to try to make my own. I looked on the internet for others who might know the recipe but struck out. I saw lots of copycat recipes but none of them captured the flavors. All the recipes I found had ingredients I knew weren't in my favorite Santa Fe Spinach Dip. I saw recipes with onions, garlic, peppers, and Parmesan cheese, none of which are in Cheddar's recipe. By chance, I saw someone had written a comment in a recipe listing off some of the cheeses and the "secret" ingredient I was looking for . . . salsa seasoning. I experimented around with quantities of ingredients and came up with a spinach dip pretty close in taste and texture to Cheddar's Santa Fe Spinach Dip. My husband loves it and says it is even better than the real stuff. Below is my recipe and pictures I took as I was cooking to share with you all. Enjoy!
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|Prep time||Cook time||Ready in||Yields|
Makes enough to fill a pie plate sized container
- 2 (10 oz) packages Frozen Chopped Spinach
- 1 cup Heavy Whipping Cream
- 1 (8 oz) package Cream Cheese
- 2.4 oz Monterey Jack Cheese, I buy an 8 oz package as pictured and cut it into 3 equal blocks. Each is 2 inches long.
- 2.4 oz Pepper Jack Cheese, I do the same as the Monterey Jack.
- 2.4 oz White American Cheese, This comes in blocks and also slices. For blocks do as above. For slices use 4.
- 1 cup Mozzarella Cheese
- 2 tsp Alfredo Sauce
- 1/2 to 1 tsp Salsa Seasoning
- Salt/Pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup Sour Cream
- The first step is to warm your frozen chopped spinach in a pan. You can cook it frozen or thawed. Either way, it will contain a lot of moisture. You will cook it until all the moisture is cooked out.
- While your spinach is cooking, you need to start heating a pot on medium heat. This pot will be used to melt your cheeses. You don't want it to boil, so keep your heat low. If it begins to boil lower the heat.
- Pour in 1 cup of heavy whipping cream and add your 8 oz block of cream cheese. It will take several minutes for these to get up to a melting temperature.
- Once the cream cheese has melted, start adding your Monterey Jack, Pepper Jack, and White American cheeses one at a time. Keep stirring and remember to pay attention to your heat. Cheese can burn easily so if you see your mixture begin to boil pull the pot off the heat for a few seconds and lower the temperature.
- The Mozzarella will be added last. Mozzarella is what thickens the mixture and gives it a normal melted cheese stringiness so it should always be last.
- Add 2 tsps of Alfredo sauce.
- The spinach should be cooked down by this point and most of the moisture cooked out. You can add it to your cheese sauce.
- Add 1/2 cup of sour cream and mix it until combined.
- The salsa seasoning and salt/pepper should be added according to your own taste preference. I like 1 tsp of salsa seasoning and 1/4 tsp of salt and 1/4 tsp of pepper. You'll need to adjust the amount of salsa seasoning and salt more than the pepper.
- Grab some tortilla chips and enjoy!
- If you have any questions, leave them in the comments and I'll try to get back to you with answers.
Tips and Tricks
- Salsa seasoning can sometimes be hard to find at the grocery store. In most grocery stores, it can be found in the aisle where they sell Mexican food supplies like refried beans, taco shells, taco seasoning, etc. I sometimes find it at Walmart in the vegetable/fruit department which is strange but they keep it on a cart near the bananas. In some stores, I have to ask an employee to help me find it because they put it in different places depending on the store.
- You can use fresh spinach but you need to cook it first. You should sauté it in a pan with 1/4 cup of water on medium-high heat. Cover the pan, occasionally stirring the spinach until it is cooked down and the moisture has been cooked out.
- The best tortilla chips to use are the least salty brands. Tostitos Original is a popular brand but I find them too salty. Tostitos currently makes a kind called Cantina Thin and Crispy chips and they are much less salty and more like chips from a Mexican restaurant.
- If you have a Mexican restaurant around you could buy a bag of chips there for $1 and they are fresh and perfect with this recipe.
- If you have a double-boiler, it makes regulating temperature much easier. A double-boiler is better for melting the cheeses and lessens the chances of burning the mixture. You don't need a double-boiler and can use a pot on direct heat. You just need to pay attention to the heat at all times and stir more frequently.
Questions & Answers
Question: Do you have to use cream cheese?
Answer: I find the cream cheese to be pretty necessary. It helps to thicken the mixture because the heavy whipping cream makes it too thin and liquidy without it. It also adds a bit of flavor to things.
© 2014 Casey White