I enjoy cooking up tasty dishes and sharing the recipes I love most.
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 have 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 that saw someone had wrote 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
Ingredient: Salsa Seasoning
- 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.
Melting the Cheeses
Adding the Spinach to the Cheese
The Finished Spinach Dip
See me make this recipe in the video below.
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 isle 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 to 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
flourishingflavors on January 03, 2020:
I left shortly after darden bought cheddars due to low quality of the food.
Casey White (author) from Tennessee on January 02, 2020:
Sorry for the late reply Cassondria. I figured my ingredients might be different from Cheddars and I wish I could get a job there just to know what they put in their spinach dip! Sadly I don't enjoy Cheddars food as much since Darden bought them. The food like the burgers are lower in quality for higher prices sadly. For my recipe, I just went by flavors and textures of cheeses I know and tried different combinations until I got as close to Cheddars as I could get. Sometimes there are many different ways to get a similar flavor. What's nice about my recipe is it's close in flavor and it can be easily tweeked for different tastes. Sometimes I bake it in the oven to brown the top and sometimes I don't. Sometimes I leave out the salsa seasoning and add more pepper jack cheese for a different flavor.
flourishingflavors on December 02, 2019:
I used to work for this company, the amount of differences in the ingredients makes me really interested in trying it to see if i can pick up on if there is any difference in taste. i will definitely say you have more ingredients in yours than there's but they look similar.(This dip was my half off "meal" 9 times out of ten)
Casey White (author) from Tennessee on April 18, 2017:
When I worked on this recipe I was living near Sioux Falls, South Dakota. I lived there for a while. I moved a recently down south to Alabama and we have a Cheddar's here. I think they changed the name to Cheddar's Scratch Kitchen recently. I noticed that the one in my hometown changed their name to Scratch Kitchen from Cheddar's Casual Cafe.
Love2bake on April 18, 2017:
This looks good. I love their dip and can't wait to try this. Where in the Midwest do you live? I also live in the Midwest...we have Cheddar's though. Except it's called Cheddar's scratch kitchen.
Casey White (author) from Tennessee on March 11, 2017:
Hey Michelle, you can find salsa seasoning on ebay and amazon. Just search "salsa seasoning." The Old El Paso brand ingredients have "Onion, Salt, Garlic, Sweet Bell Peppers, Tomato Solids Made from Concentrate, Sugar, Spices (Including Cilantro Leaves and Cumin), Chili Peppers, Paprika, Lemon Juice Solids, Jalapeno Peppers, and Lemon Oil." You could do a search on google for "dry salsa seasoning recipes" and see if you could find one with similar ingredients. I don't think the things like lemon oil/solids, bell peppers, chili peppers you don't normally have in the spice cabinet are necessary. Maybe this one. I haven't tried it but it was one of the few I could find http://www.thesustainablecouple.com/2012/04/dry-sa...
Michelle on March 09, 2017:
Hey :) I'm wanting to make this recipe but cannot find the salsa seasoning. Not even on the Old El Paso website. Have you found anything else that works?
Kaylee on December 25, 2016:
Do you think you could stick it in a crock pot to keep it warm, or how do you keep it warm?
Casey White (author) from Tennessee on September 23, 2016:
Hi summer, sorry for the late reply. I just now saw your question. I've never tried rotel so I don't know. The salsa packet I use now has the following ingredients "Onion, Salt, Garlic, Sweet Bell Peppers, Tomato Solids Made from Concentrate, Sugar, Spices (Including Cilantro Leaves and Cumin), Chili Peppers, Paprika, Lemon Juice Solids, Jalapeno Peppers, and Lemon Oil." I'd say you could substitute with anything that has similar ingredients or if you have many of these spices just experiment until you get the flavors how you like it. I've used several different brands of salsa seasoning and they all come out with the same flavor. I think in the above ingredients the lemon juice/oil, tomato concentrate, would be ones you could leave out whereas the onion, salt, garlic, paprika, peppers, all would be important.
Summer on June 29, 2016:
Is there anything to substitute the salsa packet for? Like rotel?
Casey White (author) from Tennessee on January 26, 2016:
Hi Krystal. I'm happy you're going to try my recipe. The mozzarella is really sticky and stingy when it melts. It's what makes everything thick. I like to add it as the very last cheese, before adding spices, because it makes things stick together more. Honestly after the beginning after you've melted the cream cheese and whipping cream together you can put the ingredients in in any order. You are just melting and combining so there is no way to screw things up if you don't put things in like I listed. Good luck and if you have anymore questions just ask.
Krystal on January 24, 2016:
When you say add mozzarella cheese last, do you mean at the very end of the recipe or just last of the cheeses? I just purchased the ingredients for this recipe. Can't wait to try it tonight!
Casey White (author) from Tennessee on January 12, 2016:
rebeccamealey Glad you liked it. I like to be detailed to help fellow cooks out as much as possible. It's a really tasty dish but sometimes the seasonings are hard to find.
Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on January 12, 2016:
Sounds great, and thanks for the tips on how to find the ingredients, etc. So many times I go to try a new recipe, only to find that I can't find one of the ingredients.
Candy Howard on January 11, 2016:
Me and my son Ryan made this dip and it was delicious, and I think it tastes just like Cheddars thanks for the recipe
Becky on December 19, 2015:
I thought cheddars was baked !???
Casey White (author) from Tennessee on February 19, 2015:
David, I tried different cheeses like Parmesan but I didn't like the taste. It is an overpowering cheese and didn't taste like Cheddars to me. The Pepper Jack I found gives it flavor that is similar. Because Pepper Jack has spices in it, it is the one cheese that gives the sauce flavor. If you notice in Cheddars spinach dip, sometimes it has a bit of heat/spice to it. At my Cheddar sometimes it has no heat to it at all but sometimes they make it so that my tongue burns a bit from the spices. Pepper Jack has the spices in it to try to replicate that taste/feeling. That's why I use so little of it just to give it flavor with no spicy feeling. The Monterey Jack doesn't have a lot of flavor to it but it does help thicken the consistency of the cheese sauce.
David on February 19, 2015:
Cheddar's recipe does not call for pepper jack or Monterey jack. There are 4 cheeses, which is Mozzarella, cream cheese, white American, and Parmesan.
Casey White (author) from Tennessee on February 04, 2015:
Courtney Good luck making it. I hope you enjoy it!
Courtney on February 03, 2015:
I am so excited to find this. My boyfriend and I do the same as you and your husband, 2 orders of spinach dip for dinner..... I can't wait to try this!
Casey White (author) from Tennessee on January 12, 2015:
angelaterese12 Thanks for checking it out. I hope you enjoy it if you get to try it. It's a great appetizer and very tasty.
Casey White (author) from Tennessee on January 12, 2015:
Sophia, no. You should only put one block in. If you cut a block into 3 equal pieces then one piece will be exactly the size (2.4 oz) you need for the spinach dip. Most people don't own a scale so that is an easy way to know how much to cut. I usually freeze the other two pieces of each block for future batches of spinach dip because I don't eat a lot of pepper jack or monterey outside of this recipe. Hope this helped.
Sophia on January 12, 2015:
When you cut the blocks of cheese into 3 pieces are you supposed to add all three pieces of each block?
Angela Mobley from Bowling Green, KY on January 11, 2015:
I have bookmarked this recipe! It sounds divine!
Casey White (author) from Tennessee on January 10, 2015:
redrooffarm Thanks for catching the mistake. It's fixed now. The funny thing is the alfredo sauce is also the one thing I always forget to buy at the store too. lol
redrooffarm on January 10, 2015:
Your ingredients list is missing the alfredo sauce.
Casey White (author) from Tennessee on December 20, 2014:
Laurie, I hope that you enjoy it. My husband really loves this recipe for big sporting event days like the Super Bowl. It's a good snack and warms up nice for leftovers.
Laurie on December 20, 2014:
I've been following a low FODMAP diet and this looks like something I can have, minus the salsa. I will try it tonight. My husband and I enjoy queso and chips while watching The Dead Files on the travel station. Thank you
Casey White (author) from Tennessee on October 26, 2014:
Venkatachari M. It is delicious tasting. I never counted calories in it but I'm sure it isn't too bad calorie wise since it is mostly cheese and spinach and spices. The restaurant called Cheddars we have is a chain only in the southern U.S. It serves American foods like burgers, ribs, and some sea foods. I made this recipe to be as similar to the spinach dip they serve as I could get. If you try my recipe I hope you enjoy it!
Venkatachari M from Hyderabad, India on October 26, 2014:
I hope it is a very healthy, delicious, calorie food with all cheese and spinach. We, here in India, prepare lot of dishes with spinach- spinach curries mixed with other vegetables, spinach-curd chutneys, spinach fry pakodas and many more. Cheddars is also an Indian chain Restaurant.
I would like to prepare your recipe also and enjoy with my family. Thanks for sharing it.