Last week I had a bunch of kale leftover from Christmas that needed using, and I realized I had everything on hand to make an old favorite, my vegan caramelized onion and kale dip. It’s always satisfying to improve and streamline a recipe. This warm, cheesy, deep and complex flavored dip is now made with NO cashews or other nuts and NO blender needed, in fact the entire thing can be made in one pot if you use a cast iron skillet! As before, it’s also gluten-free and packed with nutritious kale.
This warm caramelized onion & kale dip is modeled after my classic vegan spinach artichoke dip, but with more complex and umami flavor. I love foods that teeter right on the edge of being bitter. Thanks to the kale, this dip hits that sweet spot. It’s nice with tortilla chips, crackers, or spread on little pieces of toasted bread. The leftovers even make a nice sandwich spread!
Other leafy greens may work in this, too (but a kale dip is the most trendy, right?). Another bonus here is that you can taste it before it goes in the oven, and adjust the flavors as needed. Vegan food is awesome like that 🙂
This recipe used to have cashews in it and require blending, but I didn’t have raw cashews on hand. I’m trying to stick to buying them when needed for specific recipes, since they don’t tend to stay fresh as long as I would prefer. So, I referred back to my sweet potato hotdish, where I made a cheesy sauce by roasting my dry ingredients directly in the skillet and then adding non-dairy milk and white wine.
In the case of this creamy kale and caramelized onion dip, I highly recommend plain soy milk since it is made with very simple ingredients and has a neutral flavor, as well as being packed with protein (9 grams per serving in this dip!). This recipe also uses some of the other same ingredients as the hotdish, which I’m trying to do a little bit more of in general since I know people don’t all want to stock their pantry to the insane degree that I do.
Caramelized onions take patience and time. If you try to take a shortcut, you’ll end up with a sharp and bitter flavor, instead of sweet. They need to be cooked low and slow! Crack open some wine and savor your time in the kitchen while making this delicious vegan caramelized onion and kale dip!
Warm Vegan Caramelized Onion and Kale Dip
A warm vegan caramelized onion and kale dip served hot from the oven. Dairy-free recipe that's like a more sophisticated spinach artichoke dip but is also nutritious and high in protein! Updated in 2018 with MORE kale, NO blender, and MORE flavor! The entire recipe can be made in one dish if you use a cast iron skillet.
For the caramelized onions:
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 3 medium yellow or white onions thinly sliced
For the warm caramelized onion and kale dip:
- 5-6 cups thinly sliced kale loosely packed, de-stemmed before measuring
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 2 tbsp tapioca starch (see notes for info and substitutions)
- 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1/2 tbsp mustard powder
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp dried oregano
- 1 cup plain, unsweetened non-dairy milk
- 3 tbsp dry white wine (optional)
- 1 tbsp white or yellow miso
To prepare the caramelized onions:
If you have a medium-sized (under 7 inches) cast iron skillet, heat it up. Otherwise, grab a regular skillet. Warm the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the sliced onions with a pinch of salt, and stir.
Reduce the heat to medium-low. Let the onions cook, stirring only every few minutes, until completely softened, about 15 minutes. Continue cooking and stirring infrequently until onions have turned golden brown and take on a sweet taste, another 15-25 minutes, depending on the exact size and temperature of your pan and onions. I normally do all of the rest of the prep for this recipe while the onions caramelize.
To prepare the warm caramelized onion and kale dip:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. If not using a cast iron skillet to cook and bake in, prepare a lightly greased, small baking dish or ramekin.
Increase the heat to medium. Add your shredded kale to the pan and stir well. Continue to cook and stir it until it wilts, turns bright green, and reduces significantly in size, about 4-5 minutes. Add the remaining 1 tbsp of olive oil and the minced garlic, and cook for 30 seconds or until fragrant.
Add the dry ingredients (tapioca starch through dried oregano) and stir well, until they coat the onions and kale and start to smell a little nutty. Immediately add the non-dairy milk, the white wine if using, and the miso. Stir frequently, until the mixture starts to thicken, bubble, and look a little bit stretchy. Continue stirring until smooth, then remove from the heat.
If not using cast iron, transfer the mixture to the prepared dish, and bake for 15 minutes to get hot throughout.
Turn on the broiler to high if you have one, and cook for 3 more minutes. Alternately, cook at the same temperature for 6-7 more minutes - until the mixture starts to brown on top. Remove from the oven and serve hot with crackers, chips, etc.
Leftovers keep well in the fridge and can be eaten warm or cold. I enjoyed mine spread on a bagel!
TAPIOCA STARCH: Found in the natural section of regular grocers, or at natural food stores like Whole Foods - or find an Amazon link in the ingredients list for this recipe. Brands include Bob's Red Mill. There is no alternative that makes the dip equally "gooey", but you can use arrowroot starch or potato starch in a pinch.
KALE SLICING TECHNIQUE: Thoroughly wash the kale and slice into very thin strips. I do this by rolling up the leaves together and slicing with a very sharp knife, like chiffonading basil. I then rotate my knife 90 degrees and cut all of the strips in half so that the end result is thin strips about 1 inch in length (you don't want them too long, or it will make dipping difficult).
SOY-FREE: Use chickpea- or rice-based miso, or omit the miso. Use another mild-tasting plain dairy-free milk (such as cashew milk) instead of soy milk, or simply use water.
(Originally published July 2014, updated in December 2018. An older version of this recipe used cashews and cauliflower but it has been improved and streamlined!)