How to Make Alaskan Kenai Cheese Dip
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Alaska is a lot of things: colorful, wild, and delicious. Wait… delicious? Yes, you read that right! Over the past few months, I’ve been sharing Alaskan recipes to help you bring the flavors of Alaska into your home. Today I’m back with a super easy and distinctly Alaskan recipe: Kenai Cheese Dip. This is coveted among Alaskan locals but those living in the Lower 48 will enjoy it too!
What I love most about this recipe is that it’s so dead simple to make. I grew up in Alaska with a mom who could cook anything – from handmade breakfast pastries to delicious main courses and desserts. On the other hand, I can’t really cook at all. I love recipes like this that remind me of Home but don’t require skills in the kitchen that I just don’t have!
Alaskan Kenai Cheese Dip is a perfect appetizer if you’re planning a meal from destinations you love (or are still dreaming of visiting); it’s also easy enough to make for picnics and other get-togethers when those are happening more often! Read on for my Kenai Cheese Dip recipe that literally anyone can make.
What makes it “Kenai” Cheese Dip?
You might be wondering: what about a cheese dip with jalapeños is exactly Alaskan???
To be fair, there are not a lot of local cheesemakers in Alaska – but you might be surprised to learn that peppers like jalapeño actually grow well in Alaska’s short growing season! (Kinda like zucchini and rhubarb.)
The original recipe for Kenai Cheese Dip has been traced to Echo Lake Meats in Kenai, Alaska. They call it “Jalapeño Cheese Spread with Liquid Smoke Added” if you stop in on your own Alaska trip to buy the original recipe.
Kenai Cheese Dip quickly took Alaska by storm, popping up in the deli sections of Fred Meyer and Carr’s grocery stores. But those of us in the Lower 48 might not have heard of this delicious, easy dip if not for Maya Wilson’s Alaska From Scratch Cookbook.
My recipe for Kenai Cheese Dip is adapted from several recipes I found online, including Wilson’s.
Jalapeños, Green Chiles & Liquid Smoke
The original Kenai Cheese Dip recipe from Echo Lake Meats obviously uses jalapeños based on the name (“Jalapeño Cheese Spread with Liquid Smoke Added”); most recipes you’ll find online use green chiles instead. Also, some recipes recommend adding liquid smoke whereas others don’t mention it at all. What’s with all the differences in each recipe?
Jalapeños are generally hotter than green chiles; they’re perfect if you’re looking for a spicy dip! Since fresh jalapeños are best for this recipe, you’ll want to use the liquid smoke with them to get the right combination of flavors.
You can use either fresh green chiles (if you can find them) or roasted green chiles. If you go for roasted green chiles, you might want to reduce or eliminate the liquid smoke from the recipe since they bring their own smoky flavor.
So here are the takeaways:
- If you use jalapeños because you love the extra heat, also add liquid smoke.
- Using fresh green chiles to keep the heat down, add liquid smoke too.
- If you go with roasted green chiles, you can try liquid smoke but it’s not necessary.
How to Make Kenai Cheese Dip
Of the Alaskan recipes I’ve shared before, making Kenai Cheese Dip is by far the easiest. There’s no cooking at all (unless you choose to microwave the mixture to make it meltier). Forget “Netflix and chill,” all you need to do is mix and chill.
Start by adding the mayonnaise to your bowl, and adding the cheese on top.
Next, add your peppers, onion and garlic powder, (optional) liquid smoke, and cayenne. Some recipes top with cayenne to give the dip a pop of color, but I like having the flavor mixed in.
Again, refer to the above section when it comes to choosing peppers and how much liquid smoke to add.
Then it’s just a matter of mixing the ingredients together! You can choose to microwave for 15-30 seconds to help make a creamier dip but this isn’t required.
After you’ve mixed all the ingredients, cover and refrigerate the dip for 40 minutes before serving.
In terms of what to serve Kenai Cheese Dip with, I’m addicted to Juanita’s tortilla chips. They make their chips with lard instead of other oils, giving them a great fatty flavor and texture. Don’t be surprised if you eat all the dip and chips though – this is a deliciously deadly combo!
My Kenai Cheese Dip Recipe
Now that we’ve run through the considerations and the basics, it’s time to make your own Kenai Cheese dip at home! Here’s my recipe; don’t be surprised if you end up sharing it with others who enjoy it too!
Kenai Cheese Dip
- 2 C Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese
- ¾ C Mayonnaise
- ½ C Diced Green Chiles or Jalapeños
- 1 Tsp Onion Powder
- 1 Tsp Garlic Powder
- ⅛ Tsp Liquid Smoke (Optional)
- 1 Pinch Cayenne Pepper
- 1 Bag Juanitas Chips
- In a bowl, combine all the ingredients together.
- (Optional) Microwave for 15 seconds to melt the mixture.
- Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 40 minutes before serving.
Even though it’s an easy recipe, do you have any questions about this Alaskan Kenai Cheese Dip recipe? Let me know in the comments!
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Yum! This sounds tasty and I am all for easy. Also, I still have YET to get to Alaska so maybe I should plan a themed dinner with cocktail soon. I actually just heard about a couple of Alaskan speciality cocktails on a podcast. I will find the recipes and send along.
I forwarded this to Grant, he loves Kenai dip. Also, you’re a Juanita’s lover too? I swear those are the best store-bought tortilla chips out there!! Although, Taco Loco’s tortilla chips are a close second for me.
Thanks for forwarding on! It’s because Juanitas are made with lard… mmmm, delicious animal fat.
For the luquid smoke, do you use Hickory or Mesquite flavor?
Personally, I love Mesquite, but it doesn’t matter for the recipe – you can choose whichever you like. (The official product just says “liquid smoke and does not specify.)
Oh, this is exactly like it. Lived in Kenai for ten years and was a frequent customer At Echo Lake in the 80’s. Thank you.
This is the best feedback I can get. Thanks so much for verifying I got it right, David!!
Was just at Carrs. Grabbed some Kenai dip and Jaunita’s chips, but when I got home I discovered that the Kenai dip was left behind. It hadn’t made it onto the receipt and I didn’t want to go back so googled for the recipe—and here you are! Love that you love Jaunita’s–they are the only kind I buy. You’re a soul sister!!!
So glad to help – and great to connect with a fellow Juanitas fan 😊
If you ever went to La Mex…Juanita’s chips are the closest to what they used to serve. I swear by them…they are the best supermarket chips available.
The only thing I might add is cilantro.
Thanks for chiming in! I don’t add cilantro since some people taste soap when they eat it!