this baked cream cheese dip with glazed pecans has been my go-to party appetizer for years. i think the first time i ever made it was for my apartment housewarming party for my first apartment back in the fall of 2007.
i was so proud of that apartment, having spent weeks working with helpers (thanks helpers!) to paint nearly every square inch of the place (the floor was the only thing that escaped my roller!). i held a little holiday/housewarming party around this time of year almost 10 years ago to show the place off to my friends and coworkers who had been listening to me talk about my new place for weeks. i think this baked cream cheese dip garnered more praise than my freshly painted walls (and it took 0.0127% of the time to complete as the painting did!).
since that housewarming, this dip has accompanied me to new year’s parties, birthday parties, championship game watching parties, and brainstorming sessions. and it’s always welcome. it’s definitely decadent but when it’s sharing table space with raw vegetables, hummus, etc., it all balances out.
and the best part (well, besides the contrast between the gooey cheese and the spiced nuts) is that it’s super make-ahead/freezer/travel friendly. i put details in the notes below the recipe but basically, i have put this dip through every temperature extreme there is and it always ends up delicious. which is super helpful if you’re planning to serve 47 dishes on thursday… just sayin’.
- 3 tablespoons (42 g.) unsalted butter
- 2 packed tablespoons brown sugar (light and dark both work)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- slightly heaped ¼ teaspoon plus a pinch cayenne pepper
- 165 g. (1 ½ cups / 5 7/8 oz.) roughly chopped raw pecans
- 454 g. (16 oz.) neufchâtel cream cheese at room temperature, see notes
- 227 g. (2 cups / 8 oz.) extra sharp white cheddar cheese, coarsely grated
- ¼ cup (60 ml) heavy cream
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced
- sliced baguette, sliced apples, and/or crackers, to serve
- preheat the oven to 350° F. in a medium size, microwave safe bowl, melt the butter. stir the brown sugar, salt, and slightly heaped ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper into the butter. add the pecans and stir until the nuts are coated. spread the nuts out in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for about 5 minutes, until the sugar is melted and the whole thing smells delicious. remove from the oven and use a plastic spatula to stir the nuts and sugar around so that the sugar doesn’t glue the nuts to the baking sheet as it cools. let cool completely.
- in a food processor fitted with the metal blade attachment, combine the cream cheese, cheddar cheese, and heavy cream. process until smooth and combined. transfer the cream cheese mixture to a casserole dish with a 7 – 8” (18 – 20 cm) diameter. stir in the scallions then wipe around the inside edge of the dish if it got smeared with cream cheese (so that it doesn’t burn and look ugly when you serve the dip).
- spread the pecans across the top and then bake for 20 – 25 minutes, until the dip is heated through. serve hot with sliced baguette, apples, and/or crackers.
neufchâtel cream cheese is just the fancy name for cream cheese with 1/3 less fat. you can use full fat cream cheese if you’d rather but i’d be wary of using fat free cream cheese here. whatever you decide to use, make sure it’s at room temperature; your food processor motor will thank you.
1 ½ cups of pecans produces a very generous layer of topping, assuming you use a casserole dish with a diameter of 7 – 8” (18 – 20 cm). if you’d prefer, you can scale the pecan topping ingredients down by 1/3. alternatively, you can put the dip in a larger, shallower dish but i really like the gooey center that results from keeping the dip in a smaller, deeper dish.
this dip is a make-ahead dream AND it freezes/reheats well. i have put this dip through all sorts of temperature torture tests and it always turns out deliciously. you can bake it in advance, then freeze it, thaw it, and reheat it in the microwave most of the way to get the center hot, then finish it off quickly in the oven to get the nuts a little bit crispy again. you could also assemble the dip then freeze it without baking it, thaw it, then bake it.
the only thing i wouldn’t do is take it straight from the freezer to the oven, UNLESS you a) preheat the oven with the frozen dish in the oven (so that the dish doesn’t explode from a sudden change in temperature) AND b) have a piece of foil ready to cover the top loosely once the top is golden brown, if the center is not hot yet. if you bake it from frozen, you will need to bake it for longer than 20 minutes (but this is one method i haven’t tested yet so if you do, let us know in the comments!).
adapted from warm cheese and glazed pecan dip, which appeared in martha stewart living in august 2006.
please note this page contains affiliate links, which means that if you make a purchase after clicking from here, i will earn a small commission from amazon at no additional charge to you. i only link to products that i use and love. thank you for supporting tasty seasons!