Healthy-ish dips to take to summer parties

Julia Child was once quoted as saying, "A party without cake is just a meeting." She's absolutely correct (obviously), and I like to think she would agree that a party without dip would be equally as boring. Dips, spreads, and appetizers, are just as important (and appreciated) at a party as the main course.

 As you prepare to party with friends and family in the backyard or around the pool this summer, try one of these healthy-ish dip ideas and dive into a flavor-filled crowd pleaser. You're guaranteed to be the life of the party.

Onion dip

Ah, onion dip. The dip that goes with everything from rippled potato chips to stalks of celery. You're probably thinking of the classic pairing of dried soup mix and sour cream, and while that is delicious in a pinch, there's nothing quite like the taste of fresh, homemade dip. To achieve the mellow flavor, caramelizing the onions is the secret to The Dinner Mom's dip. It does take a bit of time, but the results are worth it. Greek yogurt and low-fat cream cheese help keep the damage low, but the flavor high.

If you're looking for a bolder, herbaceous onion flavor in your dip, the cucumber, shrimp and scallion dip from Who Needs a Cape is an easy solution. It's a bit heartier, but won't weigh you down and the bite of scallion is key to a stand-out dip.

Greek dips

Taking a break from the same-old dips is one of the best ways to liven up a party. The seven-layer Greek dip from Our Best Bites is a good example of changing it up. Most seven-layer dips are Tex-Mex or Mexican, but this dip combines all the Greek flavors you're craving: feta, olives, hummus, and great olive oil.

Tzatziki may not be a dip you're familiar with, but once you taste it, it's hard to forget. Designed to be served cold, makes it ideal for a summertime party. The tzatziki recipe from The Wanderlust Kitchen originated from the author's participation in a cooking class in Athens, so it's sure to be a hit. Cool cucumber, yogurt, garlic and dill combine for a creamy dip ready to be paired with warm pita slices or an assortment of veggies.

Cowboy caviar

Cowboys and caviar aren't two words that are used together much outside of of Texas, where the dish is also known as Texas caviar. And no, there's no actual caviar in this recipe either. So, what is it? Delicious. Cowboy caviar is essentially a marinated black-eyed pea salad created by a food consultant at Neiman Marcus back in the 1950s. Today there are jazzier variations and additions to elevate the humble black-eyed pea including a recipe from The Food Network. Best served with tortilla chips, it will become your new BBQ staple.

Taco dip

It can be hard to admit but, sometimes, nothing pleases the palate more than good ol' taco dip. The combination of flavors all meld together creating a different taste with every bite. Afraid all that dip is going to wreak havoc on the hard work you put into your beach body? Have no fear! Skinny taco dip from Yellow Bliss Road will keep you satisfied and your guilt low. Indulge away, you've earned it.

Beyond guacamole

Guacamole is a staple dip for any party, no matter the season. But let's be real. Sometimes it can get a tad boring. The avocado has so much potential, so why not turn it into one of these other flavorful dips. Avocado feta crack dip from Gather for Bread just may be your new addiction. Chunked avocado, tomatoes and feta pieces are tossed with some olive oil and vinegar for a Mediterranean-inspired dip.

If you'd prefer a dip without dairy, choose smashed chickpea avocado dip from Forks Over Knives. Creamy, spicy, and accented with veggies, this pita-topper is also vegan.

If you're dead-set on making guacamole though, make sure it's the best you can make. Queen Bee's Kitchen claims theirs is the "world's best." Try it for yourself and see if you agree.

Spinach dip

Over the years, many hollowed-out pumpernickel loaves have been graced with decadently delicious spinach dip. But for a summertime get-together, something a bit more refined should be on the menu. The avocado spinach artichoke dip from Two Peas and Their Pod can thank avocado instead of heavy sour cream, mayo or cheese, for its creamy texture making it ideal for a warm, sunny afternoon. And the classic pairing of spinach and artichoke will have even the finickiest eater dunking for seconds.

But sometimes, the classics are still the best. For a slimmed-down version of classic spinach dip, check out this eHow recipe from Ashley Manila. By swapping in Greek yogurt, the dip packs  tang as well as a protein punch.

Buffalo dip

Buffalo wings are a great party food, but aren't the best choice for a summertime gathering. Thankfully, Buffalo dips are an ideal alternative to the classic snack staple. The first recipe, from Recipe Runner is "skinny" but certainly doesn't lack any flavor. Simple swaps make for a guilt-free indulgence just right for a the hard-partying crowd.  

No problem if meat isn't your "thing" or you have guests that are vegetarian. Mother Thyme's Buffalo cauliflower dip is just as delicious and, you guessed it, swaps cauliflower for the chicken.

Whichever Buffalo dip you decide, carrots and celery sticks are a must.

Hummus

Hummus is a classic party spread, but until recently I hadn't even thought about making my own. My excuses were probably the same as yours. Too many ingredients. And why make it, when some nice people have already made it in several varieties?

But then I did some research and it really isn't hard at all. Vegan Family Recipes has two super simple recipes that are a must try, lime cilantro hummus and cucumber hummus. If you can't decide, make both! They're going to be devoured, trust me.

If you really want to wow your party guests, try the creamy beet hummus with yogurt from Fox and Briar. The beets replace the chickpeas, making this bold dip the center of the party.

Bean dip

Bean dip? Really? Yes, trust me. It's creamy, savory and perfect with pita, snap peas or a spoon (I won't tell!). While white bean dip, like this one from Chew Out Loud is similar to hummus, it has a unique flavor all its own. You probably have all the ingredients in your pantry right now, if you want to go ahead and whip up a batch. Just a thought.

Just like chickpeas and white beans, black beans are a wonderful base for a dip. The key to the smoky black bean dip featured on Oprah.com is the chipotle peppers. They lend a smoky flavor, hence the name, that combines beautifully with the beans and creates a one-of-a-kind taste explosion.

Sweet and sassy salsas

Salsa is ideal with everything from chips, to chicken and even fish. But sometimes the thought of another tomato-based salsa can be mundane. Surprise and delight everyone with these made-for-summer salsas that combine fruit and spice for the ultimate dunk.

Strawberry jalapeno salsa from The View from Great Island is exactly what it sounds like. Toss in some red onion, cilantro, and lime and you're guaranteed to be the hit of the party.

The Reluctant Entertainer shouldn't be reluctant with sharing their recipe for watermelon salsa. There's so much flavor going on, but it quickly comes together and you're all but guaranteed to win any "Best Dish" prize when you serve up this delightful salsa.

Fresh and easy are two keywords to look for when creating a summertime dip. Isabel Eats guarantees both, with her recipe for fresh and easy pineapple salsa. Six ingredients. Fifteen minutes. Mouths happy.