Thursday, November 8, 2018

Hot Caprese Dip with Mozzarella, Parmesan & Cream Cheese

Love Caprese salad? Then you've got to try this hot & melty cheese dip with juicy grape tomatoes, fresh whole milk mozzarella, fragrant sliced basil, sweet & tangy balsamic vinegar, shredded Parmesan, and cream cheese. Serve this at your next party for a quick & easy appetizer that will disappear in minutes. {gluten-free, grain-free, vegetarian & low carb}

Hot Caprese Dip with Mozzarella, Parmesan & Cream Cheese

I'm having serious regrets about not buying double the ingredients for this recipe. I could be snacking on melty cheese dip right now. Writing & editing takes a lot of brainpower and I tend to shovel all the snacks into my face to keep the words + mental focus flowing.

Alas, the beau & I stood over the hot skillet last night and ate all of this Caprese dip in one go. Best lazy/easy dinner ever--especially paired with a chilled glass of sauvignon blanc or white wine spritzer.

And it really is easy since the prep is super quick and there are only a handful of simple ingredients. No standing over the stove to stir the cheese (like with my homemade queso dip) or sautéing aromatics (like with my spinach & artichoke dip).

This Caprese dip is actually adapted from my spin dip recipe (linked above) since I wanted to create a dip base with a blend of creamy cheeses & dairy products instead of all fresh mozzarella (that would just turn into a big, delicious blob in minutes).

Local Texas Grape Tomatoes for Hot Caprese Cheese Dip

I was actually inspired to make this recipe when I was walking through my neighborhood Walmart looking at the produce available that's sourced from right here in my home state. Since I live in Texas where it's disgustingly hot at least three seasons out of the year (what is this thing you call fall & spring?), I can often find tomatoes grown in our state.

And seeing juicy tomatoes typically makes me crave one of three things: creamy tomato basil soup, grilled cheese sandwiches with thick slices of heirloom tomato, or Caprese salad. Hence today's much warmer take on the traditional mozzarella-basil-tomato salad recipe.

My favorite varieties to use in the colder months are grape and cherry tomatoes since they have a sweet, concentrated flavor that, well, tastes how tomatoes should. Unlike Roma & beefeaters, which look pretty and travel well but taste meh.

Ingredients For Hot Caprese Cheese Dip with Tomatoes, Basil, Balsamic Glaze, Mozzarella, Cream Cheese & Parmesan

I love that Walmart is featuring more locally-sourced produce in its stores. Most of my out-of-state family shops at Walmart supercenters, so this will make it easier for them to stock up on local, in-season food without having to drive a long way. The same goes for me when I'm visiting my relatives in Kansas or Colorado and need to grab groceries for family meals.

Local produce is fresher and hasn't traveled as far (which equates to a better taste) and also supports the nearby community. Whether that's a weekend farmers market or your town's grocery store, buying local is voting with your dollar and sends the message to provide more.

Easy Hot Caprese Cheese Dip in a Cast-Iron Skillet

Of course, produce varies by location & time of year (ex: apples in Washington, avocados in California, oranges in Florida) so you may not find grape tomatoes for this recipe grown in your state. However, I encourage you to visit your local store and see what they have in stock from your state.

Tip: when you're tight on time, use Walmart's grocery pickup service to order fresh produce from your smartphone, computer or tablet with a same-day pickup. If you're not completely satisfied with the produce (ex: your parsley is wilted, or your celery isn't crisp enough), you can bring it back for a full refund, no questions asked.

Pretty cool, right? That means more folks eating fruits, veggies & herbs, which makes me happy.

Easy Party Appetizer: Hot Caprese Dip with Tomato, Basil, Mozzarella, Parmesan & Cream Cheese

Back to this heavenly, so good you'll want to horde it all yourself cheese dip. Let me answer some questions you may have before you jump face-first into the recipe. ;)

Notes, Tips & Questions About Hot Caprese Cheese Dip

There's Liquid in the Skillet! Did I Mess Something Up?

Nope! This recipe calls for fresh mozzarella & tomatoes, both of which give off quite a bit of liquid. This extra liquid doesn't impact the flavor at all, but if you're worried about presentation, you can lean the skillet over the sink and dump most of it out. Stirring everything well helps to homogenize the dip, but you might not want to do that when you first serve it.

Can I Use Regular Balsamic Vinegar? Or Only Balsamic Glaze?

You can certainly use regular balsamic vinegar, it just won't have as concentrated a flavor (sweetness in particular) and thick texture (good for drizzling) as a balsamic glaze. However, you can easily make balsamic glaze at home with only ONE ingredient: balsamic vinegar. All you need to do it pour it into a small saucepan, bring it to a simmer and reduce it by half so it's thick & syrupy.

The other alternative is to buy a thicker balsamic vinegar that's like a glaze. When you're at the store in the section with the vinegar, pick up the balsamic vinegar bottles and tip them on their side. Pick one where the liquid moves slowly instead of instantly. Just make sure it doesn't have any added ingredients to fake the extra sweetness.

Hot Caprese Cheese Dip with Mozzarella, Parmesan & Cream Cheese (Perfect For Party Appetizer)

Can I Use Pesto Instead of Fresh Basil for Hot Caprese Dip?

Of course! This is a good option if you don't have access to good-quality fresh basil. I would use 3 tablespoons of jarred pesto in the Caprese dip mixture and then save another tablespoon to drizzle on top once the dip has baked. You can also use a kale pesto (or another leafy green pesto) if you don't have access to fresh basil.

Can I Make Caprese Dip in a Crock-Pot?

Yes, but since this isn't a huge recipe, you'll want to fix it in a smaller 1.5-quart slow cooker. Heat it on low until everything is melty & bubbly (not high, you risk burning the cheese), then keep on the warm setting or transfer a warm cast-iron skillet or ceramic bowl to serve.

How Do You Keep a Hot Dip with Fresh Mozzarella Warm & Melty?

Fresh mozzarella cools pretty quickly, which is a major reason why I used three different kinds of cheese in this recipe instead of mozzarella by itself. This dip tastes best when it's eaten immediately while it's still hot & melty, but if you have a spread of appetizers at a party (like a charcuterie board or seasoned nuts), that might not happen right away.

In that case, you can either pop the skillet back into the oven for 5-15 minutes until the mozzarella cheese is melted again or transfer the dip to a 1.5-quart slow cooker set to "warm".

Hot Caprese Cheese Dip with Mozzarella, Parmesan & Cream Cheese (Perfect For Party Appetizer)

Can I Substitute Other Cheeses in This Dip Recipe?

Sure, but if you pick cheeses with strong flavors, it may overpower the basil, tomato & balsamic combo or potentially clash with them. So, if you don't like Parmesan, for example, another option that's mild would be fontina, gouda, brie (with the rind removed), or Harvati.

What to Serve with Hot Caprese Dip

Although it's addicting straight from the spoon, this dip works best with a crunchy dipping vessel to contrast the warm, soft, melty cheese + juicy tomatoes. Here are a few dipping ideas to serve alongside it:
  • toasted baguette slices (rub with a garlic clove while still hot for extra goodness)
  • crackers (for the low carb, paleo & gluten-free folks, use almond flour crackers)
  • potato or veggie chips (look for thick ones that can hold up to stringy mozzarella)
  • sliced apples or pears
  • chopped veggies (bell pepper, carrots, celery, etc.)

hot caprese cheese dip, hot dips, mozzarella dip, hot appetizer recipe, baked cheese dip
Yield: 6-8

Hot Caprese Dip with Mozzarella, Parmesan & Cream Cheese

prep time: 10 minscook time: 30 minstotal time: 40 mins
Love Caprese salad? Then you've got to try this hot & melty cheese dip with juicy grape tomatoes, fresh whole milk mozzarella, fragrant sliced basil, sweet & tangy balsamic vinegar, shredded Parmesan, and cream cheese. Serve this at your next party for a quick & easy appetizer that will disappear in minutes. {gluten-free, grain-free, vegetarian & low carb}


  • 1 dry pint (10 oz) of grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 4 oz  (1/2 a package) of full-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup of shredded parmesan cheese
  • 8 oz of fresh mozzarella, liquid drained & cubed
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled & minced
  • 4 tablespoons of thinly sliced fresh basil (one .5 oz package)
  • 2 tablespoons of balsamic glaze or a thicker & syrupy balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper + more, to taste
  • 1/2 a teaspoon of sea salt


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine the softened cream cheese, half the mozzarella, half the parmesan cheese, minced garlic, 3 tablespoons of fresh basil, 1 tablespoon of balsamic glaze or vinegar, the black pepper and sea salt. Stir well so everything is incorporated.
  2. Spoon the cheese mixture into the bottom of an 8-inch cast-iron skillet or another oven-safe dish. Top the mixture with the remaining cubed mozzarella, shredded parmesan, balsamic glaze, fresh basil, and tomato halves. Salt & pepper the top, if desired. 
  3. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the dip is bubbling and the mozzarella cheese is mostly melted. As soon as it's out of the oven, top with additional fresh basil and a drizzle of balsamic glaze, then serve immediately while still very hot with crackers or toasted baguette slices on the side.


The fresh mozzarella & tomatoes have high levels of moisture so there will be some excess liquid in the skillet when you pull it out of the oven. If desired, you can pour most of the liquid out immediately. However, once you stir everything well and the dip sits for a few minutes, it will thicken up slightly. FYI: The liquid does not impact the taste, only the presentation. You may be able to avoid the liquid by using low-moisture mozzarella cheese and oven-roasted tomatoes instead.

Store any leftovers covered tightly in the fridge and reheat in an oven-safe container at 350 degrees until warm & bubbling again.
Created using The Recipes Generator
Note: This post is sponsored by Walmart. In return for my time and creative effort, I'm being compensated financially. Thank you for supporting brands I partner with so I can keep creating great content here on The Rising Spoon. As always, the opinions expressed here are 100% my own.

Did You Make This Recipe?

I'd love to hear your thoughts on how it went! Please leave a comment here on the blog, on Pinterest via the "tried it" feature, or use the hashtag #therisingspoon & tag @therisingspoon when you share pics to Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. It helps me to get feedback on my creations and it totally makes my day. :)

Click Here to Save This to Your Appetizer Recipes Board on Pinterest!
Love Caprese salad? Then you've got to try this hot & melty cheese dip with juicy grape tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, sliced basil, sweet & tangy balsamic vinegar, shredded Parmesan, and cream cheese. Serve this at your next party for a quick & easy appetizer that will disappear in minutes. {gluten-free, grain-free, vegetarian & low carb}

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This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Walmart. The opinions and text are all mine.

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