Taste-Off: The best taco-inspired dips at Bay Area supermarkets

A mouthful of taco goodness is difficult to resist, especially when it’s topped with cheese, sour cream, refried beans, pico de gallo, and guacamole. It’s a flavor explosion that’s both satisfying and semi-nutritious. As a result, taco dip has become a popular party food, delivering everything taco in a single bite.

Of course, recipes for taco-inspired dips abound, but for those looking for a quick fix, many markets sell pre-made versions. Some have neat layers of ingredients, while others blend them together.

Layered-style dips are more difficult to find, presumably because the fresh vegetables give the dip a short shelf life. Taco-flavored, blended dips — tasty vats with taco flavors but no fresh ingredients — are slightly more stable. We made the decision to try them all.

Taco dips with fresh flavors are just as good as a vegetarian street taco. They’re rich and flavorful, with a hint of spice. Poor taco dips are either drowned in vinegar or deliver pasty bites that taste like spiced-up wallpaper paste.

Here’s the lowdown on the most memorable, must-repeat taco bites — and the ones to avoid. The nutrition information is for 2 tablespoons.

Tapatio Fully Loaded Nacho Dip

This tiny container of extra-spicy, creamy dip will go quickly. It has cheese shreds, whole black beans, bits of pepper, and tomato. It’s like a 7-layer dip that’s been mashed into a creamy, delectable mess. 60 calories, 5 grams of fat, and 190 milligrams of sodium. Walmart charges $4.74 for 10 ounces. (4 stars)

7-Layer Fresh Cut Safeway Deli Dip Kit

Fans of fresh foods will adore this massive dip. Fresh-cut avocado chunks are tucked into deep layers of beans and cheese, then topped with a variety of fresh vegetables that give it a homemade flavor. The only thing missing is some spice. Because this is made fresh, make sure to check the expiration date. 40 calories, 2 grams of fat, and 100 milligrams of sodium. $7.99 for a 25-ounce bottle. (3½ stars)

Rojo’s 5-Layer Classic Dip

This is a delicious option thanks to generous layers of flavor-packed, shelf-stable ingredients. Well, until you get to the guacamole. That layer is insignificant. 35 calories, 2 grams of fat, and 150 milligrams of sodium. Smart & Final charges $6.99 for 28 ounces. (3 stars}

Chipotle Bitchin’ Sauce

This creamy and decadent vegan dip has a rich, smoky flavor. It’s flavorful, but it lacks the complexity of a multi-layered dip. This is best served as a condiment (hence the name). 90 calories, 9 grams of fat, and 140 milligrams of sodium. Walmart charges $5.94 for 8 ounces, while Costco charges $8.99 for 24 ounces. (2½ stars)

5 Layer Black Bean Dip from Nob Hill

Six Layer Signature Select Bean Dip

The spicy beans at the bottom of this dip are tasty, but the rest is decidedly sour — it tastes like vinegar has been poured over it. Even a small amount of “guac” is sour, most likely due to tomatillos. 35 calories, 2.5 grams of fat, and 150 milligrams of sodium. Safeway charges $7.99 for 28 ounces.(1 star)

Taco Dip Good & Gather

This has an odd flavor and drippy consistency that reminds me of Thousand Island Dressing. It might work as a dressing for taco salad, but it’s a flop as a dip. 45 calories, 3.5 grams of fat, and 220 milligrams of sodium. Target charges $4.99 for 12 ounces. (½ a star)

Spicy Nacho Dip from The Honest Stand

This sticky cashew-carrot paste is both disgusting in appearance and taste. 35 calories, 2.5 grams of fat, and 220 milligrams of sodium. Grocery Outlet charges $2.99 for 9 ounces. (There are no stars.)

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