Cheese dip in the modern sense probably originates in recipes for dishes like fondue, where crusty squares of bread are dipped into hot melted cheese. Usually, though, dips made from cheese are more likely to be served at room temperature, and are not made in the same manner as fondue which frequently includes wine. One exception is fundido or queso blanco, a Mexican cheese dish that may have bits of sausage in it and is served hot with tortilla chips. It has become increasingly popular in the US and is a good replacement for cheese dip made from cheddar, or more often, American cheese.
Most cheese dip recipes are melted cheese, to which other ingredients, like salsa, onions, broccoli or even sour cream can be added. American cheese like Velveeta® is frequently preferred because it tends to be easier to work with, and can be melted in the microwave. Cheddar cheese, a popular alternative, may separate if not melted properly but American cheese tends to melt smooth and stay smooth. This doesn’t mean you can’t use cheddar cheese, but you must be careful regarding melting point of the cheese, so that you don’t end up with an oily sodden mess. If you plan to use cheddar cheese, or any other of the hard cheeses, you may get better results by melting the cheese over a double boiler, and stirring fairly constantly.
There are a number of dip recipes that utilize cream cheese, making them theoretically cheese dip. These are not usually melted, since cream cheese is already soft. They’re not thought of as traditional cheese dip unless the cream cheese is added to a melted cheese like cheddar or American. Adding cream cheese, yogurt or sour cream is not that unusual especially when using the former. It helps to smooth out and soften the dip, even as it cools.
You can serve cheese dip with chips, crackers, pretzels, or vegetables. All make good choices. Some people may melt cheese to be served over nachos, combine cheese with beans to make cheese and bean dip, or mix cheese with chili. Essentially, you can choose from literally hundreds of recipes for dips including cheese to keep it varied and delicious for parties or just for personal and family consumption. You can also purchase canned cheese dip if you don’t have time to make your own.
A recent trend which makes for a nice contrast to the more savory forms of dips made from cheese are sweet dips, usually made from a combination of fruit and cream cheese. These can make for excellent dips for fruit or as spreads to put on bagels. In fact the quickest method to make a cream cheese dip that is sweet is to merely buy whipped flavored cream cheese from the store. Alternately, you can use cream cheese and add crushed fruit or jam to it, usually in a food processor, to produce a thinner dipping sauce.