White beans give cheese fondue a boost while cutting fat

Cheese fondue is the ultimate comfort food. Living in France in my early 30s, I fell in love with the classic recipe made with crisp white wine and nutty Gruyere cheese.

French fondue is life-changing. And I‘ve found a way to capture all that flavor for a fraction of the calories. Just kidding. Truth is, I can‘t completely mimic my favorite French fondue. But, I can get close enough to scratch the cheese-fondue itch in a dip while staying reasonably healthy, thanks to a sneaky ingredient: white beans.

Cooked white beans add lush body to the dip, so I can swap out a bunch of the cheese and heavy cream, bringing the calories and fat way down. Low-fat cream cheese, or Neufchatel, boosts the cheesy factor, so a mere half cup of high-quality grated Gruyere goes a long way to keeping the dip squarely in the cheese-fondue flavor profile, helped by dry mustard and a dash of ground nutmeg.

The beans are also a wise way to boost the nutrient profile: One cup of white beans adds 19 grams of protein and 13 grams of fiber. If you are entertaining on a budget, including frugal-friendly beans in your menu to stretch more expensive ingredients (like Gruyere) is a smart move. This dip pairs beautifully with veggies to create a stellar winter crudite. To really winterize, steam up cubes of butternut squash.

The beans offer a final benefit, and I‘ve saved the best for last. Blended beans stabilize the cheesy dip, so you can serve it warm, at room temperature or chilled — a relief if you are entertaining and don‘t want to worry about cheese congealing. This dip will stay perfectly creamy all party long.