White beans give cheese fondue a boost while cutting fat

White beans add body to Cheese Fondue Dip and reduce the need for so much cheese.
White beans add body to Cheese Fondue Dip and reduce the need for so much cheese.
Published Feb. 2, 2017

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.

Food Network star Melissa d'Arabian is an expert on healthy eating on a budget. She is the author of the cookbook "Supermarket Healthy."