Marine News from the Great Lakes

RECIPE: Dill Pickle Dip

Published: Monday, January 29, 2018
By: Carolyn Shearlock

Our first few weeks of cruising taught us the importance of happy hour for socializing with other boaters. We quickly discovered that it was imperative to have a bunch of recipes for easy-but-delicious appetizers, whether we were hosting new friends on our boat or wanted something to take when we went to theirs.

We also learned that potlucks are a way of life. Cruiser potlucks are a great way to meet fellow boaters in new locations, as well as try out some new foods.

Two years ago, we celebrated Thanksgiving at Boot Key Harbor in Marathon, Florida, with over a hundred other cruisers. The line for food was long and snaked out of the building, where the sun beat down. We'd been busy talking to new friends and wound up near the end of the line.

It turned out that the back of the line wasn't a bad place to be. As we continued to chat, appetizers suddenly began appearing from the tail end of the line! Bowls of dip and plates of finger food made their way — hand-to-hand — towards the front of the line. What a wonderful idea for a large group!

This issue’s recipe is inspired by both of the lessons we learned in our first weeks: a wonderful, quick appetizer, and a great way to let people at the back of a long potluck line get first crack at the appetizers while those at the front of the line are getting the main meal.

Dill pickles are unexpected as the base for an appetizer, yet their salty, tangy crunch really hits the spot on a warm day. Using dill relish makes this dip quick to prepare — just the thing after a day out on the water or exploring ashore!

Dill Pickle Dip

Total Time: 10 minutes (can be made a day ahead)

Makes about 2 cups of dip

½ cup dill pickle relish

8 ounces soft cream cheese

½ teaspoon garlic powder (if pickle relish does not have garlic)

1 6-ounce can ham, drained and broken


Mix dill pickle relish, cream cheese, and garlic thoroughly. Then, mix in ham chunks. Place in serving container. Good served with Triscuits, pretzel sticks, and pita chips. The dip is fairly thick so dipping items need to be sturdy.

Can be made ahead and refrigerated. Also, refrigerate any leftovers (if there are any)!


  • Chop dill pickles if dill relish is not available
  • Add a bit of mayonnaise, sour cream, milk, or dill pickle juice if dip is too thick
  • Substitute sour cream for the cream cheese (see PassageMaker July/August 2015 for how to make real sour cream from non-refrigerated ingredients)
  • Small cans of ham — about the size of tuna cans — can generally be found near the tuna. You can also use roughly chopped deli ham or leftover baked ham.
  • Substitute a can of drained tuna (or smoked tuna) for the ham. However, be careful to mix in gently so it doesn't turn to mush
  • Omit the meat for a vegetarian version


Author bio:  Carolyn Shearlock is the author (with Jan Irons) of The Boat Galley Cookbook with over 800 boat-friendly recipes, available on Amazon and in marine stores.  Her website,, has hundreds of cruising, galley and provisioning tips, insights, and equipment recommendations gleaned from over ten years of full-time living aboard and cruising.


tags: Recipes

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