I like hummus a lot, but tahini is my nemesis. It’s expensive, it’s messy, it always seems to expire before I’ve finished the whole jar… I could go on. For the uninitiated, tahini is sesame seed butter, basically peanut butter made from sesame seeds, and an essential flavor and texture contributing ingredient in hummus as well as several other Mediterranean foods. The thing is, while some jars of tahini clock in anywhere from 50 cents to a dollar an ounce, its primary ingredient sesame seeds can be found for less than a dollar a pound—a big difference. So I decided to cut out the middle man and try making hummus directly from sesame seeds. It works just fine—as long as you use a blender. I found a food processor to be not particularly effective at grinding sesame seeds. It seemed to just fling everything on the side of the bowl instead of grinding properly. You could also use a coffee or spice grinder to grind the seeds before adding them to the rest of the recipe if you wished.
Note: This is a fairly light hummus. If you want it richer, feel free to add less water and more oil, or increase the proportion of sesame.
All of the herbs and spices are optional, by the way. Some hummuses are flavored with nothing other than lemon and garlic; some have the whole spice drawer thrown in there. Feel free to experiment.
Affordable, Tahini-Free Hummus
¼ cup sesame seeds (toasted if you wish)
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 15 oz can garbanzo beans (or about 3 cups cooked from scratch)
2-4 Tbsp lemon juice (more or less to taste)
¾ cup diced onions
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp coriander
¼ tsp cardamom
1 tsp dried parsley
½ tsp dried rosemary
½ tsp dried basil
½ tsp salt
4-8 Tbsp water (can use more oil if you want)
paprika for garnish
Saute the onion and garlic in ½ tablespoon of the oil. When mostly done, add the spices and toast for 30-90 seconds more. Pull off the heat and set aside.
Thoroughly rinse and drain the garbanzo beans.
|Grinding the sesame seeds|
Grind sesame seeds in a blender until powdery. Add 1 ½ Tbsp of the olive oil and blend until fairly smooth and creamy. Add the onion-spice mix as well as the garbanzos and all remaining ingredients except paprika. Puree until pretty smooth, scraping down the blender with a spatula a few times as necessary. Adding the higher amount of water will make it easier to blend, but it will thin out the final product as well. If you have a small or not very powerful blender, you will need to blend in batches.
|Sesame-olive oil blend|
Transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle with paprika. Serve with flatbread, crackers, pita chips, or fresh vegetables. It’s also good in sandwiches and wraps.
|Hummus in the blender|
There are so many different versions of hummus I sometimes think it should have its own food group. Any other bean, including white/navy beans, kidney beans, black beans, black-eyed peas, lima beans and even edamame can make for a good hummus variation.
Interesting spice additions such as curry powder, Italian seasoning or five-spice powder can make a big difference.
Flavorful veggies including sun-dried tomatoes, roasted red peppers or artichokes can be blended in with the other ingredients, or chopped and tossed in for a chunky effect.
The traditional garlic and onions can be added raw, sautéed or even roasted to varied effect. Other alliums such as chives or shallots may be substituted as well.
A small amount of vegan pesto or olive tapenade can be swirled in after blending for extra flavor.
Other options for tahini-free hummus include simply omitting it and increasing the olive oil to compensate, and replacing it with other nut or seed butters. Peanut butter is the one I’ve seen most often, probably because it is the cheapest and easiest to find, but others would work too.