A Big Little Recipe has the smallest-possible ingredient list and big everything else: flavor, creativity, wow factor. Psst—we don't count water, salt, black pepper, and certain fats (specifically, 1/2 cup or less of olive oil, vegetable oil, and butter), since we're guessing you have those covered. This week, a tahini-less hummus, perfect for your next soirée.
I rarely use a recipe to make hummus, but always end up eyeballing the same ingredients: canned chickpeas (yeah, I know, cooked-from-dried are “better,” but canned are easier), tahini, lemon juice, garlic, water, salt, and cumin.
Maybe you recognize this list from one of the most popular hummus recipes on our site—Michael Solomonov’s Hummus Tehina, dubbed Genius in 2016. Tehina, what Americans know as tahini, is a staple ingredient in Israeli-style hummus. But it’s not a staple ingredient in all hummuses.
In fact, my new favorite hummus recipe doesn’t include any tahini at all. It includes butter.
I wish I could say that I thought of this substitution because I started a batch of hummus and realized I was out of tahini, saw some butter, a lightbulb appeared over my head, and I thought: Tahini is mostly fat. Butter is mostly fat. Why not? But the truth is, I was sitting on the subway, um, thinking about butter, and how I can make more recipes more buttery.
If a lightbulb-moment is the first step of recipe development, research is the second. I have to find out: Is this already a thing? Almost always the answer to this question is: Yes, of course. And the same is true here.
In Turkey, one hummus variation relies not on tahini for richness, but butter—then gets baked and served warm. Adapted from chef Ana Sortun’s recipe, this dish appears in Solomonov’s award-winning Zahav, where he writes that Turkish hummus “has become one of the most popular variations we prepare at Zahav.” For an Israeli chef known for his Israeli hummus, that’s saying something.
To make the Turkish hummus, Solomonov has you cook chickpeas from scratch, roast a head of garlic, and bake the finished hummus until its top is golden-brown. Which, don’t get me wrong, I would devour if it came anywhere near me.
But I wanted a butter hummus that was as fuss-free as my tahini standby.
This streamlined version is just that. You add canned chickpeas to a food processor, along with lemon juice, water, and salt. Get that as smooth as possible. Then melt butter and garlic in a small saucepan, which is just enough to take the sharp edge off the garlic. Add the garlic to the food processor, pulse a couple times. Then, with the machine running, slowly pour in the melted butter. Keep things going until you have a fluffy, creamy cloud of hummus.
While tahini adds richness to hummus, it also adds nuttiness and a hint of bitterness. With butter, it’s just richness. (Think of how honey contributes sweetness to baked goods, but also a bunch of floral notes, while white sugar is straight-up sweet. This is like that!) When you channel that pure buttery flavor into hummus, it not only makes the garlic and lemon pop—but it also underscores how inherently buttery chickpeas are. In this sense, butter hummus tastes like the most chickpea-y hummus I’ve ever made.
Like any hummus, this is wonderful with pita chips and raw vegetables (especially sassy ones, like radicchio and radishes). But it’s also A+ as a creamy base for meatballs, a topping for a grain bowl, or a smear for a sandwich.
If you’re a Big Little fan, maybe you’re wondering: Where’s this week’s video? We’re taking a quick hiatus—yep, just like a TV show—to cook up the next season of episodes, premiering May 28. They’re gonna be bigger (and littler) and better than ever. Stay tuned! What’s your go-to way to make hummus? Share in the comments!
Put down those long grocery lists. Inspired by the award-winning column, our Big Little Recipes cookbook is minimalism at its best: few ingredients, tons of flavor.
Emma was the food editor at Food52. She created the award-winning column, Big Little Recipes, and turned it into a cookbook in 2021. These days, she's a senior editor at Bon Appétit, leading digital cooking coverage. Say hello on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.
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