Big Little Recipes

This Already-in-Your-Fridge Ingredient Makes the Creamiest Hummus (Without Tahini)

April 30, 2019
Photo by Ty Mecham

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.

No tahini here. Photo by Ty Mecham

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.

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Top Comment:
“That said, That said, cold hummus containing cold butter sounds a little unappetizing. Warming it will tend to make the butter separate. Just saying.”
— boulangere

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.

Bonus Big Little Recipe

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!

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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  • Emma Laperruque
    Emma Laperruque
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.


judy May 5, 2019
I don't tolerate chickpeas--not really allergic but they just make me feel funny. so.. I started making hummus with whatever canned beans I could find or had on the shelf. I live in Washington and Fred Meyer, a local grocery, has a love 3 bean mix of pinto, kidney and black bean that makes a delicious base for hummus. I also love Maya Coba beans, they are so very creamy. But don't be held up by just using chickpeas... They all work, canned or staring out with dried and cooking them yourself. So many options for hummus if you are not a traditionalist--although there is certainly a place for traditional.
boulangere April 30, 2019
Which pushes aside the fact that a mere tablespoon of tahini boosts the protein content of anything by 5%. Christopher Kimball's very evocative recipe calls for 3/4 cup, approximately 12 tablespoons. If a buttery consistency is what you think you need, why not use half butter and half tahini? You'll still get a good protein boost along with some very decent amounts of vitamins and minerals. That said, That said, cold hummus containing cold butter sounds a little unappetizing. Warming it will tend to make the butter separate. Just saying.
Nancy April 30, 2019
Emma - definitely will try this!
Another fat that works is peanut butter (idea from Nigella Lawson).
Emma L. April 30, 2019
Thanks, Nancy! Peanut butter sounds wonderful!
Violet April 30, 2019
I always learn something totally new and creative from your recipe tips/mods Emma! Thank you. Also I like that your cat is named Butter.
Emma L. April 30, 2019
Thanks so much, Violet! (Butter says thank you, too!)