March 14th, 2016

Beets all the way: hummus and pesto


Kale, Swiss chard, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, parsnips, beets:

After years of being forgotten, feared, distained, dismissed, each of these veggies is having its moment of redemption. They all have found their way back onto the restaurant menu and everyday dinner table, in creative delectable ways.

We’re no longer surprised by roasted Brussels sprouts, pan-seared cauliflower steaks, or parsnip puree.

I had to laugh, when I went to a modern diner that offered “The Obligatory Kale Salad.”

We’re in the midst of a vegetable renaissance.


So, here’s my latest discovery I’d like to share: beet hummus.

(Upon viewing my gleaming magenta bowl, friend Steve jokingly declared, “There’s no such thing as beet hummus.”)

Well, yes. In part, it’s all in a name—although I have seen some recipes that puree the root vegetable with hummus essentials chick peas and tahini.

But I decided those might overshadow the earthy-sweet complexity of the beets.

Plus, by themselves, beets possess enough body to make a thick, hummus-like dip. So, I made mine in simpler fashion, relying on another middle Eastern staple, Sumac, to give it tangy depth.

(You can find sumac at most global markets and some grocery stores such as Whole Foods.)


After you’ve cooked (you may either boil or roast ’em–whichever works for you at the moment!) and chilled your beets, you’ll pulse them in a food processor with garlic, lemon juice and zest, sumac, ginger, salt, red pepper flakes and olive oil.

Healthful and delicious and, in its way, beautiful.


If you want add a little more pizzazz to the batch, top the ruby churn with crumbled goat cheese and chopped scallions. Or toasted walnuts. Sesame seeds. Cilantro.

Serve with crackers or pitas.

But wait, one more thing!


Don’t pitch your beets’ leafy green tops into the compost bin. Not only delicious, beet greens are rich in vitamins and minerals. More iron than spinach. More nutritional value than the root!

You can saute them in a bit of olive oil and garlic, as you would with Swiss chard, or finely cut and marinate them for a salad, as you would kale.

The leaves make a mighty fine pesto, too. I’ve included that recipe below. Use it in any applications that call for traditional pesto. The simpler, the better: Spread over flatbread and topped with roasted vegetables or tossed over penne, coating the warm pasta with garlicky-green piquancy.

Following the way of The Third Plate, use the whole beet.


2-3 beets
2-3 garlic cloves
1 lemon for zest and juice
1 tablespoon sumac
1 tablespoon fresh ginger
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4-1/3 cup olive oil

1-2 ounces crumbled goat cheese
1 green onion, finely chopped

Place cooked and chilled beets into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade.
Add garlic cloves, lemon zest and juice, fresh ginger pieces, sumac, salt, and red pepper flakes. Pulse until the ingredients are chopped up together. Continue to pulse while pouring in the olive oil.

Taste and adjust for seasonings–for salt, citrus, and peppery heat.

Spoon into a serving bowl. Topped with crumbled goat cheese, chopped green onion, and any remaining lemon zest.

Drizzle the top with olive oil and serve with crackers, toasted flatbread, or pita chips.


1 bundle fresh beet greens, saved from 1 bunch fresh beets–washed and dried
2 cloves garlic
1 green onion–green and white parts
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup grated pecorino romano
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup olive oil

Place all of the ingredients into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade.
Pulse, occasionally scraping the sides of the bowl. Taste for salt and pepper.

Place into a clean jar. Cover and refrigerate. Makes 1 1/2 cups.


Posted in Appetizers/Hors D'oeuvres, Gluten Free, Recipes, Vegetables, Vegetarian Dishes

15 Responses to “Beets all the way: hummus and pesto”
  1. Teresa Blackburn Says:

    This is indeed the season for beet hummus! I made some last month and Donna Hay Magazine featured it in one of their articles…and I had it in a restaurant recently in Chicago!! Beets are so underrated, they are sweet and savory, beautiful in color and there is no waste when you use the tops as you have done for another recipe completely! These are both beautiful and no doubt delicious and healthy. I am inspired to make some pesto….hmmmm…thanks.

  2. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Thanks, Terese. If I’d had Za’atar in my pantry, I would have used it in the batch. But the sumac alone makes it very tasty.

  3. Johanne Lamarche Says:

    Beet hummus is having a moment and I am so happy to have your recipe Nancy. I would have made a regular hummus and added beets to it and they would have likelly been overshadowed as you mention. I love beets in every form and sumac is a great spice to bring out their flavor. I am glad you showed the beet green pesto. Beet greens are gold and such a great nutritional powerhouse!

  4. Denise Says:

    Beautiful inspiration, Nancy. Thanks!

  5. Tammy Says:

    I love that you have named it a vegetable Renaissance!

  6. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Hi Johanne, You are right, beet greens are gold!

    HI Denise–hope you will get a chance to try it.

    Hi Tammy–It’s a great thing, this vegetable renaissance.
    meat should be the side, or the embellishment and the veggie take center-plate!

  7. Barbara Says:

    Well Nancy, I’m with you re the ignored veggies….except parsnips. I think it’s a childhood thing. I love rutabaga, can’t understand my parsnip aversion. I like kale cooked, but not raw. My daughter loves kale salads!
    Anyway, your beet hummus looks fabulous. Can’t wait to make it. I adore beets. Eat them often, divine roasted. Did your mother make pickled beet salads? Mine did, my kids never liked it when I made it, so I eat it when they’re not here!

  8. goodfoodmatters Says:

    My mom did make pickled beet salads—which the rest of the family hated! I didn’t like beets until sometime in my late twenties.

  9. Gerlinde Says:

    Thanks Nancy for this beautiful post . I always, even as a child loved the pickled beets that were part of our diet in Germany. I don’t ever remember anyone using the leaves, on my farm they were probably fed to the pigs. After I return from Germany I will make your beet leaf pesto and the humus. I made pesto using fava bean leaves, it was great mixed with pasta. Happy Easter !

  10. Juliana Says:

    Wow Nancy…awesome recipes and I love the idea that you used both the beets and the greens…the beet hummus sounds awesome and so pretty. Making pesto with the beet green is just very creative…thanks for the inspiration.
    Have a wonderful week :)

  11. Heather Says:

    This looks amazing, thank you!

  12. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Happy Easter to you, Gerlinde!

    Hi Juliana, we really enjoyed the beet pesto, mixed with cream and baked into rotini.

    Hi Heather–I think you’ll especially like the beet hummus.

  13. Cecilia Says:

    I totally like beets, this recipe sounds so great, I will try it. Thanks for sharing.

  14. Beth Says:

    When I was a kid, I never would have guessed how much I’d like beets as an adult. Your hummus sounds terrific.

  15. Karen (Back Road Journal) Says:

    My husband and I love beets and use both the tops and bottoms in cooking but you’ve just given me two new ways of enjoying them. I noticed in your comments that you mentioned Za’atar…I just bought some this past weekend. I’ll have to try the hummus both ways now. :)

Comment on This Post: