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How to Make San Francisco-Style Red Lentil Hummus

If you’re looking for a new twist on classic hummus, try making it with creamy red lentils.


James Beard Award-winning cook and New York Times bestselling author Heidi Swanson has made a name for herself creating healthy recipes from around the world. Her journals are marked by city visits, including Marrakech, Tokyo, Paris, Rome, Kyoto, Palermo and New Delhi. Near & Far is a cookbook and photo catalog of recipes she’s secured from her travels, both near and far, over the years. From exploration in San Fransisco to the far east, her travels and recipes are marked with photos, notes, newspaper clippings and more to help recall specific details of each meal. The result is simple yet elegant dishes that not only pop off the page in vibrant photography, but follow through and deliver on flavor when enjoyed with friends.

Red Lentil Hummus

This hummus is smooth as buttercream, in part because red lentils are used in place of the more typical chickpeas. Mung beans can be used as an alternative base as well. Boost the hummus with a bit of whey, in place of water, for an added nutritional, probiotic kick. Red lentils lose much of their blush in the cooking process, but the resulting hummus is still a nice sight topped with chives and sesame. Makes three cups.

2 1/2 cups cooked red lentils
2 medium cloves garlic
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2/3 cup tahini
3/4 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
2 to 3 tablespoons whey, kefir, or warm water
2 teaspoons black sesame seeds
Extra virgin olive oil, toasted sesame oil, minced chives and/or chive blossoms, to serve


1. Rinse 1 1/2 cups dried red lentils well and place in a saucepan with 1 3/4 cups water. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook until tender, roughly 15 minutes.
2. Add the cooked lentils and garlic to a food processor and pulse for at least a minute, scraping the paste from the corners once or twice along the way.
3. Add the lemon juice, tahini and sea salt. Blend again, another minute or so. Don’t skimp on the blending time, but stop if the beans form a doughy ball inside the processor.
4. Start adding the whey a splash at a time. Blend until the hummus is smooth and light, aerated and creamy.
5. Taste, and adjust to your liking — adding more lemon juice or salt, if needed.
6. Serve topped with the black sesame seeds and, preferably, a good amount olive oil, a few drops of toasted sesame oil, lots of chives and chive blossoms.

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