Easy, healthy, and deeply delicious beet dip made with toasted pepitas and ready-to-use beets. The recipe is vegan, oil-free, nut-free, Paleo, and only 62 calories per 1/4 cup serving.
Easter and Passover are days away, which means plenty of chances to make something new, and share something delicious, with friends and family. I gave up several favorite foods for Lent, so I am already hungry (make that HANGRY), just thinking about the possibilities.
Fortunately, I did not give up beets (a statement that my husband finds hilarious; he said he will gladly give up beets for Lent next year). I set to making a quick and simple dip, gorgeous and scrumptious enough for celebrating, but still healthy enough to balance out all of the chocolate Easter bunnies I plan to eat.
The result of my kitchen escapades is this fast and easy-to-make dip, made with toasted pepitas and beets.
I could easily eat the whole bowl. It’s that good.
My inspiration came directly from this month’s issue of Martha Stewart Magazine, which features a recipe for a raw beet muhammara. Muhammara is a Middle Eastern dip/spread, made with roasted red peppers, spices, toasted walnuts, olive oil and pomegranate molasses. I love the concept of using beets in place of roasted peppers, but knew I wanted to make the a recipe that was entirely my own.
First, instead of raw beets, I opted for maximum simplicity in the form of canned beets. I know, canned vegetables? Yes, canned vegetables! Canned beets, in particular, are splendid, with a taste and texture that rivals homemade cooked beets.
I love canned baby beets for salads, but for purees, you can use any variety of canned beets (sliced, julienned, crinkle-cut; just make sure they are not pickled). I strongly recommend choosing a brand that uses BPA-free cans, something that is becoming easier to do as more companies are opting for cans with BPA-free liners .
Cooked beets are very smooth and velvety when pureed, so I decide to scrap the oil altogether. Further, I replaced the raw walnuts in the Martha Stewart recipe with toasted pepitas. Walnuts are traditional in muhammara, but the beets already make this an untraditional recipe, so why not push the boundaries further. Toasted pepitas add tremendous flavor, as well as healthy fats.
Another bonus: using pepitas makes this a friendly option for those who cannot eat nuts, especially walnuts (this one’s for you, Mom!).
Toasting raw pepitas is fast and simple. Place the raw pepitas in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Stir, and or shake the pan for about 1 to 2 minutes until the pepitas begin to swell, make a popping noise, and turn golden brown.
Let the pepitas cool slightly, then place them in a food processor (a small one works best) or a small blender (e.g., a bullet-style blender).
Back to the skillet for more toasting. This time, it is the spices, cumin and hot smoked paprika. If you do not have smoked paprika, you can use Hungarian paprika, Aleppo pepper, or chile powder (regular or chipotle chile powder). Toasting the spices deepens their flavor. It’s fast, too.
Add the spices to the skillet and stir over medium heat for a minute or two until fragrant. Transfer to the food processor with the pepitas.
Add the peeled clove of garlic to the food processor as well, and then begin processing, using on/off pulses.
Stop occasionally to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl. Once finely ground, the pepitas will look dry. At first. Keep pulsing, scraping the bowl, until the pepitas begin to release their oils and the mixture starts to clump. Stop processing when the mixture looks like fine, damp sand.
Time to add the remining ingredients, which are few: the canned beets, lemon juice, lemon zest and salt. If using whole baby beets, cut them into smaller pieces before adding to the processor.
Traditional muhammara includes pomegranate molasses, a sweet-tart syrup made from pomegranate juice. It’s delicious. It is also difficult to find. I chose to omit it, primarily because cooked beets are already very sweet. The bright acidity of lemon juice balances the sweetness, and earthiness, from the beets and pepitas.
Blend away! Stop to scrape the bowl several times, paying extra attention to the bottom of the bowl (to incorporate the ground pepitas). Keep processing until completely blended and smooth.
Adjust the salt and lemon juice to taste, and then transfer to a small serving bowl.
If you like, garnish with chopped fresh cilantro or mint leaves, and perhaps a bit more grated lemon zest.
As sublime as this dip is for dunking (vegetables, chips, crackers, etc.), it is also a great spread for toast and sandwiches. Yum! It will keep for several days, perfect for a make-ahead appetizer for the holidays ahead (and, of course, anytime gnoshing!).
Happy eating, everyone!
Making this recipe? I would love to see it!
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- ⅓ cup (46 g) pepitas (green pumpkin seeds)
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon hot smoked paprika
- 1 clove garlic, peeled
- 1 15-ounce (425 g) BPA-free can beets, drained
- 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (more to taste, as desired)
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt (more to taste, as desired)
- Optional: finely chopped fresh cilantro or mint leaves, more lemon zest
- Place the pepitas a small, heavy skillet set over medium-high heat. Stir the pepitas (or gently shake pan) for 1 to 2 minutes until the pepitas are golden brown in spots, and make a popping sound. Cool slightly and then transfer to a food processor (or mini blender, like a bullet blender).
- Add the cumin and paprika to the same skillet. Cook and stir over medium heat for 1 to 2 minutes until the spices smell fragrant and toasty. Transfer to the food processor, along with the garlic.
- Process the pepitas and spices until the pepitas are finely chopped. Continue processing, using on/off pulses and stopping occasionally to scrape bowl, until the mixture resembles fine, damp sand.
- Add the beets, lemon zest, lemon juice and salt to processor. Process, stopping to scrape the bowl, until completely blended and smooth. Adjust salt to taste.
- Transfer dip to a small bowl, cover and refrigerate until cold. If desired, garnish with herbs and lemon zest.
Smoked Paprika Options: Use an equal amount of Aleppo pepper, chile powder or Hungarian paprika, or sweet smoked paprika. If using an option that is not hot, you can add a pinch of cayenne, or some hot sauce, too.