In Arabic, “baba” means father and “ghanoush” means spoiled. This “spoiled dad” is the creamier companion to hummus. Popular in Arab countries throughout the Middle East, it is also a common appetizer on the Sephardic Jewish table. In Israel, it is known as eggplant salad, or Salat Hatzilim. It is sometimes made with roasted bell peppers, and often mayonnaise is added for richness. I’ve even tasted sweet baba ghanoush with a touch of sugar in it. While I’ve provided a more classic version here, there are endless variations on this theme.
I’ve made baba ghanoush many times for my family over the years, and it took me some time to find the correct balance of flavors. Every time I made it, I would offer my husband a taste. In the nicest way possible, he would tell me– “Mmm. Good, but a little more tahini.” Or, “Yes, it’s almost there– maybe a touch more lemon juice?” Over time, I discovered the right combination. I knew I’d hit upon it when his face lit up. He smiled and said, “Just like my mom made.” I consider that the highest of kitchen compliments.
That said, Middle Eastern dips and salads like baba ghanoush and hummus are subject to taste. Some families prefer “a little more of this” or “a little less of that.” When in doubt, taste and adjust seasonings according to your palette.
For this recipe, you will need to roast both eggplant and garlic. To learn how to roast eggplant, click here. To learn how to roast garlic, click here. You will also need to buy tahini sesame seed paste. Tahini can be found in the peanut butter section at most health food stores, and any Middle Eastern market will carry it. Many regular grocery stores have started stocking it, too. Choose a tahini made from light colored seeds, not dark.
Baba ghanoush is healthy, gluten free, vegan, all natural and so delicious. Pair with pita bread, crackers or chips for a mouth-watering appetizer that your guests will love. In tomorrow’s blog, I’ll share the recipe for the delicious baked pita chips in the picture next to the dip. Yummy!
- 2 medium eggplants (about 3 lbs. total), roasted
- 1/3 cup tahini (from light seeds, not "dark tahini")
- 3 roasted garlic cloves (or 1 clove raw garlic, crushed)
- 2 fresh lemons, juiced (or more to taste)
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp salt, or more to taste
- Pinch of cayenne pepper
- 2 tbsp minced fresh parsley (for garnish)
- Paprika (for garnish)
- Extra virgin olive oil
- To learn how to roast eggplant and/or garlic, click on the links above the recipe card.
- Remove pulp from roasted eggplant and place in a bowl along with some of the smoky roasting liquid. Allow to cool to room temperature.
- Add tahini, garlic, fresh lemon juice, cumin, salt, cayenne pepper and 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil to the bowl.
- Use a fork and/or spoon to mash together the mixture, using firm pressure to break up the tahini paste, roasted garlic, and any stringiness of the eggplant. Mix until well combined.
- Taste the dip. Add additional tahini, lemon juice, salt or cayenne pepper, if desired. The cayenne is extremely spicy, so add with care.
- Drizzle the surface of the dip lightly with extra virgin olive oil.
- Sprinkle with paprika and fresh minced parsley to garnish.
- Serve as a dip with pita bread, crackers or chips. If you prefer a cold dip, chill in the refrigerator prior to garnish. Store refrigerated in an airtight container.