Yemenite Fenugreek Dip- Hilbeh

Yemenite Fenugreek Dip
For the most part, I'd have to say that the foods I cooked, while from around the world and not your standard "typical American fare" are usually loved by all, so long as they're open to exploring new foods beyond mac and cheese, hot dogs, and spaghetti and meatballs. This dish, however, is still yummy, but is an acquired taste.
I have a friend whose mother is from Yemen. The first time I was at her house (as a teenager), her mother served this traditional Yemenite dip made out of fenugreek, and I was thoroughly weirded out by it. It's got a strange consistency and interesting flavor, with a bitter aftertaste. I don't think I had more than one spoonful of it.
Later, though, my tastes evolved, and I learned to enjoy foods that have mild bitter tastes, like coffee, beer, and certain greens, and with that, I learned not only to tolerate this food, but to thoroughly enjoy it and like to make it at least once every week or two. My kids have grown up with this and eat it by the spoonful out of the container, and we're constantly in competition over it- who gets to have more hilbeh? I started making really huge amounts of it, because we really can't get enough of it.
If you're willing to explore new foods, I say definitely give hilbeh a try. You know why I make it? Aside from the fact that I really do love it, fenugreek is just one of these awesome superfoods that is so beneficial in so many different ways.

Benefits of fenugreek:

  • Really high in vitamins and minerals, especially iron! (100 grams of fenugreek seeds yields 419% of your RDV of iron- a real boon if you eat lots of vegetarian or vegan food to save money.)
  • Is a galactagogue- helps increase milk production in nursing moms.
  • Lower your LDL cholesterol.
  • Lower your risk of colon cancer.
  • Assist digestion
  • Helps control blood sugar levels in a few different ways and are recommended for diabetics.
  • Traditionally used as a remedy for colds and bronchitis.
  • Helps increase libido and helps reduce the negative effects of menopause and PMS.
  • Used as a remedy for skin conditions.
  • Cure for heartburn and reflux...
  • ...among many others!

(See here and here for more details.)

One more thing I love about this fenugreek dip is I start out with just a small amount of seeds, and they absorb a lot of water, so that a small, frugal amount of seeds makes a ton of this dip, making it both extra frugal and extra healthy! I buy my fenugreek seeds at the bulk food store to make it even more frugal.

So now that I have you convinced that making this fenugreek dip is worth your while, how do you do it?

Yemenite Fenugreek Dip Recipe- Hilbeh

1/2 cup coursely ground fenugreek seeds
3-4 cups water
1 whole tomato
2-4 cloves of garlic
3-5 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2-1 teaspoon salt
1/4-1/2 teaspoon cumin (optional)
Up to 1/4 cup dried parsley or corriander, or up to 1/2 cup fresh (optional)

1. Take your fenugreek seeds and put them in a deep bowl.

2. Cover with 3-4 cups of water.

3. Leave overnight ideally, or at least 4-5 hours.

4. The fenugreek seeds will soak up a lot of water and swell up tremendously, as seen in the picture. Don't mix!

5.  The water that they're soaking in is bitter, so pour that off, with the little bits of things floating in it.

6. You'll be left with something slippery looking, like below.

7. Pour that into a food processor and blend/grind for a minute or two. It should get whipped up and fluffier.

8. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend until you have a uniform mixture. It should look like this picture below.

Yemenites traditionally put this in their chicken soup (never tried it that way myself!) or on their traditional breads, like their flatbreads, lahuh. It tastes absolutely delicious that way. I like mixing my hilbeh with other similarly spiced spreads from the general region, like tahini or humus or eggplant salad, and spreading it on gluten free flatbreads. But, as I said, I also like just eating it by the spoonful from the container.

If you're interested in exploring new, exotic, healthy foods, give this yummy feungreek dip a try. You may find your new favorite food!

Ever cooked with fenugreek before? Do you enjoy bitter things like beer and coffee? Do you think you'd try out a recipe like this, or absolutely no way?

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Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal


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  1. I tried this and it was pretty good—definitely an acquired taste. Mine came our much drier and firmer than in the picture, but in retrospect I think that I may have poured off too much water. I probably could have let it soak longer, too. I let it sit overnight but after I made it in the morning, it was al dente, and became less so and less liquid as it continued to soak up liquid even after completed. Next time, I will let it soak longer.

  2. I added too much garlic so I added more tomato. I added too much tomato so I added chopped olives. I guess it’s olive fenugreek tapenade now. 😂

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