Lebanese-Mexican hummus with spicy beef

By Felicia Lee

Published October 5, 2010 2:06PM (EDT)

The connection between hummus and tortilla chips isn't as farfetched as it may seem. Lebanese immigrants have a long history in Mexico, especially in the states of Puebla and Yucatán. I ate at a Yucatecan restaurant in Los Angeles once and found kibbe (a Middle Eastern meatball made with ground lamb and bulgur) listed among the appetizers. A regional specialty of Puebla is tacos arabes -- tacos served on pita bread rather than tortillas. And the Mexican standard tacos al pastor -- tacos filled with spice-rubbed meat sliced off a vertical spit -- was, by some accounts, inspired by Middle Eastern shawarma.

Hummus ma lahma is a hearty Lebanese treatment of hummus that tops the already rich chickpea puree with spiced ground beef. Here's what I imagine a second- or third-generation Lebanese-Mexican in Yucatán might do with this dish: give the beef a local flavor with hot peppers, olives, raisins, and capers. The beef topping is inspired by the filling in a Yucatecan specialty, queso relleno (hollowed-out balls of Gouda filled with seasoned ground meat), and is inspired by Rick Bayless' pork-based queso relleno filling.



  • 1 14-ounce can chickpeas, drained
  • 3 tablespoons tahini
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup water (or as needed)
  • salt to taste

Spicy beef

  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 large hot banana chile, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons neutral cooking oil, such as canola
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/3 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 2/3 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup raisins
  • 1/8 cup capers
  • 1/3 cup chopped green olives
  • 1 large pinch dried (or chopped fresh) epazote (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste



  1. Puree all ingredients except water and salt in a food processor until smooth. With the motor running, gradually add water as needed to obtain a soft but spreadable consistency.
  2. Add salt to taste.

Spicy beef

  1. Heat oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, chile, and garlic and cook until tender.
  2. Add spices and stir several seconds until fragrant.
  3. Add the ground beef and cook until no longer pink.
  4. Stir in the remaining ingredients and simmer 20 minutes to blend the flavors. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.


Put the room-temperature hummus in a serving bowl (preferably a wide, shallow one, but any kind will do). Top with some of the hot beef mixture (you'll have some left over; it makes a great filling for tacos, empanadas, or a ball of molten Gouda cheese). Garnish with sliced hot chiles and/or chopped cilantro. Serve with pita wedges and/or tortilla chips.

Felicia Lee

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