Veganuary? Make Meatless Marvelous

Loaded Hummus with Smoky Mushrooms and Blistered Chickpeas

Photo by Lorelle Del Matto
Photo by Lorelle Del Matto

January is a big month for food-and drink-related resolutions (1). Participation in Veganuary, a 31-day challenge of going vegan for the month of January, has grown, with a record-breaking global sign-up rate of over 600,000 people for 2023 (2).

Will a month of eating a completely free of animal-products have lasting effects? It might, as there are lots of amazing plant-based foods and culinary traditions from around the world to explore. Sales of plant-based “dairy” and meat products has soared in the past few years (3) and it’s not just vegans who enjoy them.

According to the Plant Based Food Association (4) 30% of people are trying to eat fewer animal and dairy products, however (4,5) only a minority of people identify as strictly vegan (3%) or vegetarian (5%). There’s a continuum of plant-based eating, from vegan and whole food plant based (WFPB) which have key differences but share exclusion of animal products, to other eating styles such as flexitarian, vegetarian, pescatarian and omnivores.

Many ask, do I have to be exclude all animal products to get the health benefits of eating more plants? Experts will tell you it depends on the quality of the diet. In other words, a vegan diet can be rich in a variety of nutrient-dense whole foods or full of ultra-processed, sugar-laden foods and beverages. The same goes for any other eating plan.

The Mediterranean Diet is often called plant based however it includes small amounts of dairy, seafood, poultry and, on occasion, meat along with up to 40% of calories come from fat that is low in saturated fat, often olive oil (8). In 2023 it was once again ranked the #1 Best Diet Overall by U.S. News & World Reports because it is a simple, easy to follow approach shown in many studies to reduce the risk of chronic health conditions and promote longer lives. The #2 ranked Best Diet Overall was a tie between two other plant-forward plans that contain some animal-based foods, Flexitarian and D.A.S.H.

I’m not doing Veganuary, but I am on a journey to explore more whole food plant-based recipes made with grains, beans, nuts and seeds and veggies, like this one:  Loaded Hummus with Smoky Mushrooms and Blistered Chickpeas.

If you think meat-free eating lacks flavor, or won’t satisfy, try this recipe. It includes several ingredients that help make “plant-based” foods rich-tasting-meaty mushrooms, umami-rich tomato paste and soy sauce, smoked paprika, hearty chickpeas and walnuts. Other ingredients I use to pump-up flavor in plant-based cooking include: a splash or wine, miso, nutritional yeast, and black garlic. There are many more to explore.

Loaded Hummus with Smoky Mushrooms and Blistered Chickpeas

This dish is inspired by meat-topped versions of hummus enjoyed in the Middle East with umami-rich mushrooms standing in for lamb or beef.

Serves 4-6


1 large lemon

4 cups cooked chickpeas, drained, and rinsed if canned

2 cloves garlic, 1 sliced and 1 chopped 

¼ cup water

1/2 cup plant or dairy-based kefir


1/8 teaspoon ground cumin, more to taste

Dash or two of cayenne pepper

1/4 cup tahini

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided use

1 pound medium-sized mushrooms, any variety or a combination, chopped into small pieces or sliced

1-2 teaspoons soy sauce

¾ teaspoon smoked paprika

1/3 cup chopped toasted walnuts or pine nuts

3/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano (2 teaspoons dried) or parsley

Fresh mini bell peppers, halved, sliced carrots or other fresh veggies, or whole grain pita wedges 


1. Zest and juice lemon. Set zest and juice aside.

2. Reserve 1 1/2 cups chickpeas for topping. Place remaining chickpeas in microwave-safe bowl with 1 sliced clove of garlic* and water. Cover and cook on high for 5 minutes to soften. With slotted spoon, transfer chickpeas and garlic to bowl of food processor. Add 1 teaspoon lemon zest, 3 tablespoons lemon juice, kefir, ½ teaspoon salt, cumin, and cayenne pepper. Whirl until smooth, stopping and scraping down bowl as needed. Add tahini and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Whirl until blended. Taste and adjust salt and seasonings.

3. Spread hummus on a large plate. (Or scrape into a bowl, cover and chill for up to 2 days before serving; bring to room temperature before serving.) 

4. Swirl 1 tablespoon olive oil into a large nonstick skillet and place over medium heat. Add mushrooms, 1 clove of chopped garlic, 1 teaspoon soy sauce, and smoked paprika. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5-6 minutes or until mushrooms are soft, and any liquid evaporates. Add more soy sauce, salt, and pepper to taste. Stir in walnuts. While mushrooms cook, place a separate medium skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 1/2 cups reserved chickpeas. Sprinkle with turmeric, black pepper, and a pinch or two of salt. Cook for a minute or two, shaking pan once or twice, until hot and blistered. Adjust seasonings to taste.

5. To serve, spread hummus on a plate. Top with warm chickpeas, followed by mushroom mixture. Sprinkle with oregano. Serve with fresh vegetable or other dippers.  

*For sharper garlic flavor, don’t warm the garlic with the chickpeas; add directly to the food processor with other hummus ingredients. 

How Nutritious Is it? Chickpeas supply protein, dietary fiber, folate, copper, iron, zinc, B6 and selenium. UV light-exposed mushrooms provide vitamin D, and selenium, B vitamins, potassium and more. Walnuts are an excellent source of alpha-linolenic acid and offer vitamin E (also in the olive oil), copper, B6 and folate. Probiotic-rich kefir lightens the hummus and delivers quality protein and B12. Serve it with fresh veggies for vitamins C, A, and other nutrients.


1. Food Insight January 10, 2023. International Food and Information Council. Here’s to a Healthier Year: IFIC’s Tips for Staying on Track With Nutrition-Related New Year’s Resolutions – Food Insight

2. 5 Plant-Based Chefs Share Their Top Tips This Veganuary. Emily Chan. Jan 9,2023. Vogue. 5 Plant-Based Chefs Share Their Top Tips This Veganuary | Vogue

3. 2021 U.S. Retail Sales Data for the Plant-Based Food Industry. Plant Based Food Association.

4. Who is the Plant-Based Shopper? Plant Based Food Association Consumer Insights.

5.  Gallup. Americans who are vegetarians or vegans (trends).

6. The WFPB Diet Debate. Dina Aronson, MS, RDN. Today’s Dietitian, Vol. 24 No. .7 P. 22. October 2022.

7. What is the Vegan Diet? By Alyssa Pike, RD. JANUARY 11, 2023

8. Mediterranean Diet. U.S. News & World Report.

© Lorelle Del Matto 2023

lorelle About lorelle

Crazy about cooking, eating and sharing good food – my work and leisure revolve around the kitchen. As a culinary dietitian my professional life encompasses nutrition counseling and education, recipe development, product development, food and nutrition writing, marketing communications, corporate test kitchen and consumer affairs management, food styling and work as a product spokesperson.

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