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Saturday, November 9, 2013

Gluten Free Beet Hummus (Tahini Free), Sesame Seed Allergies & Oral Allergy Syndrome

Free of gluten, dairy, soy, eggs, nuts, tahini, corn

So this happened. And it looked so awesome I was kind of sorry to see the last of it go. It was really fun to eat, especially with some organic, purple tortilla chips.

I served it at a little get together I had for my writing group a couple of weeks ago along with some chopped veggies and chips and it was a big hit.

It was also very easy, so I thought some of you might like it, too!

Some of you, like me, might be avoiding hummus because of the tahini in it. So before I share this lovely pink hummus, I'm going to explain all about sesame seed allergies and why I avoid tahini.

Most of you know I love beets, and use them in everything from Beet Bread to Beet Cupcakes to Watermelon Pudding, so why wouldn't I just use them to dip things in?!  I saw a cooking show ages ago at the gym in which they made hummus with beet root, and I finally got around to giving it a try. I just tossed a beet into my regular hummus recipe, and out came this gorgeous pink dip.

I'll definitely be featuring more beet recipes in the near future, as the outdoor farmers market moves indoors for the winter and the produce gets scarce, beets are a great winter root veggie that last all winter long.

Ok, so there's no tahini in this recipe, but quite frankly, I don't notice the difference. 

Why no tahini? Well first off a lot of people don't keep tahini kicking around (in the past I have been known to sub peanut butter instead of tahini in hummus).

 Sesame Seed Allergies?

The second and most important reason I don't use tahini is that I'm a little bit allergic to sesame, most likely thanks to oral allergy syndrome. Since tahini is just sesame seed paste, I prefer to avoid it (although I'm ok with a few on my burger buns!). Reported cases of sesame seed allergies are rare, but along with other allergies, it's on the rise. In a recent study of just over 9,000 children aged 0-2, sesame allergies came in 3rd after milk and eggs! [1]  

Yet it's still not listed as a common allergen on food labels in the U.S. (although it is recognized and listed in Canada and Europe). [2]

For those with sesame allergies, it's also  important to beware of other food items, cosmetics and drug products/medications that may contain sesame oil, as this is a growing cause of allergic reactions. [3]

Unfortunately many people may be unaware they have sesame seed allergies. People don't often go to the doctor for vague itchy feelings, and even if they do,  testing has not always been conclusive. There have been several reported cases of people testing negatively to skin prick tests and/or IgE antibody tests that did react to sesame in oral challenges. [4] 

Symptoms of Sesame Allergies

Symptoms of sesame allergies can include: itchiness and hives (especially in the case of cosmetics containing sesame oil), asthma, nausea, abdominal pain, shortness of breath, feelings of anxiety, rapid heartbeat, itching of the mouth, tongue and throat (a couple of drops of sesame oil in a sauce sets my mouth and ears itching!), and in rare cases it can cause anaphylaxis. [4]

So if you suspect you or your child has a sesame allergy, it's important to get tested, and maybe even more than one type of testing, as noted above not all tests are accurate.

Hidden Sources of Sesame Seeds

Now as I noted, Canada and Europe label foods with sesame, so if you're there you can simply check the allergy information of food labels and cosmetics and drugs for sesame. In the US, however, you'll have to be more vigilant. According to Health Canada's super useful page on sesame allergies, [5] sesame can go by other names, such as:

  • Benne, benne seed and benniseed
  • Gingelly and gingelly oil
  • Seeds
  • Sesamol and sesamolina
  • Sesamum indicum
  • Sim sim
  • Til
 Sesame can be commonly found in food products such as: 

  • Bread (for example, hamburger buns, multi-grains), bread crumbs and sticks, cereals, crackers, melba toast and muesli
  • Dips and spreads, for example, hummus, chutney
  • Ethnic foods, for example, flavoured rice, noodles, shish kebabs, stews and stir fries
  • Sesame oil, sesame salt (gomasio)
  • Tahina
  • Tahini
  • Tempeh
  • Vegetarian burgers
  • Some baked goods
  • Dressings, gravies, marinades, salads, sauces and soups
  • Herbs, seasonings, flavourings and spices
  • Vegetable Pâtés
  • Snack foods, for example, crackers, sesame snap bars
  • Vegetable oil (may contain sesame oil)
And in non-food products such as:

  • Adhesive bandages
  • Cosmetics, hair care products, perfumes, soaps and sunscreens
  • Drugs
  • Fungicides and insecticides
  • Lubricants, ointments and topical oils
  • Pet food
  • Sesame meal, for example, poultry and livestock feed

So if you think you or your child has a sesame seed allergy, I suggest getting tested and finding out. It's always a good idea to know what triggers to avoid.

Now that that's out of the way, why don't we move on to this gorgeous Tahini Free Hummus?

Now having just admitted to a sesame allergy related to oral allergy syndrome (OAS), I'm also going to note that some people with OAS *may* react to chickpeas as well, as it's also an OAS related food. However, since the chickpeas are cooked and/or canned many people will find them safe to eat, as the heating process destroys most allergen proteins.


1 medium sized beet, roasted in a covered dish for 45min - 1 hr at 425F until soft, cooled, peeled and roughly chopped

One 15-ounce can of chickpeas (or 1.5 cups cooked chickpeas)
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 clove garlic
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 - 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 tsp paprika


In the bowl of a food processor, whirl all ingredients until a smooth paste is formed. Adjust salt to taste.

Serve with chopped veggies, organic corn chips, smear on bread or eat by the spoonful! 

How do you like YOUR hummus? 

Do you have an unusual food allergy? I'd love to hear about it, I'm a nut for allergy research!


1. Dalal, Ilan, Michael Goldberg, and Yitzhak Katz. "Sesame Seed Food Allergy." Current allergy and asthma reports 12, no. 4 (2012): 339-345.

2. For the allergens required to be listed on food labels in the US, see: 

For Canada, see:

 3. Kanny, G., C. Hauteclocque, and D. A. Moneret‐Vautrin. "Sesame seed and sesame seed oil contain masked allergens of growing importance." Allergy 51, no. 12 (1996): 952-957.

 4. Gangur, Venu, Caleb Kelly, and Lalitha Navuluri. "Sesame allergy: a growing food allergy of global proportions?." Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology 95, no. 1 (2005): 4-11. 

 5. Health Canada,"Sesame - One of the ten priority food allergens" 

This post was shared on the following great link parties: Waste Not Want Not Wednesday, Musings of a Housewife, Gluten Free Tuesday,Gluten Free Wednesdays, Allergy Free Wednesday, Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways, Healing with Food Friday, Tasty Traditions, Fight Back Friday, Whole Food Fridays,   


  1. My husband has a sesame allergy also, so to me, this was an interesting article..I'm going to try the beet hummus recipe today.

    1. I hope you and your husband enjoy the hummus, and I'm glad you found the article interesting!

  2. The size of the garlic clove makes a big difference! Mine was clearly too large, and it over powered things a bit. So I just added more chickpeas and such to even things out. Good recipe!

    1. Glad you liked it, and yes, the clove makes a difference! Would you believe, though, that some recipes call for TWO cloves? I like my garlic, but I don't always like to taste it for the next couple of days ;)

  3. Garlic and onions are one of the worst things you can put in your body - especially if you have some kind of immune disorder problem or allergy. But I digress. Next time, instead of adding garlic to hummus - add an Arabic Spice called Khmeli Suneli. If you want really really good hummus - don't use canned garbanzos. They are really easy to cook and you will notice a big difference. Palouse Brand on Amazon is a real winner. Thanks for the suggestion about adding a beet - think I will try it with my Golden Beets.


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