Chickpea hummus isn't the only dip out there, folks.

Vegan Dips
Credit: Abby Hocking

Healthy eating means something to different to everyone (ahem, that friend who says veggie pizza has just as many benefits as eating five carrot sticks), but it’s a tried and true fact that healthy can still be delicious. In other words, eating healthily doesn’t have to mean unsalted kale and dry quinoa.

Take it from Seamus Mullen, who has written an entire cookbook geared toward redefining the way we think about healthy cooking. Although Mullen has omitted several foods — such as legumes and anything with gluten — from his diet due to personal health struggles, the chef never wanted to forego flavor solely for the sake of being “healthy.”

On this week’s episode of Mad Genius Live, Mullen stopped by the Food & Wine Test Kitchen to make the carrot and turmeric hummus from his cookbook, Real Food Heals: Eat to Feel Younger and Stronger Every Day, which is a great alternative to the classic version made with chickpeas. Bright orange in color, the dip is visually stunning and a fun addition to any summer dinner party. Mullen also likes to use the hummus as a spread for open-faced sandwiches (his choice, sans bread, is composed of nori, avocado, and tuna) and even as a salad dressing — just add olive oil and vinegar, stir it up, and voila!

Along with Food & Wine Culinary Director Justin Chapple, Mullen demonstrated two other vegetable dips, both from Chapple’s newest cookbook, Just Cook It!: 145 Built-to-Be-Easy Recipes That Are Totally Delicious. Both the Butter Bean and Hearts of Palm Hummus and the Avocado Mayonnaise are creamy, acidic, and dairy-free — tasty on their own and great as vinaigrettes, too.

Whether pureeing vegetables, kneading flatbread dough, or turning beef into jerky, Mullen reminds us that the food is never really about the recipe — it’s about how it tastes. “Part of being a cook is improvising with your ingredients,” Mullen says.

When it comes to Mullen’s hummus, heed his advice. Sub in cayenne pepper for sumac if you don’t happen to have that spice on hand. Add more lemon juice than called for if the texture isn’t as smooth as you’d like it to be. Feel free to deviate from the instructions and make changes, because at the end of the day, all that really matters is that you feel good about what you’re eating — no matter how you choose to define healthy.

For more healthy cooking inspiration, check out these recipes.