Turn Mediocre Canned Artichokes into a Versatile Vegan Spread

Turn Mediocre Canned Artichokes into a Versatile Vegan Spread
Photo: A.A. Newton

One of my favourite Panic Meals involves whatever sad produce I have in the fridge, purposefully burned to a crisp and puréed with something fatty. It’s a great way to revive vegetables that have long passed their prime and an excuse to have chips and dip for dinner — which is always a plus.

Recently, I encountered a substance that rekindled my interest in this food genre: A small jar of imported Italian artichoke spread, which I bought for a picnic back when the air was safe to breathe. As far as I can tell, it’s puréed artichokes bound together with sunflower seed oil and seasoned with a bit of salt. It’s unbelievable. There’s no dairy involved, but it’s super creamy, and it packs a concentrated punch of pure artichoke flavour — like the best spinach artichoke dip you’ve ever had, all artichokes and no filler. Naturally, I needed to figure out how to make it.

I’m thrilled to report that it’s as easy as I thought it would be. All you need is a blender (or a stick blender), a skillet, a few pantry ingredients, and literally 10 minutes. For the smoothest possible results, use a high-powered blender and canned artichoke bottoms — they’re not as stringy as hearts, and thus need less convincing to purée. With that said, the batch featured in the photograph above was made with hearts and a stick blender; it turned out great.

To make approximately one cup of delicious artichoke spread, you will need:

  • 1/4-1/2 cup flavorful oil of your choice (I used a mixture of extra-virgin olive oil and toasted walnut oil)

  • 1 x 400 g can artichoke hearts or bottoms in brine, drained

  • 2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed

  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, or other acidic ingredient

  • 1/2 teaspoon smooth Dijon mustard (optional)

  • Salt to taste

Canned artichokes are often disappointingly bland, so you’ll need to punch them up a bit. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When it’s nice and hot, add the drained artichokes and garlic cloves. Cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are caramelised around the edges.

Scrape the contents of the skillet into a blender, or whatever container you usually use with your stick blender. Pour the lemon juice or vinegar into the empty skillet, scrape up any stuck-on brown bits, and add that to the blender too. Add the mustard, if applicable, and purée the mixture until you have a slightly lumpy, grayish-yellow paste. (Sorry — it gets better, I promise!)

With the motor running, drizzle in 1/4 cup of oil, and purée until totally smooth. If it seems a bit too thick, gradually add up to 1/4 cup more oil and purée until you reach the desired consistency. Season to taste with salt and serve warm, room temperature, or cold.

Although this is fantastic as part of a vegan antipasti plate, don’t let the dip-like format box you in. It’s basically artichoke-based vegan mayo, which makes it incredibly versatile; wherever you’d reach for the Vegenaise, try some of this instead. Personally, I’m most excited to try a double artichoke spinach dip, with this spread subbed in for the mayo base. (Though I can’t promise I won’t add cheese.)

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