By Erik Marcus
If you’re unfamiliar with hummus, it’s a delicious food that’s well worth trying. Not only is it one of the world’s most popular vegan foods, it’s also convenient and a great source of protein. Most groceries carry at least one brand, and every Middle Eastern restaurant features it prominently on the menu. It’s also remarkably easy to make at home.
What is Hummus?
Hummus may well be the most widely-eaten food in all of Middle Eastern cooking. It’s a simple but satisfying dish typically made of just six ingredients:
- garbanzo beans
- olive oil
- lemon juice
Because people can’t resist screwing up a great thing, it’s occasionally made with yogurt. But the overwhelming majority of hummus is vegan.
Despite its simplicity, preparation methods differ enormously. So try as many brands as you can, and sample it in as many restaurants as possible. If you don’t like it the first time you try it, you probably picked a variety that was ineptly prepared.
Any mainstream supermarket will carry hummus, so it’s reliably available even if you’re traveling through rural North Dakota. Natural food stores often carry local brands that are much tastier than the stuff the big guys make.
Since several of the largest hummus brands sell meat products, I don’t feel like featuring them here. Hummus from these companies also tends to contain preservatives. But there are a couple vegan brands that are worth your attention. Hope is especially good, it’s made with organic ingredients, and it’s widely distributed in the United States. As of this writing, Hope offers eight varieties of hummus, and according to their FAQ everything they make is vegan.
If you’ve got a Trader Joe’s nearby, their garlic and Middle Eastern varieties are both vegan and quite good. They also sell a delicious eggplant version that’s a cross between baba ghanouj and hummus. In Europe, both Aldi and the DM drugstore chain sell excellent hummus. Aldi’s is kept in the refrigerated section and DM’s sells in glass jars that you must refrigerate upon opening.
The hummus you can get to-go from any Middle Eastern restaurant is likely to be better and fresher than any supermarket brand. Since this is one of the most popular dishes in all of Middle Eastern Cooking, it’s unthinkable for a restaurant specializing in this food to not make great hummus.
That said, I avoid ordering both hummus and falafel in any vegetarian restaurant that doesn’t specialize in Middle Eastern cuisine. I’ve been disappointed too many times, and feel I’m better off choosing almost anything else on the menu.
Making it at Home
Note that hummus is one of the cheapest and easiest foods you could make. You can get all fancy and soak and cook your garbanzo beans, or you can save time and use canned garbanzos.
The best way to cook raw garbanzos for hummus is to use an Instant Pot, which basically works as an automatic pressure cooker. Any blender can do the job of blending everything together, but a Blendtec, Vitamix, or high-powered food processor will cut time and yield creamier results.
Hummus is great in pitas or in traditional lavash flatbread wraps. And it’s terrific in sandwiches or smeared on bagel halves, especially along with some tomato, sprouts, and pickle slices. Although Mexican-style salsa and guacamole are the traditional dips for tortilla chips, hummus offers another terrific possibility.
One of the most popular ways to serve hummus is alongside carrot or celery sticks. It’s also sensational when paired with olives, or topped with pickled cucumbers, peppers, beets, or turnips. Also try it on rice cakes—another great option for the gluten-free crowd.
For further reading: Please see our Middle Eastern foods guide and our vegan foods page.