Everything You Wanted To Know About Hummus
It wasn’t long ago that hummus was considered an exotic food, and it was rarely found on grocery store shelves in the U.S. But the delicious and Middle Eastern dip surged in popularity across the world in the late 1990s. Now most Americans have tried hummus at least once. Of course, some of us (especially at Nomad's Marketplace) have tried it many, many times!
What Is Hummus?
Hummus is a Middle Eastern dish made primarily from mashed chickpeas, tahini, and other ingredients such as olive oil, garlic and lemon juice. The chickpea-based dish has a long and interesting history and offers a host of health benefits, especially if you make your own!
One of The First Prepared Foods in History
The question of who invented hummus is up for debate; various regions have claimed the dish as their own. Some say the recipe was created by the ancient Egyptians, while others claim it originated in ancient Greece, Turkey or Palestine. The earliest records of a hummus recipe are found in two 13th-century Egyptian cookbooks: One recipe describes a puree of chickpeas with vinegar and oil; another details a mixture of chickpeas, tahini and vinegar that was rolled out like a pastry.
According to at least one legend, hummus was one of the first prepared foods concocted in human history. Despite its somewhat vague origins, there is no doubt that the recipe came from somewhere in the Middle East, where chickpeas have been cultivated for centuries and are featured in many Middle Eastern and Mediterranean recipes.
The Essential Ingredients
The Arabic word “hummus” literally means “chickpeas,” or “garbanzo beans,” which are one of the main ingredients in the dip. Although you can find a wide range of variations, the basic hummus recipe includes the following.
- Mashed chickpeas
- Tahini (sesame seed paste)
- Lemon juice
- Olive oil
The ingredients are combined in a food processor and blended to a smooth consistency for dipping or spreading.
Ways to Enjoy This Creamy Dip!
Hummus is most often enjoyed as a dip for pita bread or raw vegetables, but you can also use it as a sandwich spread or an accompaniment to a main dish, like lamb kofta kebob. As a dip, hummus can be served warm, at room temperature, or straight from the refrigerator, depending on your preference.
Top Tips For Making The Perfect Hummus At Home
If you want to learn how to make hummus at home, here are some tips that can help you get the best results.
Expert Tip 1:
Even though many recipes recommend using canned chickpeas, you’ll get better results if you take the time to soak and cook dried ones, since freshly cooked beans have more flavor and a creamier texture when blended.
Expert Tip 2:
If you still prefer to use canned chickpeas, try heating them in a pan of water with 1.5 teaspoons of baking soda per 2 cups for 10 to 15 minutes. The baking soda will help soften the chickpeas.
Expert Tip 3:
Peel chickpea skins before putting them in the food processor. If you rinse the boiled chickpeas and rub them between your fingers, the skins should come off easily and fall away. Make sure to keep the water you used to soak and/or boil the beans and use that water to help blend the ingredients. This will help intensify the flavor and add back in valuable nutrients.
Expert Tip 4:
Finally, make sure to use all fresh ingredients; for example, fresh lemon juice rather than bottled and fresh garlic rather than garlic powder.
Eating Chickpeas Leads to Better Health
No one doubts that it’s delicious, but many people ask, “Is hummus healthy?” Studies have shown that it is healthy. A study about hummus published by the Journal of Nutrition & Food Sciences states that adults who regularly ate chickpeas had a lower body mass index and waist circumference. It also showed that those who consumed hummus were 53 percent less likely to be obese, and 43 percent less likely to be overweight or obese when compared to people who don’t eat hummus.
Another report, issued by the U.S. National Library of Medicine about hummus, part of the National Institutes of Health, says emerging research shows chickpeas and hummus “may play a beneficial role in weight management and glucose and insulin regulation, as well as have a positive impact on some markers of cardiovascular disease.”
Hummus derives much of its flavor and creamy goodness from the fat in the tahini and olive oil, so it is not a low-fat or low-calorie food. But it is much healthier than other dips that rely on mayonnaise or cheese for texture and flavor because it is low in saturated fat, the unhealthy fat that’s linked to high cholesterol and heart disease. Chickpeas are also high in fiber and protein and full of other essential nutrients like vitamin B, magnesium, calcium and iron, while tahini is packed with cholesterol-lowering phytosterols.
The only thing to beware of is the high sodium content in some commercially produced hummus. But if you eat homemade hummus, chances are you’ll consume a healthy amount of sodium in addition to the other nutritional benefits.
Recommended for Weight-Loss Diets
One of the best things about hummus is that almost anyone can eat it, no matter what diet they follow, making it the perfect dish to take to a potluck. It’s appropriate for vegetarians and even vegans because it contains no animal products. It’s also naturally gluten-free, anti-inflammatory and free of the eight most common food allergens. Hummus can be a great alternative to peanut and nut butters for people with nut allergies. Hummus is usually a recommended food for weight-loss diets, especially if eaten in moderation. Even low-carb diets typically include hummus because the chickpeas contain healthy complex carbs, rather than the simple carbs (like sugar and starch) that lead to weight gain.
Best Variations of Hummus
Hummus is a versatile dish. In many Middle Eastern recipes it can be eaten at breakfast, lunch or dinner, and it can be served as an appetizer, a side dish (meze) or a main course. Some restaurants even serve nothing but hummus as a main dish. In case that sounds monotonous, don’t worry.
Many variations of the basic recipe have evolved over time. By adding ingredients here and replacing others there, hummus chefs have come up with a variety of distinctive recipes based on the traditional combination of chickpeas and tahini. While the best hummus recipe is a matter of debate, the following are some of the most popular varieties of hummus from around the world.
Hummus With Beans
One variation is known as hummus ful, which is hummus topped with a puree of cooked dried fava beans, olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic. Beans are not just a hummus topping, however. Incorporating other beans into hummus is a popular variation, and almost any bean will work to replace all or part of the chickpeas in the recipe. Black bean and white bean hummus are two of the most common bean variations, but creative chefs have not stopped there. You can find recipes for hummus made with lima beans, English peas, and even edamame.
With Soft Chickpeas
Another take on hummus is musabaha, also known as mashausha, a dish that is especially popular in Israel and the Levant. Musabaha, the Arabic word for “swimming,” is a combination of traditional hummus, chickpeas that are boiled with baking soda until they reach an extra-soft texture, and extra tahini and lemon juice. The soft chickpeas are left whole and thus appear to be swimming in the sauce. This light and creamy dish is served warm with a drizzle of olive oil and roasted pine nuts on top. It is especially popular as a breakfast dish.
In Jordan and Palestine, it’s common to replace the tahini in a hummus recipe with yogurt and to replace the olive oil with butter. This dish is known as laban ma’ hummus, literally “yogurt with chickpeas,” and it’s typically served warm or at room temperature. Like musabaha, it is also commonly served at breakfast. People who are sensitive to the slightly bitter taste of tahini may prefer this milder version. By skipping the butter and using low-fat or fat-free Greek yogurt, you can make a delightfully tangy low-calorie, low-fat version of this dish.
Hummus With Various Toppings
Hummus can be served with a nearly infinite variety of toppings. In Palestine, for example, it is common to top a dish of hummus with olive oil, parsley, and mint leaves. In Turkey, hummus is often topped with pastirma, a thinly sliced cured beef. In Jerusalem, hummus topped with marinated roasted lamb is a popular main dish. Kofta kebab is a common use for hummus in Middle Eastern cuisine. Pine nuts, roasted red peppers, crisp roasted chickpeas, hot sauce, herbs, and smoked or spicy paprika are other traditional options. When it comes to toppings, the sky is the limit. Hummus chefs are always trying new twists on the old recipe to create something both delicious and unique.