If you’re like me, you are fond of hummus. And you’re hardly alone: this dip, which originated in the Middle East, dates back to the 13th century; its popularity has spread around the globe, especially with health-conscious consumers who love the taste of, say, ranch dressing-but eschew the fat and calories.
The word “hummus” is Arabic for chickpeas. In addition to chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans), hummus generally contains tahini (a type of sesame paste), garlic, and lemon. The earliest known hummus recipe appeared in a cookbook published in Cairo in the 13th century. Apparently, pyramid building helps you work up quite the appetite. This version was made with vinegar, pickled lemons, olive oil, and herbs, but did not contain garlic or tahini. Hummus was an ideal food for this region, as it was both nutritious and filling, and packed with flavor. Its reputation as a health food is well deserved: hummus is high in fiber and protein, low in saturated fat, contains good-for-you complex carbohydrates, and is chock full of nutrients including vitamins B6 and C, manganese, folate, iron, zinc, and potassium. Its main ingredient, chickpeas, is considered one of the world’s healthiest foods.
Hummus can be served many different ways. It is enjoyed as a dip or spread and scooped up with pita bread, crackers, tortilla chips, and vegetables; as an accompaniment to falafel, grilled chicken, fish, and eggplant; and can even be smeared onto a sandwich. Subway, in fact, has recently been test-marketing hummus as an option for its sandwiches. This is no surprise, considering its surge in popularity: in 2006, only 12% of U.S. households purchased hummus; that number is currently at 20% and continuing to rise, based on Americans’ growing embrace of exotic foods and desire for healthier diet options. This has prompted some experts to declare 2015 the “Year of Hummus” in America. The rest of the world is like, DUH. ‘Bout time you caught on, ‘Merica.
I’ve enjoyed hummus for years – and with my recent health woes, it has become a regular staple in our household. I usually use it as a dip for vegetables – especially carrot and celery sticks, and snap peas. I also like to make a “hummus boat” by slicing a cucumber in half lengthwise, scooping out the innards, filling with hummus and topping with feta or goat cheese. This is a simple, nutritious – and best of all, delicious – snack.
Nowadays, there are more varieties of hummus available in the grocery store than ever before. Sabra may be the nation’s most popular brand, but some smaller manufacturers are getting in on the action, too. Here are my favorite varieties:
- Wildwood/Emerald Valley Kitchen Organic Greek Olive & Garlic Hummus. This smooth and creamy hummus is my top choice. It contains just the right ratio of kalamata olives to garlic, with each flavor harmoniously complementing the other, and is the perfect consistency for dipping and spreading onto your favorite cracker or veggie. At only 50 calories, it’s one of the healthier options, too.
- Hope Spicy Avocado Hummus. Love guacamole but shy away from its calories and fat? This hummus makes a great, guilt-free substitute that will help ease your separation anxieties. Its green color certainly resembles guac; in addition to avocados, it contains jalapeno peppers that provide a generous, spicy kick. This one is great spread in a wrap or on a sandwich, and scooped up with tortilla chips. It also contains 50 calories per serving.
- Athenos Spicy Three Pepper Hummus. Athenos separates itself from the competition by making its hummus with 100% pure olive oil, giving it a light and creamy texture. Red pepper hummus is very popular, but I find it a tad one-dimensional; Athenos packs in three varieties – red and green bell peppers, and jalapenos – for a little more depth of flavor. Yes, it’s got a little jolt of spice, but is more subtle than Hope’s. I like it with vegetables.
- Open Nature Tuscan White Bean Hummus. Hummus doesn’t always have to be made with garbanzo beans; this variety – a Safeway brand – uses lima beans instead. The flavor is a little more mellow than traditional hummus and the consistency slightly thicker, but it’s a delicious alternative to traditional hummus and can be enjoyed with anything.
Of course, hummus is easy to make at home and allows you to be creative with your ingredients! All you need are chickpeas, tahini, lemon, garlic, and a blender. Go crazy!