20 years ago, hummus was a strange foreign product to most U.S. consumers. Today, roughly one in four U.S. consumers has it in their refrigerator. Hummus’ success is partly due to its delicious taste, and partly due to the successful marketing campaigns that tie this Mediterranean staple food to American eating styles. Up-and-coming hummus companies marketed it as a healthy alternative to creamy dips, and as a convenient, on-the-go snack. Now, it’s mostly eaten that way in the U.S., as a dip with cut vegetables or pita chips.
Hummus has a lot more to offer, however. In the Middle East, people have been preparing hummus for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for centuries. It’s traditionally served warm with a generous drizzle of olive oil and fresh herbs. Heartier versions are topped with cooked chickpeas, mushrooms or a small amount of ground meat (often lamb).
In Israel, there is even a name for restaurants that specialize in making hummus: hummusias. Hummusias serve hummus as the main dish, with pita, pickled vegetables, and maybe a hard-boiled egg or falafel on the side. Diners eat it like they would a soup or stew, by the spoonful.
If you’ve never been to a hummusia or tried homemade hummus, the experience is worth the effort. Super smooth, homemade hummus is divine. Soak and cook dried chickpeas for the best results, or use canned chickpeas for similar flavor. A few pulses in a food processor (or grinds in a mortar and pestle if you want to be old school) with lemon, tahini (sesame paste), and garlic, and you've got a delicious, versatile spread.
If you’re looking for even more ways to use hummus (homemade or store-bought), think of its essential ingredients listed above, and figure out what pairs well with them. It’s hard to go wrong with most Mediterranean foods. Here are just a few ideas:
- Thin hummus with lemon juice and olive oil then use as a creamy salad dressing or toss it with cooked pasta and fresh tomatoes and herbs.
- Use it in the same ways you use beans. For example, to play on classic British beans on toast, try spreading hummus on toasted whole wheat bread. Drizzle with olive oil and top with crumbled feta cheese, sunflower seeds, or chopped chives to dress it up and add some color.
- Hummus has an advantage over regular cooked chickpeas and beans in that it can be spread like a condiment on burger buns, sandwiches, and wraps. It’s delicious with roasted vegetables too.
For even more ways to use hummus, download our 12 Great Ways to Use Hummus. Or check out the recipes below.
Click on a title or photo below to go to the recipes. Main photo from istockphoto.com.