What Is Hummus, and How Do You Make It?

A little bit on the history and origin of hummus, plus how to make the creamiest possible version at home.

September 09, 2021
Healthy Homemade Creamy Hummus with the ingredients. Side view. Mediterranean dish made of chickpea beans

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Healthy Homemade Creamy Hummus with the ingredients. Side view. Mediterranean dish made of chickpea beans

Photo by: LauraSanFrancisco/Getty Images

LauraSanFrancisco/Getty Images

By Fraya Berg for Food Network Kitchen

Fraya is a chef and a contributing writer at Food Network.

You've probably dunked a carrot into hummus before. Maybe you normally snag it at the supermarket, or maybe you've even made it yourself. But what exactly is hummus? What's its history? How do you make it? You've got questions, we've got answers.

What Is Hummus?

Hummus is a smooth and creamy puree of cooked chickpeas (garbanzo beans), tahini sesame paste and an acid, typically lemon juice. While hummus usually has garlic now, centuries ago it did not. Olive oil isn’t a requirement either, but most modern recipes list it as an ingredient. Hummus has been a staple in the Middle East, Mediterranean and North African regions for longer than written records have been kept. Egypt is considered to be the birthplace of the earliest versions, and every variation is part of that family tree. The advent of a robust spice trade spread the high-protein dip around the globe because it's nexpensive and easy to make. The ingredients themselves have a long shelf life - long enough to sustain a ship’s crew until they could get food from a new port.

Today, there are many ways to make and flavor hummus. Every country, region, neighborhood and family has its own way, and they’re all correct.

Hummus ingredients for cooking - chickpea, tahini, olive oil and herbs. Middle eastern cuisine. Top view.

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Hummus ingredients for cooking - chickpea, tahini, olive oil and herbs. Middle eastern cuisine. Top view.

Photo by: Tatiana Atamaniuk/Getty Images

Tatiana Atamaniuk/Getty Images

What Does Hummus Taste Like?

The texture of classic hummus is the first sensation: smooth and creamy. Chickpeas drive the main flavor of hummus. The dip is rounded out with nutty tahini paste, citrusy lemon juice and a hit of raw garlic.

Is Hummus Good for You?

While hummus may be higher in fat than some snacks, it’s also higher in some nutrients that you really need. A 100 gram (3.5 ounce) serving has 166 calories, 9.6 grams of fat, 7.9 grams of protein, 6 grams of fiber and 14.3 grams of carbs. The protein and fiber make hummus a good choice, especially when paired with fresh veggies as dippers.

What Is Chocolate Hummus?

We'd be remis not to mention an entire category of hummus called dessert hummus. The basic premise is: mixing sweet ingredients like chocolate or pumpkin spices into a high-protein base made from protein to acheive a rich, indulgent dip that's far better for you than, say, buttercream frosting. Chocolate hummus is a popular flavor, and it's sold by many major hummus companies. If you're curious, try serving it with salty chips, pita, biscuits or fresh fruits.

Home made humus bowl, decorated with olive oil over a rustic wooden clear background. Top View

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Home made humus bowl, decorated with olive oil over a rustic wooden clear background. Top View

Photo by: Karlapar/Getty Images

Karlapar/Getty Images

How Do You Make Hummus?

Although there are countless ways to flavor your hummus, we’re going to focus on basic hummus right now. The easiest way to make hummus at home is to take the lid off your food processor and fill it with canned chickpeas that have been drained and rinsed, fresh lemon juice, a clove of garlic, tahini, olive oil and salt and pepper for seasoning. You can also choose to make hummus completely from scratch using dried chickpeas. Here are some more tips and tricks for acheiving perfectly smooth and creamy hummus at home.

  • For the very best flavor... Use high-quality ingredients and take care preparing each one; hummus is the sum of all its parts. First, use the very best tahini you can find. We recommend using Soom, or making your own. Take your tahini out of the fridge at least an hour before measuring; it may need to be stirred well to mix in the oil. Second, use a lighter olive oil if the recipe calls for blending oil into the hummus and save the expensive, extra-virgin olive oil for the swirl on top. Third, if you're adding cumin, lightly toast it first.
  • To remove the raw bite of garlic... Roughly chop the garlic you’ll be using and add it to the fresh lemon juice; let the mixture sit for 10 minutes before adding it to the hummus. Acid stops the enzymes in garlic that make it sharp and bitter.
  • To achieve the lightest, fluffiest hummus... Reach for a box of baking soda. When making hummus from dried chickpeas, soak them overnight in water with a teaspoon of baking soda. When you drain them, add 1/2 teaspoon of the baking soda to the cooking water. Turning the cooking water from neutral to basic (the opposite of acidic) by adding some baking soda helps the chickpeas break down more quickly and more evenly, and the skins become much softer. Even if you're using canned chickpeas, you can drain them and cook them in water with 1/2 teaspoon baking soda until they're falling apart, about 20 minutes. Draining the chickpeas and pureeing while hot makes a very smooth paste of and makes it easier for the tahini to blend with it.
  • For the smoothest hummus... Use a high-powered blender instead of a food processor. It's as simple as that.
  • For the best presentation... Let the hummus warm up to room temp before serving, taste, season again if necessary, with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Place a spoon on the top of the hummus and hold it in place as you swirl the serving bowl to create a perfectly round indent for pouring nice olive oil into.
A table with Israel Appetizers - Hummus, Falafel, Tahini, Salads, Guacamole, Couscous, Pita Bread, Tabbouleh, Tzatziki, Rice, Feta, Meze, Cabbage, Eggplant, Corn, Carrot, Zucchini. Fresh juice.

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A table with Israel Appetizers - Hummus, Falafel, Tahini, Salads, Guacamole, Couscous, Pita Bread, Tabbouleh, Tzatziki, Rice, Feta, Meze, Cabbage, Eggplant, Corn, Carrot, Zucchini. Fresh juice.

Photo by: Yulia Shaihudinova/Getty Images

Yulia Shaihudinova/Getty Images

What Should You Eat with Hummus?

Here in the U.S, soft pita and pita chips along with fresh veggies are the most common go-with. Or you can use it as a spread in a pita and grilled chicken sandwich. In the Middle East, hummus is usually served as part of a meze platter. The list of what you can eat with hummus is as vast as your immagination, but here are some ideas.

  • Roasted peppers
  • Falafel
  • Baba ganoush
  • Tabouleh
  • Stuffed grape leaves
  • Fattoush
  • Grilled lamb
  • Dried fruits and toasted nuts
  • Grilled fish
  • Eggplant caviar
  • Moroccan carrot salad
  • Breads like pita and laffa

How Long Does Hummus Last?

When you buy hummus, it will tell you on the package what the best by date is. Usually, it’s a couple of months if it’s not opened, but be sure to check. Store homemade hummus in an airtight container in the fridge for 7 to 10 days.

What Is A Substitute for Tahini In Hummus?

If a sesame or nut allergy is the issue, you can try avocado: it’s creamy and has fat like tahini, and avocadoes are readily available. Cashew or almond butter work well, and 1/2 teaspoon of sesame oil is another option.

Hummus Recipes

Food Network Kitchen’s Hummus Dips, Classic Hummus with Fried Chickpeas and Parsley Oil

Food Network Kitchen’s Hummus Dips, Classic Hummus with Fried Chickpeas and Parsley Oil

Photo by: Kate Mathis

Kate Mathis

The combination of creamy hummus, crunchy chickpeas and silkly parsley oil is a must-have at any party where you’re serving a Middle Eastern menu.

Sweet and green, hummus made from edamame is a perfect afternoon snack with fresh veggies.

Food Network Hummus Trio

Food Network Hummus Trio

Photo by: Marshall Troy ©FOOD NETWORK : 2012,Television Food Network,G.P.

Marshall Troy , FOOD NETWORK : 2012,Television Food Network,G.P.

Three bowls of flavored hummus from one recipe, including peppadew pepper, artichoke and spinach. Perfect for a party.

Photo by: Matt Armendariz

Matt Armendariz

An instant pot makes cooking dried chickpeas so much faster. All the five-star reviews tell the story, with many raving that it's the best hummus that exists.

This image has been distributed to our partners.

This image has been distributed to our partners.

Transform prepared hummus with different mix-ins so it becomes vibrantly green and red, then swirl the two dips together. Perfect for any occasion, especially the holidays.

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