What is Hummus?

Jane Harmon

Hummus is a middle-eastern food composed of chickpeas, or garbanzo beans, and tahini, a paste similar in texture to peanut butter that is made from sesame seeds. Hummus is typically eaten with pita or other flat bread.

A bowl of dried chickpeas, an important ingredient in hummus.
A bowl of dried chickpeas, an important ingredient in hummus.

Because both chickpeas and sesame seeds are wonderfully healthful, hummus is a nutritionist's delight. Chickpeas are a good source of protein, potassium and fiber. Sesame seeds are also a source of protein, along with vitamin E and a powerful antioxidant. So when you blend them together into hummus, you're really cooking!

Bowl of hummus drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with paprika.
Bowl of hummus drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with paprika.

You can buy this food in the deli section of the grocery store, but it's so easy to make yourself and you can adjust the flavors just like you want it. You may have to buy the tahini paste from a middle-eastern grocery store or online. If you are feeling adventurous, you can even make your own tahini from sesame seeds and vegetable oil.

Pita bread, which is often served with hummus.
Pita bread, which is often served with hummus.

To makeit, no cooking is required -- just a food processor. Drain a can or two of chickpeas. In this instance, the canned variety is preferred over cooking your own from dried garbanzos. They mash up better than their more freshly prepared equivalents. Dump the chickpeas in your food processor and puree them.

Lemon juice can add flavor to hummus.
Lemon juice can add flavor to hummus.

Tahini should be about a fifth to a quarter of the total, so if you have two cups of pureed chickpeas, add about a half cup of tahini paste. Throw in a few peeled cloves of garlic. Don't hesitate to taste as you go, and add ingredients incrementally -- that way if you get too little garlic in, you can add more, but it's hard to take out the garlic that's already there. Add some lemon juice for zing -- a quarter cup or more. If the paste is too stiff, adding a little water or olive oil to the processor will soften it right up.

Garlic is used in making humus.
Garlic is used in making humus.

Now that you have your hummus, toast some flatbread or heat some tortillas in a warm oven and dig in. You can use it as a sandwich spread, as a veggie dip or on crackers. Fun stir-ins can include olives, green and black; pine nuts; diced crispy vegetables such as cucumbers or celery... the list is only limited by your imagination and tastes. Now enjoy your hummus and know you are getting valuable protein, fiber and antioxidants at the same time.

Chopped green or black olives are common additions to garlicky hummus.
Chopped green or black olives are common additions to garlicky hummus.

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Discussion Comments


I did not know what it was. I just knew it was good for you and this lists how it is used. I feel like it sounds gross, but it tells different ways to try it. With adjustments, I'm sure that would help. Lemon and garlic and roasted peppers sounds better to me. Thanks for this article. It's thorough and very informative on how it can be used, as well. Great job.


I had never tried hummus before until my co-worker introduced me to it. I love all the different flavors and we eat it with raw vegetables (carrots, cucumbers, celery, string beans, broccoli, etc). We have have lost a lot of weight by eating this instead of unhealthy snacks.


I have read recently that chickpeas cause inflammation in the body. What is your feeling about that?


@Mykol -- I had a hard time finding tahini at the store so used some almond butter in place of this ingredient. I love the taste of almond butter anyway and this made the most wonderful hummus. I once tried a low fat hummus I bought at the health food store but this didn't have nearly the taste or flavor as the recipe I made up myself. The almond butter and chickpeas wouldn't be considered low fat, but they are made with fat that is actually good for you.


I don't care for the taste of tahini so I follow a hummus recipe that does not include this. I make hummus with the chickpeas, olive oil, lemon juice and a little bit of cumin. I have found that people who say they don't like garbanzo beans like to eat this hummus dip.

I think it is hard to go wrong when you make your own hummus. I know they have a good selection of flavors in the store, but it only takes a few minutes to make this yourself and you can add the flavors that you like.


The first time I tried hummus I didn't know for sure if I would like it. As I read through the hummus ingredients on the jar I realized I liked everything that was in there, so decided to give it a try.

I loved the taste of it, but my biggest problem is that I like to eat it with chips. Depending on the type of chips I have makes a difference between this being a healthy or an unhealthy snack.

It really would be better to eat this with lower calorie foods like vegetables, but I love the crunch and salt of the chips with the taste of the hummus. It is so good that it is easy to realize I have gone through half a bag of chips at one sitting.


@anon147106 -- Garlic flavored hummus is my favorite too. It is hard to have too much garlic in my hummus dip so I like to make my own. It would probably be too strong for most people, but I can easily sit down and eat a bowl of it with some raw vegetables and be completely satisfied.


The popcorn chips Chip'ins-Sea Salt flavor are so good with hummus! And they are good for you. It's an all around good meal.


i like a lot of lemon in my hummus.


My favorite is the roasted garlic. Wonderful with pretzels.


i just recently tried hummus with a friend and although i don't know what flavor it was, it was really delicious. so, i told my mother about it and we are now sitting at home eating hummus with roasted red peppers. thank you to my friend Amanda.


I am eating some Fresh & Easy hummus with Roasted Red Pepper. It's awesome. So are all their flavors.

The only downside of hummus is the fat content but when combined with low-fat high fiber chips and the already large amount of fiber from the chickpeas, it keeps you from spiking blood sugar as much as just eating chips would do and also i believe that you absorb less fat when you consume fiber during meals.

I'm not a scientist but it would seem to be that countries that consume lots of fiber have trimmer people than in the USA, which does not consume enough unprocessed plant foods.


I had tried the trio hummus at Fresh and Easy Neighborhood Market and I had fallen in love with the flavors. My favorite is hummus with cilantro. --Mary


When my grandma asked my aunt what hummus was, I researched it and it said that it was compost, but she spelled it: h-u-m-u-s. That didn't sound like edible food, so I called her back and she said it was spelled h-u-m-m-u-s. Boy, we were glad we didn't have to eat compost!


And don't forget to try the different flavored types of hummus like roasted eggplant hummus, and roasted red bell pepper hummus. Soooooo good! Maybe not the lowest calorie food, but very tasty and like the article says it does have protein, fiber and antioxidants!

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