Healthy hummus is a little redundant, in that the classic garbanzo bean dip is already a dang healthy snack—each scoop provides a dose of protein, fiber, healthy poly- and mono-unsaturated fats, and a bit of iron, potassium, and B vitamins. But believe it or not, you can make this smart snack even healthier with a few easy tricks that really pump up the nutrition.
1. Choose the Right Tahini
Tahini—a creamy sesame paste that’s a staple of Middle Eastern cuisine—is also a critical ingredient in traditional (and delicious!) hummus. Look for a brand with minimal ingredients on the label; this will help you avoid ingesting unnecessary preservatives or a boatload of sodium and sugar. If you see much more than sesame seeds, oil, and perhaps a bit of salt, keep on searching.
Soom Foods Premium Sesame Tahini, 2 for $16.50 from Amazon
This brand is nothing but sesame seeds, and is adored by chefs and home hummus enthusiasts alike.
2. Ditch the Canned Beans
If you have the time, it’s worth soaking and cooking your own dried chickpeas versus opening a can. Canned beans can be high in sodium, plus they usually cost more than dried ones, says Kristian Morey, RD, LDN, an outpatient dietician at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, MD. Rinse dried chickpeas, then place them in a large pot and cover with a few inches of water; bring to a boil, then reduce and simmer until softened (about one to one-and-a-half hours).
Related Reading: More Tips for the Best Homemade Hummus
3. Rinse Your Beans
If you don’t have access to dried chickpeas or are in need of a quickie hummus fix, rinsing canned chickpeas in a colander is a good way to reduce the amount of sodium you’re consuming. If you think they’re lacking flavor, add a sprinkle of salt as you blend.
4. Go Easy on the Olive Oil
Tahini contains oil and has a slightly loose consistency, so there’s no need to pour tons of extra olive oil into your food processor; although olive oil contains healthy fats, you should still consume it in moderation. If your hummus is too thick, thin it out with lemon juice or a bit of water, first—then drizzle some extra virgin olive oil over the top when you’re ready to serve for a burst of deep flavor. “I also find that using a high speed blender can help you attain the same creamy texture as those with more oil,” says Morey.
5. Substitute Nut Butters for Tahini
Sesame seeds are tasty but they don’t have a whole lot of nutrients. If your goal is health over authenticity, try substituting almond butter for tahini, says Joel Gamoran, national chef of Sur La Table and host of A+E Scraps on FYI. Almond butter has a mild flavor, so it won’t be overpowering, and it’ll deliver a bit more protein, fiber, and other vitamins and minerals.
6. Blend in Veggies
Grinding up vegetables like spinach, kale, beets, carrots, red peppers, or sweet potatoes alongside the chickpeas and tahini can give your hummus a serious nutritional punch, not to mention a brilliantly fun color that is sure impress both your taste buds and guests. Don’t be afraid to play with unique spices that complement your veggie choice. “Adding spices like garam masala, turmeric, cumin, or even cinnamon increases antioxidant properties,” says the culinary team at Vitamix.
7. Experiment with Different Beans
Chickpeas are the canvas for traditional hummus, but pretty much any bean can be transformed into this dip. If you’re looking for more protein, try blending lentils, black beans, or cooked edamame (soy beans), which all contain slightly more than garbanzos. You can also sprinkle protein-rich toppings like chia seeds or flax on top before serving.
Cuisinart 3-Cup Mini Prep Plus Food Processor, $39.95 from Sur La Table
This smaller size is great for dips and sauces.
8. Revamp Your Dippers
There’s nothing better than dragging a hunk of piping hot pita or salty, crunchy pita chips through a big bowl of hummus. But if you’re looking for a low-cal, low-carb option, crunchy raw veggies can really do the trick. “Bell peppers, snap peas, cucumbers, radishes, celery, and carrots will still get you that crunch that you crave,” says Morey.
If you’re not ready to ditch carbs completely, make your own pita chips with whole wheat pita—cut into triangles and bake in the oven at 350-375 degrees until golden and crispy.
9. Read the Ingredients Label if You Don’t Want to DIY
Let’s face it—you’re probably not going to whip up a batch of homemade hummus every time the craving hits. That’s okay! The store-bought variety can be just as good (and tasty!) as making it from scratch. Scanning the nutrition label is key, though, since some brands contain more sodium or artificial ingredients than others.
“Choose ones made with tahini or olive oil, and watch for excessive sodium and additives, preservatives, and colors. Low sodium versions would be less than 140mg per serving,” says Marisa Moore, RDN, a registered dietician nutritionist based in Atlanta.