The biggest difference between American hummus and the hummus prepared in the Mediterranean is, in a word, simplicity.
A Mediterranean hummus is a humble chickpea-centric dish made with tahini (sesame seed paste), lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil (drizzled on top), and salt (sometimes cumin is added). In fact, hummus means chickpeas in Arabic. The once peasant dish is believed to have been born in Egypt. It is a nutrient-rich classic dish that isn’t dolled up with other ingredients. It is not a looker, but a pop of color is sometimes added on top, like roasted red peppers or Kalamata olives. And in the Mediterranean, it’s eaten sometimes rolled up in a pita or crowned with veggies or meat.
The nutrients come primarily from the chickpeas (the cheeky little legumes pack a lot of punch with iron, magnesium, zinc, potassium, and fiber) while the tahini and olive oil add fat. If you want a lower fat version of hummus, you’d want to cut down on the amount of tahini and olive oil you use in the recipe (but less tahini means less creamy hummus). In the States, hummus tends to be less creamy and grainier than in the Mediterranean (where they do not shy away from using generous amounts of tahini in the recipe).
In the U.S., many variations of the classic Mediterranean hummus have debuted in recent years—in fact, most of these dishes wouldn’t be recognized overseas as hummus. And because hummus means chickpeas in Arabic, these aren’t truly hummus dishes, more like vegetable purees. Edamame hummus is made with, yes, edamame. Also trending is carrot hummus, black bean hummus, beet hummus, and sweet potato hummus. Some of these dishes might also throw in chickpeas for good measure, but for the most part, no. The one common ingredient they do all typically share is tahini, and these “hummus” dishes also usually include lemon juice, olive oil, salt ,and garlic. These vegetable hummuses add vibrant color to the usually beige hummus dish, but again, these “hummus” dishes would never pass as such in the Mediterranean or Middle East.
Another difference: Hummus is typically prepared and eaten daily in the Mediterranean, and not refrigerated to be consumed over time. In the States, however, hummus is a popular snack for kids—and a popular mezze (appetizer) for adults, showing up on restaurant menus everywhere with a sidekick of toasted pita points, chips, or crudité.
Check out these recipes for classic Mediterranean hummus dishes, as well as hummus-inspired U.S. dishes. Tip: For a smoother hummus, chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans) should shed their skins before you make hummus. An easy way to accomplish this is to soak them with baking soda.
If you’ve got a good thing, don’t mess it up. And remember, go heavier on the tahini for an even creamier hummus experience. Get our Easy Hummus recipe.
Yes, cauliflower is still having a moment in the health food space. Yes, this tastes as delicious as it looks. Get our Cauliflower Hummus recipe.
You’ll be seeing green with this edamame take on a classic hummus. Soy delicious. Get the recipe.
Roasted Carrot Hummus
Roasted carrots are the star of this recipe, with an appearance by chickpeas. Get the recipe.
Header image courtesy of Chowhound and Ageless Diet Life.