Nothing more adventurous, one would hope! Dessert hummus arrived at the scene after people were done experimenting with various savory hummus flavors like beetroot, avocado, and roasted bell peppers. Dessert hummus started with chocolate, but today, it’s the tamest flavor around. Suddenly we have strawberry, snickerdoodle, red velvet hummus, and mango, among other more difficult-to-mention combos.
Why is this concoction of foods even called hummus at this point?
I don’t know.
Hummus may be plain and simple in its ingredient list, but it is far from needing any alterations. Admit it; no one can be offended by this gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free, and drama-free middle eastern dip that goes perfectly with everything from nachos to tacos to wraps.
It would be fair to say that twenty years ago, most Americans could not pronounce “hummus.”
Today, we rave about this rich and creamy snackable spread, as the humble fusion of chickpeas and sesame seed paste rivals salsa and guacamole as one of America’s favorite dips. Hummus market in North America is forecasted to grow from US$ 601.39 million in 2019 to US$ 1558.70 million by 2027.
But the fact of the matter is that migration over multiple generations has blended many food cultures from the east with those in the west. And no matter how many immigrant stories express a desire to preserve traditions, to etch out a comfortable place that feels like home in an alien land, often through food, there remains a fear of extinction of beloved culinary delicacies in the face of newer and more modern innovations.
The History of Hummus
It all started with the ‘chic’est of peas, chickpea, or the garbanzo bean. Since ancient times, chickpeas were abundantly grown across the Levant region that included Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Palestine, Cyprus and Lebanon. Even Israel claims ownership over hummus, referring to it as a ‘biblical food’. Each of these countries has its historical narrative of how they devised and developed hummus from chickpeas. Still, none could be verified as the original homeland of the simple and delicious dip.
Till the origin of hummus is confirmed, it will belong to the entire Levant and Middle Eastern region. The birthplace of the agonizing dessert hummus, on the other hand, is uncontested: America.
But the fact of the matter is that migration over multiple generations has blended many food cultures from the east with those in the west. And no matter how many immigrant stories express a desire to preserve traditions, to etch out a comfortable place that feels like home in an alien land, often through food, there remains a fear of extinction of beloved culinary delicacies in the face of newer and more modern innovations, such as the dessert hummus.
Why is America gung-ho over Hummus-in all its forms?
The food atmosphere currently in America is growing increasingly wary of meat, is more open to non-Western ingredients, and is anxious about climate change. A decade-new shift in how we consume the internet and increased travel to non-western countries, propelled by mass migration has created a sense of broad familiarity and willingness towards other cuisines.
Hectic lifestyles impact how, what, and how often we consume. The need-for-snack design in our lives is not fading away. Healthy content in bite-sizes requires snacks to be filling, functional, tasty and protein-rich. It boils down to the reality that people like creamy, starchy stuff. Hummus is ideal to meet this need because it is a convenient and nutritious food that can be eaten as a meal in itself or in between meals as a snack. Hummus was the Trojan horse on which the chickpea galloped into the American diet. The reason chickpea is cultivated and consumed so heavily for thousands of years in Middle East, South Asia, Africa, and the Mediterranean is its nutritional value. This makes chickpea’s expanding role in the American diet less of a trend story than a logical inevitability.
The chickpea’s biggest USP to American buyers is its protein and fiber content. Like the Greek yogurt, another familiar but imported food that launched at roughly the same point in time, the chickpea’s high protein—15 grams a cup when cooked—is evidence of its exceptional value in a diet culture obsessed with protein. For those with allergies or dietary restrictions, chickpeas hold another advantage. They are likely to trigger fewer reactions than wheat or soy while delivering nutrition. In America, an ingredient’s status as allergy-friendly can propel it to popularity.
Once hummus became a broadly enjoyed grocery-store staple, people at every level of the American food industry saw wide prospects in the legume’s versatility.
In Texas, we have our very own hummus brands that are doing a good job of keeping it real and wholesome. The Mediterranean Chef’s offering ‘Grand ma’s Hummus’ is actually a great tasting hummus made from scratch and with fresh and organic ingredients.
Pushing the boundaries with Hummus-like dips
Thanks to hummus becoming a popular staple served at both restaurants and consumers’ homes, people have found new ways to “challenge” the hummus status-quo. The craze has expanded creative and innovative takes way beyond the traditional rich and creamy blend of chickpeas and sesame butter.
Austin based, The MedBar, are producers of a gourmet snack bar that is inspired by the familiar flavor of hummus and is the perfect mid-day snack. With Tahini, chickpea flour, red bell peppers blended with quinoa, millet, and amaranth, this savory bar packs a 4-gram protein punch per bar.
Hummus is generally deemed a healthy snack, especially when paired with whole wheat pita or veggie and fruit sticks. It also makes a great spread in tacos and wraps. But how does it stack up once you add sugar and chocolate to the mix?
Normal hummus often has a gram of fiber and around two grams of protein per serving, and the same goes for the sweeter types. But most dessert hummus have about 60 calories and five grams of sugar per two-tablespoon serving, whereas regular hummus generally doesn’t have any sugar, though the calories remain the same.
So, while the calories and nutrition in dessert hummus are not reduced from its classic counterpart, there’s definitely the extra sugar boost.
So, while the out-of-the-box flavor profiles don’t earn respect among hummus loyalists(marketing gimmick, some say, to get people to eat pudding), dessert hummus could be a healthier way to satisfy that post-dinner dessert craving by using it as a dip for fruit.
But how can a snack that literally means ‘chickpea’ in Arabic go without their Middle Eastern namesake legume? Thanks to the customization frenzy of the hummus-boom, many brands are offering unique non-chickpea hummus products! Brands like Texas based, Lantana Foods have completely abandoned the chickpea and offer an assortment of hummus flavors using an all-star line-up of legumes, including yellow lentils, black beans, edamame, white beans and red lentils.
Florelli Foods, another Texan brand, is ditching the chickpea in favor of good source of protein and fiber-the sunflower seed. With the combination of sunflower seeds, together with tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, and spices, they have created an appetizer that can be enjoyed as is, with bread or chips, or as a dip.
Should these dips be called hummus though, if they don’t contain any ‘hummus’?
Hummus is Good for Your Health,
Americans have been looking for a dip that satiates that craving for the rich and creamy but doesn’t give them heart disease in the process.
A 3.5 ounce serving of good ol’ hummus provides you with 8 grams of protein and 6 grams of fiber.
It is rich in vitamin B And folate that protects against birth defects like spina bifida in newborns.
Combining two iron rich ingredients- chickpeas and sesame seeds make hummus effective in combating anemia. It’s filled with healthy, wholesome plant-based ingredients, and is a good source of iron, folate, and B vitamins, which are important for those on a vegan diet. Hummus is also a source of antioxidants, fiber, and has a low GI, meaning it won’t spike your blood sugar, (like dessert hummus with added sugar will).
The generous amount of extra virgin olive oil that goes into the making of hummus (OG style), is full of essential fatty acids, and anti-inflammatory oleocanthals. Some derivatives of hummus (dessert or otherwise) available in the market have very little EVOO in them, compared to canola oil and coconut oil, both of which aren’t on par with EVOO, nutritionally speaking.
Chickpeas, the star of the show, essentially missing from many hummus derivatives, is high in fiber that promotes populations of gut friendly bacteria and suppresses harmful bacteria from taking over.
And Good for the Environment.
In a climate that’s getting erratic, sustainable and nutritionally dense crops such as chickpeas will likely play a key role in feeding people, as America’s cultivation options change with the change in temperatures.
Chickpeas haven’t governed global diets for millennia by coincidence. Chickpea is very economical in terms of water use, and in most of the world, it’s grown as a rain-fed crop. Hummus is not just a healthful dip to indulge in, it is also easy on the environment. Legumes such as beans, chickpea, soybean, and others augment the soil with nitrogen. Bacteria living in nodules along the plant’s roots transform the nitrogen in the air into the organic form plants need. The nitrogen being captured from the air is basically put directly into protein, so they’re protein-dense foods.
Unlike crops like corn or wheat, legumes fix their own nitrogen from the atmosphere, leaving extra nitrogen in the soil for future crops to consume. For this reason, pulses and chickpeas can be vital in crop rotations, especially those that don’t rely on chemical fertilizers. When farmers grow legumes in rotation with other crops, or in between their other crops, we find the maize and other cereals grow better. What’s more, if managed well, chickpeas cultivation can be part of a farming system that sequesters carbon from the atmosphere, can be a solution to get away from using synthetic nitrogen and help mitigate climate change.
Some American farmers are already well on their way to incorporating pulses, seeing the role they play in upgrading soil health and setting the stage for better harvests of cash crops.
How to Make A Good ol’ Fashioned ‘Chickpea’ Hummus
- 1 lb dried chickpeas
- 4 garlic cloves
- 8 tablespoons tahini paste (pureed sesame)
- 6-8 tablespoons Olive oil
- Fresh lemon juice from 1 lemon
- ⅓ to ½ teaspoon salt
- For garnish:1 teaspoon of chopped flat leaf parsley, some boiled chickpeas, 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Rinse dry chickpeas to get rid of debris, then soak for 10 hours. Pressure cook along with garlic cloves for 20 minutes to get them really soft.
- Once the chickpeas are cooked, strain while retaining the water separately in a bowl. Place the water bowl into the freezer. Allow both to cool for 10-12 minutes and transfer to a blender, while the chickpeas are still hot but not steaming.
- Gradually pour the water that you separated. It should be about ½ to 1 cup of very cold water. Add some cubes of ice, if needed to the water, to cool it down further.
- Blend for a 3-5 minutes at low speed.
- Add the salt, then slowly start to add the Tahini paste and the olive oil as you blend.
- Once done, slowly add the lemon juice and taste as you let the food processor run for a couple minutes more. Taste the puree and check if it needs an adjustment of salt or lemon juice.
Tahini is sesame paste. You can find it at most grocery stores, and at your local Middle Eastern grocery store.
Adding cold water to make hummus gives the creamiest results!
If the paste is not coming together as it should, add a little bit more oil. Is it too thin? Add a little more tahini.
Try adding some dried hot peppers for a real kick
Avocado works wonderfully as a substitute for tahini in non-traditional hummus.
Adding a little cocoa along with your hot peppers can really give your hummus some depth, but don’t add sugar. Hummus should be a savory dish. Dessert Hummus? I’ll pass.