Most people at least have a vague notion of hummus — you know, that chunky to silky smooth, beige-hued spread served at every Middle Eastern restaurant. Hummus is generally used as a dip for veggies, stuffed into pitas, or spread onto sandwich wraps. While hummus offers subtle distinctions depending on the flavor and quality of ingredients, the overall taste is unmistakable.
Hummus has a creamy, melt-in-your-mouth texture, and instead of distinct chickpea flavors, it oozes with rich umami flavors — pleasant savory taste. Typically containing chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and salt, the dip exhibits a rich, garlicky, slightly tangy flavor.
While the base ingredients of this umami-rich and nutrient-dense dish remain the same, hummus offers nuances depending on the origin and quality of your components and, of course, your personal touch. I’m here to give you an in-depth explanation of what hummus is, what it’s used for, and essentially, what it tastes like; let’s see if you’ll be willing to give hummus a go after this exciting read.
- What Is Hummus?
- Should You Use Canned Or Dried Chickpeas?
- What Ingredients Are In Hummus?
- How Do You Serve Hummus?
- What To Add To Improve The Taste?
- Alternatives To Hummus
- So, What Does Hummus Taste Like?
What Is Hummus?
Hummus is an ancient yet famous Middle Eastern dip or spread made from pureed chickpeas, tahini (ground sesame seeds), lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, and a sprinkling of salt.
Other additional flavors found in hummus recipes include roasted red peppers, basil, sundried tomatoes, or nuts.
Hummus is not only a versatile and delicious paste; it is jampacked with nutrients and linked to various impressive health benefits. It is a superb source of plant-based protein, essential for optimal growth, recovery, and immune functions.
Hummus is a superb protein option for vegetarians or vegans. In addition to the rich protein source, hummus offers iron, phosphorus, folate, and B vitamins, which are critical for vegetarians and vegans as they generally do not get enough from their diet.
Moreover, traditional hummus is free of common food allergens and irritants, gluten, dairy, and nuts, making it safe to enjoy for most people. Further research also links the natural ingredients in hummus to fighting inflammation, better digestive health, improving blood sugar control, and lowering the risk of heart disease.
While the main ingredient in hummus — chickpeas or Garbanzo beans — exhibits a bean-like, earthy, and nutty flavor, hummus itself tastes nothing like chickpeas.
Thanks to all the other rich and unique ingredients, hummus takes on the intense and aromatic flavor of the other components you choose to use. So, even though chickpeas serve as the base of this creamy dish, the different flavors suppress its earthy tones.
Instead, hummus boasts a creamy texture oozing with intense umami flavors.
Umami is more than a buzzword we use to describe a flavor profile. Instead, it is the core fifth taste alongside sweet, bitter, sour, and salty. In Japanese, umami means “essence of deliciousness.”
Furthermore, umami deepens the flavor of a dish by providing a mouth-watering sensation with a mild aftertaste that lasts longer than other basic tastes.
Hummus also portrays a slightly tangy taste from the bright, fresh lemons along with mellow garlic and a hint of a nutty aftertaste. However, you can play with the flavor profile by infusing the chickpeas with sundried tomatoes or roasted red peppers.
Hummus varies from creamy and silken smooth to chunky and gritty textures. Using dried chickpeas or the tinned version creates subtle differences worth noting.
Should You Use Canned Or Dried Chickpeas?
Well, if you’re striving for perfectly creamy, finger-licking goodness and you have time to soak the chickpeas overnight, we recommend using dried chickpeas.
If you are on a tight schedule, forgot to soak your chickpeas, or you have friends coming over thanks to last-minute arrangements, then grab that can of chickpeas standing in your pantry and get going!
Dried chickpeas offer a nuttier flavor and give the hummus an ultra velvety texture. In addition, many people complain about tinned chickpeas, proclaiming that some brands sell overly crunchy and undercooked chickpeas while others are fast approaching mushy.
Follow these tips for hummus with perfect consistency:
- We recommend adding a tiny amount of baking soda (1 Tbsp per 500g dried chickpeas) to the soaking water when using the dried version. This time-honored trick shortens the soaking time and prevents the calcium from the tap water from cementing the pectin molecules in the chickpea’s cell walls. Instead, it actively encourages the pectins to separate, softening the chickpeas.
- Mix the tahini with fresh lemon juice and garlic until the mixture “tightens up.” Then, add a few drops of cold water before stirring the tahini combo into the hummus. This slick move ensures a lighter and creamier texture.
- If you are using canned chickpeas, you’ll want to keep the liquid they were soaked in for when you’re blending the hummus ingredients. Instead of water, the chickpea solution dubbed — “aquafaba” — lends your dip a concentrated flavor, which we love!
What Ingredients Are In Hummus?
Hummus is lusciously creamy but light and fluffy at the same time. So let’s see what gives this dip its bright, creamy, and unique flavor.
The essential ingredients include:
- Chickpeas: Garbanzo beans (chickpeas) are the star and baseline ingredient in hummus; they are the primary contributor to the dip’s creamy texture. Both dry or canned chickpeas work well; however, you’ll need to soak the dried chickpeas overnight.
- Tahini: Tahini is a rich, nutty, and slightly bitter paste made from three ingredients — hulled or toasted sesame seeds, oil, and salt — ground and emulsified in oil to create a smooth seed butter with a creamy and pourable consistency.
- Fresh or roasted garlic cloves: Adding garlic to hummus is a gamechanger! So, you won’t want to miss this critical ingredient.
- Freshly squeezed lemon juice: The fresh lemon adds a zesty flavor and reduces the pungency of the garlic.
- Extra virgin olive oil: A large amount of extra virgin olive oil in a hummus recipe, along with a garnishing drizzle, keeps it rich and authentic.
- Baking soda: Although not essential, baking soda helps soften the chickpeas and loosen their skins.
How Do You Serve Hummus?
The true beauty of hummus lies within the simplicity of slinging together a last-minute meal or dip from the cupboard — a tin of chickpeas, spoonful of olive oil and tahini, some lemon juice, and minced garlic, and a seasoning of salt − and you’ve got lunch within ten minutes.
Hummus is nutritious, versatile, and tasty; it is an easy dip or spread to add a healthy touch to your diet. Even better, there are seemingly endless ways to use hummus.
Traditionally, you would serve the beautifully smooth and swirled hummus on a large plate, drizzled with olive oil and fresh herbs, and accompanied by pitas, falafel, and a tomato, onion, and cucumber salad.
While hummus begs you to scoop it up onto a wedge of fresh pita bread, you can let your imagination run free by trying various alternative ideas.
- Fresh vegetables: Veggies make a delicious and healthy dip vehicle for hummus while providing crunch and a ton of nutrients. The most popular pairings include rainbow carrot sticks, celery, radishes, sliced peppers, snap peas, cauliflower, broccoli florets, jicama, and cucumbers.
- Delicious bread: The perfect bread pairing is your call as humus works with pretty much any toasty bread slice. We love playing around and matching our hummus flavor profile to the ingredients found in our favorite loaf and vice versa. For example, if we use heart-healthy grain bread, we pair it with a hummus spread that contains yummy chia seeds and nuts; or for sourdough, we typically go for a richer and creamier hummus with tons of tahini, citrus juice, and a touch of fetta.
- Tortilla wraps: Adding homemade or store-bought hummus to a tortilla wrap along with your favorite veggies is a healthy way to enjoy a quick lunch when you’re on the run.
- Tortilla chips: For a twist on the regular tortilla wrap, consider slicing the tortillas into triangles and baking them in the oven for crunchy tortilla chips to scoop the hummus.
- All sorts of fries: Hummus works with ALL fries! Dip potato, sweet potato, or carrot fries into hummus for a delicious snack.
What To Add To Improve The Taste?
Hummus add-ins are genuinely endless! Many people like to play around with ethnic flavors to jazz or spruce up traditional hummus.
Here are a handful of easy hacks on how to make hummus taste better; they are seriously worth trying!
- A festive pop of pomegranate: Consider adding pomegranate seeds to your plate of hummus — these jewels instantly transform your humble dip to a show-stopping starter. Even more, the added crunch and sweet juices add a gorgeous twist to this traditional Middle Eastern dish.
- Sugar and spice make all things nice: For a sweet twist, add turbinado sugar, unsweetened cocoa, and vanilla extract to make the perfect dessert. Alternatively, create a spicy hummus for snack dipping by sprinkling paprika, cayenne pepper, or sumac to lend a layer of nuance to this classic dip.
- A little citrus: A squeeze of fresh oranges or lemons in your hummus adds a touch of acidity that immediately brightens up the entire dish! Generously squeeze about half an orange or lemon’s worth of juice onto your store-bought hummus.
- Let’s add a green hue: You can either use your greens as a garnish or mix them into the recipe to give it a lovely flair! Consider using a mixture of fresh green onions, chives, dill, rosemary, basil, or parsley, along with a generous drizzle of virgin olive oil and a pinch of sea salt.
- Seeds and nuts: Toasted sesame seeds or a mixture of chopped roasted nuts offer an excellent, rich taste to store-bought hummus.
Alternatives To Hummus
Various factors may make us wonder if there are any alternatives to this unique tasting dip.
If you strictly follow a Paleo diet, you’ll need to give up traditional hummus as the eating plan prohibits all legume varieties. More so, you can be allergic to chickpeas or simply do not enjoy the taste.
Regardless of the reason, there are several strategic substitutes to consider replacing traditional hummus.
Substitute the chickpeas for cauliflower to enjoy hummus on a strict Paleo diet. First, roast the cauliflower florets in olive oil and a dash of salt and pepper. Then, puree them with tahini, fresh lemon juice, minced garlic cloves, and your desired seasoning. Add canned cannellini beans to your recipe for a more substantial cauliflower-based hummus recipe (non-Paleo).
Another recipe for the Paleo-devotees is to substitute chickpeas for almonds. You’ll want to soak the almonds for upwards of 12 hours before pureeing them with the rest of the hummus ingredients. Alternative use almond meal for a faster route.
If cauliflower isn’t your forte, use zucchini as your chickpea substitute. You can improve the texture and increase the protein content by pureeing in white or pinto beans.
Make a sauce using equal amounts of tahini paste and Greek yogurt; do not forget to add a large pinch of sea salt! For a closer match to traditional hummus, add finely chopped garlic and a drizzle of olive oil to the yogurt.
While the taste profile differs, mayonnaise has a similar texture and consistency to hummus. So, it’s a pretty helpful alternative, especially when you plan to use it as a sauce. Blend the mayo with Greek yogurt (50:50 ratio) for a fresher flavor.
So, What Does Hummus Taste Like?
Hummus is a traditional and straightforward dish that you can enjoy as is. Still, its simplicity also opens doors that allow you to lean into your creative side by adding a million different touches to refine it and create a nuance that has your name written all over the dip.
So, instead of purchasing hummus at the store, grab your blender and the handful of fresh ingredients needed to make hummus and get cracking! Note, if you do not like the original taste of hummus — spruce it up with one of our alternative suggestions.