Pseudo hummus

It’s not enough to call a certain dish “hummus” for it to become hummus. If I had a nickel for every strange looking hummus I saw, I would probably have some… 20 bucks by now.

When I say “pseudo hummus” I refer to dishes which may look like hummus, or even have somewhat similar ingredients, but do not taste anywhere near the real thing. Of course, when something don’t even look like hummus, this may be a good indication for it not being hummus. Unfortunately, having tasted some of these hummus-mutations, I can assure you they do not come close.

It’s clear that many people are extremely excited about hummus and about the concept of making it by themselves. Only there are many misconceptions about it, and too many people who obviously never got the chance of tasting real traditionally made hummus – otherwise they wouldn’t go for all these miserable substitutes.

Let’s make one thing strait: “hummus” isn’t a general nickname for a dip or a spread. “Hummus” is both the Arab and Hebrew word for chickpeas – so it reasonable to assume that if you use other legumes to make it, what you’ll eventually get won’t be “hummus” – even if it comes out tasty.

So, yes guys, recipes such as Asha’s black-eyed pees hummus (Foodies Hope), Resemary’s White Bean Hummus (cdkitchen and here’s another one) or the Black Bean hummus at The Moronspheres, are not really hummus. As for Rachel Cole’s strange looking beluga lentil hummus (Mighty Foods) – I strongly suggest you won’t make it the next time you have your Israeli or Arab friends to dinner. Or at least don’t call it hummus.

Many other recipes I came across, mix hummus with different colorful additives, such as dried tomatoes, Green onions (check out Cooknknit‘s Green Hummus) or curry (like in Recipe Zaar‘s yellow Curry Hummus).

I believe these kind of recipes usually originates from restaurants who’s hummus was so distasteful, that they had to mix it with various ingredients in order to conceal it’s poor flavor. Some, I believe, are the outcome of irresponsible experimentalism by people who’s knowledge of hummus is very poor.

Sometimes, I get to see pictures of hummus which strongly suggest they were made by people who don’t really know how hummus should look like. Like Darlenes hummus, in the Former Fat Guy Blog which seems to have the right ingredients, lacking only a proper amount of water – judging from the photo.

One possible reason for all this is that many people only know packaged hummus or only ate hummus at Greek or Turkish restaurants, for example. You’d have a hard time finding hummus in Greece or Turkey, because it is not a Mediterranean dish – it is Arab. And when food manufacturers make industrialized foods, everything goes – as long as it prolongs the shelf life of the product or meets the customer expectations.

One colleague-blogger had recently told me that I’m being too pedantic about the subject. Maybe so, but some of the shameful things I’ve seen and tasted convinced me that this is an area where ignorance is not a bless.

Comments

37 Responses to “Pseudo hummus”

  1. Virginia on January 7th, 2008 2:45 pm

    I used your recipe to make hummus, and it was excellent – nice and creamy (with, I believe, the right amount of liquidity) lots of garlic and lemon, great stuff. We ate it with raw veggies and felt like we were doing something good for our bodies.

    Of course, my hummus may not have been technically “perfect” or taste like the real thing, though I did not add any alien ingredients, because I’m totally new to making it. I’m sure it will get better as I go along.

    Thanks for the recipe!

  2. Starhawk Laughingsun on January 8th, 2008 1:02 am

    I’m an american vegetarian so the only hummus I’ve ever ate has been stuff i fixed myself or bought or ate in a mid-east restaurant. But the recipe I use is almost exactly the same as yours except I up the garlic and probably leave the Cumin out. Cumin is not my favorite spice tho it is much better if ya grind the seeds yourself. Stuff ya buy here already ground is usually stale.

    Still I had to laugh at Former Fat Guy Blog’s picture of his dish. A bit too thick i suppose one might say. Hmm probably tasted ok tho. haha

    I like the fact you’re “too pedantic about the subject” probably why i read your blog that and the fact I love chickpeas and tahini

  3. K0NY on January 8th, 2008 2:47 am

    It’s one thing to try and help people with recipe advice, but quite another to put down their subjective choices. You are no more an authority on hummus than you are the English language. If hummus has chickpeas in it, then it is authentic because the word “hummus” means “chickpea” in Arabic. Poor middle-Eastern families have added various spices and flavored ingredients, which change its taste and color, for centuries. What gives you the authority to judge them harshly, or the various fine Greek and Mediteranian establishments who have made hummus their own way?

    Your recipe is no more perfect than anyone elses. Your attitude, on the other hand, is sorely lacking. If you’d like some attention paid to this incredibly myopic blog, try to remember the old saying: You’ll catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

    If, according to you, there is only one way to make hummus, what will you write about next week? Or do you plan to make a writing career out of criticizing strangers on the internet? That friend, is called “trolling” and isn’t appreciated by chickpea fans or anyone else.

  4. shooky on January 8th, 2008 6:42 pm

    Dear Kony -

    I think you did not understand my criticism, and it’s clear you didn’t bother to read other posts in this blog.

    You said: “You are no more an authority on hummus than you are the English language”.

    Well, I am not the English language nor an authority in English writing. English isn’t my mother tongue, so it’s rather hard for me to express myself coherently and articulately.

    BUT, I have been eating – and making – hummus all my life. I also live in a city which has about 200 hummus places – that’s 50 times per capita than in the states, I believe. Also, I have a well established blog about hummus, in Hebrew, which was the first of it’s kind worldwide. In order to supply my readership with recipes, reviews and news about hummus, I ate some 150 hummus plates last year, local and abroad. So you can say I know a thing or two about hummus.

    About the “Poor middle-Eastern families” you mentioned – I AM a poor middle-eastern myself. But NO ONE here is adding spinach or dried tomatoes to his hummus.

    My hummus recipe is a traditional one. It’s not as good as some of the recipes used by Arab hummus places, but it’s better than all this pseudo-hummus I talked about.

    And about me being a troll – I’m surfing the net since 1995 and been contributing to dozens of web sites, besides my own (6 blogs and counting). I guess if I was a troll someone would have figured that out by now, and quite frankly – you’re the first.

  5. shooky on January 8th, 2008 6:51 pm

    Starhalk -

    Freshly ground cumin is indeed much better. If it’s of good quality to begin with, than it’s a great spice (goes wonderfully with sweet potatos, soups, fava beens etc.). It’s also a matter of taste though.

    Former Fat Guy is an extremely nice person, and seems to be the only one who didn’t take this blog too seriously and didn’t think I’m rude (or a troll…).

    Thanks for your kind compliment. Good timing friend.

  6. shooky on January 8th, 2008 7:02 pm

    Dear Virginia,
    Way to go!
    Making hummus is truly an art. Make it lots of times and you’d be surprised how it gets better and better.
    And the funny thing is – it’s different every time.
    Good luck and thanks for the feedback.

  7. Amos on January 8th, 2008 10:32 pm

    Shooky,
    Have you reviewed any of the “Hummus Place” locations in Manhattan? I ate at the one on McDougal recently and I was a bit disappointed to be honest. Too dry. My friend Noah tells me that the one on St. Mark’s is better.
    Keep humusing,
    Amos

  8. shooky on January 9th, 2008 12:13 am

    Amos -
    Well, I doubt it if I’d get to Manhattan any time soon an would love to host a guest-review about it. Any suggestions?

  9. Amos on January 9th, 2008 11:13 pm

    I’ll go to the one on St. Mark’s Place soon and try to write something up.

  10. Shooky on January 10th, 2008 2:05 am

    Waiting anxiously.

  11. Mike on January 14th, 2008 2:13 pm

    Thanks for all the information,
    they have been a good help in my first try to cook hummus!
    And for you “too pedantic” I like your blog this way.
    That way I can learn how to make the “real thing”
    (and add stuff I like afterwards, like yummy bell-peppers )

    If you visit Berlin again: search in Neukölln and Kreuzberg for Hummus and raw Tahini, there live a lot people from the “most-hummus-eating”-counties
    There you can get 400ml raw Tahini for about 2 Euro. KADEWE is great for shopping – but too expensive, especially for buying regular food ;-)

    The only thing that is still a real riddle for me: why is the structure of my Hummus every time different? Last time it was like sand – it tasted very good, but parts of it feel from the bread with every bite.

  12. Robby on January 18th, 2008 8:14 am

    I’d just like to say that this is a great blog. I’ve tried a couple of different hummus recipes, and I’m soaking the beans right now to try yours. I suppose I should try a different grocery store, but the one I shop at only has garbanzo beans, not chickpeas. Also, I’m curious about your feelings towards peanut butter instead of tahini. The fact is, I’ve had a lot of trouble finding tahini. I’ve read a couple of places that peanut butter works in tahini’s place, and that’s what I’ve been using.

  13. shooky on January 19th, 2008 11:38 am

    Robby -
    Peanut butter is not a good substitute. There ISN’T a substitute for tahini. You should look it up in Arab or Israeli groceries. You can also find some tahini products in our Amazon store
    http://astore.amazon.com/hummus101-20?%5Fencoding=UTF8&node=1
    Some people told me that the Al Wadi product is pretty good.
    Thanks for the compliments and good luck.

  14. Lionel on January 20th, 2008 12:26 am

    Hummus guy,

    I appreciate your visit but I am mystified by the comment you left on my blog — http://lookinatcookin.blogspot.com/2008/01/hazelnut-hummus-this-different-nutty.html

    Although you have spent much time with preparation of hummus you missed the point of this recipe. All food evolves and this small recipe is contains one small change rather than a large alteration,

    Also chickpeas are known as garbanzo. This recipe does contain lemon, garlic, etc.

    What is missing is the sesame (tahini) because the hazelnuts are the substitution for tahini.

  15. shooky on January 20th, 2008 9:38 am

    Dear Lionel,
    You should be able to play by the notes before you improvise. Hazelnuts are a very poor subsitute to tahini, and canned chickpeas do not taste like nor has the nutritional value of home cooked chickpeas. So my advice is: try our recipe, and decide for yourself.

  16. Lionel on January 21st, 2008 7:51 pm

    Dear Shooky

    Having written about 6 cook books beginning with Sensational Salads by Lionel Martinez in 1985 I understand what you are saying.
    What I did in my cook books is stress the joy of cooking exploration.
    In my one hummus recipe I clearly state that it is an alternative. Try it or not it is a suggestion and not a definitive statement. If you look at http://www.lookinatcookin.com (the parent food site) you will find known chefs who make definitive statements. The blog is just a small off shoot of that site.

    By the way if you or anyone you know would like to contribute or advertise on the website let me know.

  17. yokel on January 23rd, 2008 3:11 pm

    Hi shooky, excellent layout, and I have respect for a person who is pedantic and has a mission. I came by your page by scrolling down, I was searching for ‘humous’. Back in the day I used to get a lift into college by a gorgeous Greek girl, and on the way back we’d make a detour back to her mum’s house, who’d serve up humous with warmed pita bread and olives, and we’d chat with her brothers for an hour maybe two, and her mum would keep delving into the kitchen and coming out with another bowl, all home made.That’s where I got the taste. Later on I was working in the West End, near Edgeware Road, and I found that the Arab cafes sold hummus, mmm, yummy, so many wasted lunchtimes.

    I have to come clean now, my name is yokel, I was an addict, and where I was, they didn’t deal it, so you had to produce your own. Also tahini paste was unheard of here, so I had to make do with smooth unsweetened peanut butter. I made as much as I could in advance, but sometimes demand outstripped supply so I was forced to make do with bottled garbanzos for an instant fix. My wife despaired of me, and I feared my children had lost all respect for me when I appeared from the kitchen with the telltale smears around my lips. I walked down the street, and I hoped that people thought the bulge in my waistline was down to beer, but as they passed me, I heard their whispers of ‘hummus gut’.

    Thankfully I am past all that now, and no longer need that instant hit. Which leads me to my point; if you make it following shooky’s recipe, it is really tempting to dig in straight away. Tastes real good, but it tastes ten times better if you leave it in the fridge overnight for the flavours to meld. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

  18. shooky on January 24th, 2008 10:02 am

    Dear Yokel,
    Fascinating story. I do hope you are not thinking of using peanut butter and canned chickpeas again, though, because it’s a hideous combination.
    Hummus has been known to taste better (to some people) after a day in the fridge. On the other hand, some hummus gurus here in Israel say the best time to eat their hummus is the minutes it’s ready and still hot.
    Keep us informed friend.

  19. shooky on January 24th, 2008 10:12 am

    Dear Lioenel,
    As some people already said here, I’m somewhat pedantic when it comes to hummus. To be honest, I believe the only reason why some Americans favor hummus variations is that they had never tasted REAL hummus.
    I’m sure you are a very skilled chef, and your site certainly suggests so, but when it comes to hummus I guess there’s no alternative after you tasted the real thing.

  20. HEC on January 28th, 2008 4:59 am

    I think this hummus stuff is great!!! Tell me more!!!

    HEC

  21. Karl Elvis on February 14th, 2008 11:00 pm

    You know, the problem is, what do you call something that’s *like* hummus, but using different ingredients?

    It’s the same thing with any ‘interpretation on’ dish; where does it stop being enough like the classic to call it by the classic name?

    I agree, for example, that my black bean hummus ain’t really hummus. But it’s so similar in *style* and presentation that calling it “black bean/peanut butter dip” doesn’t really convey it’s culinary experience. And “Black bean vaguely-hummus-like-dip” doesn’t come off the tongue so easily.

    Generally, I’m a purist with food; don’t call it a dish unless it’s pretty close to said dish. Don’t call it meatloaf if it’s made from tofu, for example. Don’t call it pesto if it’s a cream sauce. Don’t call it risotto if you make it with orzo instead of rice.

    The question is, when is it ok to add a modifier and say, ‘well, it’s not *meatloaf*, it’s *turkey meatloaf*; when is it not ok (creamy pesto? No, I’m sorry, that doesn’t exist).

    In the case of the ‘black bean hummus’ on my site, I’ll defend it by saying that’s the recipe name as I inherited it; i I could think of a better name, though, I’d use it. B^)

  22. shooky on February 15th, 2008 2:05 am

    Karl – I can see your point, but I can’t agree with your conclusion. “Black bean hummus” is like “Orzo rice”. Risotto is a name of a dish – rice isn’t.

    “Hummus” is a shortening for “hummus bi’l tahini” – chickpeas with tahini, and that’s only because it’s the most common middle-eastern dish made from hummus.

    “Black-bean hummus”, in my humble opinion, not only sounds funny but tastes funny as well, but maybe it’s just because it’s so-not hummus.

  23. Karl Elvis on February 15th, 2008 11:40 pm

    Shooky- I don’t think you can possibly argue with my conclusion, considering it’s “I can’t think of a good name”; but yeah, I totally understand. I’m still not gonna call said dip ‘vaguely-humus-like-black-bean-thing’ though. B^)

  24. Joshua Peri on February 18th, 2008 6:43 pm

    If it is made out of hummus (chickpeas) it deserves to be called that. Hummus Bitchina is not the only way to make it. Things like “White Bean Hummus” are a misnomer.

  25. Dror on February 25th, 2008 8:20 am

    Hummus in Hebrew and Arabic basically means cheakpeas , and is used
    affectionately for the Hummus with Tahina “dip”/”spread” that is one of
    the staple foods in the “SHAM” countries i.e. Syria,Lebanon,Jordan,Palestine
    and offcourse Israel – where Hummus reached popularity of mythological
    proportions .

    Too , Hummus has a tradition that goes back centuries .

    There is a certain way of making Hummus , and while each famous Hummus
    adds some secret ingredient(the X-Factor) to its Hummus it allways contains
    the basic ingredients : Hummus beans(chickpeas/garbanzo), sesame paste(tahina) , garlic,lemon,cumin etc.

    When I travel the world(which I do a lot of) and see Hummus on the menu I expect to get HUMMUS ,not some strange thing concocted out of substitutes
    because of lack of Tahina !!!
    It doesn’t matter if I’m in a street stall in Amman or in the restaurant of a 5 star hotel in the “Leading Hotels of the World” list , what I expect is to get my Hummus !
    All too often , it has happened to me that in establishments of the second kind
    the Hummus did not resemble Hummus, and usually because Tahina wasn’t used or not enough of it was used .
    And have been invited to parties by really nice people who told me they made hummus especially for me , but it didn’t taste like hummus because there was no Tahina .

    Surfing the net in the Hummus Quest and finding all those strange concoctions with black beans,lentils etc masquarading for chickpeas,
    or peanut butter masquarading for Tahina is both frustrating and exasperating!

    Hummus dip is supposed to be made from chickpeas and sesame paste .
    Thats the way it’s eaten by millions of people in the middle east everyday and
    that’s the way we want it when we find ourselves in far corners of the world !

    I live in Cambodia – a country which has neither chickpeas nor sesame paste,
    I considered the alternatives like lentils,broad beans , peanut butter,and hazel nut spread – considered and rejected , because hummus you make from chickpeas and sesame paste – otherwise it ain’t no hummus .

    I guess you have to grow up with Hummus and eat it regularly for years in order
    to understand that .

    So Shooky , keep up the good work and continue to be pedantic ;)

  26. shooky on March 1st, 2008 2:26 pm

    Dror – thanks mate. It’s a too sad situation to be in a country that has no chickpeas OR tahini. If you’re interested, I can buy some here and mail it you.

  27. Jill on March 24th, 2008 9:50 pm

    Several months ago I made some peanut butter hummus- that is, hummus with peanut butter added. I found it in the back of the fridge today and it still smells great- but I’m afraid to eat it. Has anyone else had this experience? Do you think it might actually still be good (like salad dressings and ketchup)?

  28. shooky on March 24th, 2008 11:52 pm

    Jill, I think you just invented a new suicide technique.

  29. Jill on March 27th, 2008 4:53 pm

    something to put me out of my misery…
    ha, maybe I’ll just let it go.

  30. beanie on June 1st, 2008 6:03 am

    there is the “right way” of making hummus, there is also “close enough to eat” way and than there is “please don’t make me eat this stuff” way.
    regardless of how you wish to make your hummus, either by choice, poor taste or your just ignorant, it have to have the right ingredients or its just a bean dip, bean spread or you can just call it a concoction, but please don’t call it hummus, its sacred to me and your upsetting my stomach.

  31. shooky on June 1st, 2008 7:40 pm

    Beanie – that’s a very good way to put it.

  32. Jen on June 12th, 2008 8:49 pm

    I really like your website! We (my family) is Arab-American and make hummus all the time. Your recipie is spot-on. We get frustrated when we go out to restaurants that claim to have hummus and then it is not even close to it! I can eat many things but there were a few times that I couldn’t even eat more than one bite of a so-called “hummus”. I am amazed at how people can screw up hummus! Many times people have made hummus “just for us” as one person posted and while the intent is appreciated, most often it is not how traditional hummus is supposed to taste – for some reason I have found that people don’t always put tahini sauce like the person posted. One problem with some restaurants is that they don’t follow traditional recipies – not only with hummus, but even with other middle-eastern foods like tabbouli – they make it wierd and then people who have never eaten hummus or tabbouli decide to try their nasty concoctions and then decide that hummus is gross or tabbouli is gross, etc. My husband is from Amman and grew up getting felafel from street vendors so that was one thing his mom didn’t really make, so I came to your website to get your felafel recipie. I look forward to cooking it tomorrow!

  33. shooky on June 13th, 2008 8:52 pm

    Dear Jen,

    I know EXACTLY what you’re talking about.
    I was especially disappointed when I looked for hummus in Berlin, for example
    (and even more later on when one of the commentators here told me where I should have looked)
    http://humus101.com/EN/2007/11/02/berlin-hummus-special-part-i/

    Some people here said I’m being too harsh about the subject and I’m really glad that I’m not alone…

    About the falafel for you husband: I suspect the falafel he knows from Amman might be a bit different, because they probably use a grinder and not a food processor which makes the falafel more rough (and the bread is also redundant in this genre). If he won’t like the outcome, ask him how is the falafel he use to eat different, and I’ll try to come up with a proper recipe.

    Also, if you and him have some family recipes to share than I’ll be truly delighted.

  34. Plaid Ninja on July 9th, 2008 1:11 am

    I came to this site somewhat by accident. I was searching for ways in which I could make my own tahini. Strangely I found a recipe for tahini that calls for tahini as one of its ingredients. Still, I do like most of the content here, though I find myself bristling at some of the comments directed towards people who aren’t as deeply committed to hummus.

    You write that “hummus” isn’t a general nickname for a dip or a spread. “Hummus” is both the Arab and Hebrew word for chickpeas – so it reasonable to assume that if you use other legumes to make it, what you’ll eventually get won’t be “hummus” – even if it comes out tasty.

    I agree that this is what it means in the purest sense of the word BUT for those of us for whom this is not a cultural culinary staple, and for whom hummus has taken on a more general meaning, this is not the case. Perhaps this is bad. Perhaps there should have been a better name. (not everything made with chick peas is named hummus, I assume) Whatever the case, the fact is for many MANY people there is an idea of hummus that is more about the general dish itself rather than the very specifics. I have to admit, I am one of those people. I’m not a purist. I’m not a traditionalist. I don’t mean to offend, but I have no problem picking up white bean hummus from Trader Joe’s.

    I understand these other ‘pseudo hummus’ creations are not the traditional preparation. I understand your point of view, and I’m not trying to change your mind. I’m just saying there are many people for whom the concept of hummus is more fluid, and while the name might not make sense in translation for some of these preps (black bean, edamame, lentil, etc) for many people its the general concept that matters. For those people the word hummus means something different than simply chick pea. Most of us who haven’t grown up with hummus would think falafel – ground fried chick peas. Hummus – paste of chick peas and tahini. Again – “Hummus” is both the Arab and Hebrew word for chickpeas. By definition, falafel should be called hummus.

    One passage particularly bothered me:
    When coming across statements like “hummus is the next salsa” I am truly appalled … It’s not a side dish – it’s the main course people!

    Why does it have to ONLY be a main course? Can’t other cultures experience it in the ways they are most comfortable? Does hummus REQUIRE a traditional approach?

    Like I said, I’m not a big fan of tradition. Nothing wrong with remembering where you came from, but there’s nothing wrong with being open to new ideas too.

    Except for Whole Foods’ Edamame Hummus, which truly, TRULY is a crime against humanity.

    I do enjoy this blog, and I look forward to new posts. Thanks for all the tips and info!

  35. wedgie on November 24th, 2008 9:19 am

    “white bean hummus from Trader Joe’s”!!!!!
    I am horrified. what is next? Catfish Caviar at Safeway?
    People like should spend less time at Starbuck talking about …..
    HAAAAA, I am too angry to continue!!!!!!!!!!
    And Falafel IS MADE OUT OF HUMMUS and not CALLED HUMMUS!
    Sorry about the screaming everybody. It just came out.

  36. Bonnie Raymond on September 5th, 2014 1:03 pm

    When a new dish is created “after the fashion of” a traditional dish, just saying it that way should suffice.
    “Black beans, a la Hummus.”

  37. Karen on September 8th, 2014 12:54 pm

    “Pâte” means “paste,” so why not use that, e.g. “white bean pâte?” And certainly “spread” or “dip” similarly qualified should suffice. I agree with wedgie. “Hummus” means “chickpeas” but it doesn’t mean “hummus b’tahina,” ergo it doesn’t mean “falafel,” just because it’s the base ingredient.

Got something to say?