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The primitive American hummus culture

Though relatively young and poor in content compared with it’s older Hebrew brother, The Hummus Blog is getting lots of attention these days. Over the comments at one of the sites who talked about us, someone said something like “Americans don’t know shit about hummus”.

This is a bit harse, but it’s true that many Americans know little about hummus. Love it, maybe, but pretty ignorant about it.

After surfing hundreds of hummus-related web pages, my conclusions regarding the American hummus culture aren’t very flattering. When coming across statements like “hummus is the next salsa” I am truly appalled.

And sure, you can dip carrots in it – but you can dip them in a soup as well. This doesn’t make hummus a dip. It’s not a side dish – it’s the main course people!

In Israel, as well as some Arab countries, there are thousands of hummus restaurants (“hummusiot”) which serve traditionally made hummus, falafel, tahini and other related dishes. Non of them refer hummus as a dip, serve it with “pita triangles” or mix it with red chili.

!In most Arab restaurants, hummus is a only one of the courses – but it is also, by all means, a stand-alone dish. When served and eaten with some vegetable salad, good hummus can certainly make a complete meal – nutritionally and culinarily.

Packaged hummus, in the chilled version, is also popular in Israel. But everybody here knows it is merely a substitute – an insight which most Americans lack, I’m afraid.

Another thing: garbanzo beans, although closely related to middle-eastern chickpeas, are far from ideal for making hummus. It react differently to cooking, making the final texture different.

Another issue is the quality of tahini. In the middle-east there’s a rich supply of raw tahini products. Dozens of brands, some of which are great, others horrible – but there’s a choice. In the US, from what I’ve been told, there is very little choice between mostly mediocre tahini products (They say AlWadi is a decent tahini, and you can find it around New-York).

So I guess there’s a long way to go until Americans could understand how hummus has become the center of an Israeli sub-culture. Or how come it is the most eaten dish in a some middle-eastern populations. That’s a challenge for us, of course.

19 Comments on The primitive American hummus culture

  1. Update re AlWadi (which, BTW, is much better than “decent” – I’d say it’s one of the best I’ve ever tasted, Karawan (“HaYona”) included); it is now available on Amazon, so you can get it anywhere; the only downside – you have to get a six-pack. Still, Tahini holds forever (or just about) and stores well, so just go with it.

    There are a couple of other Lebanese brands available on-line; I’ll try these as well and report soon.

  2. hey I’m glad your spreading the word about hummus

    Im a chef and try and do some creative variations on it

    here is a picture at an Asian wine dinner i did and edamame hummus

    we also do tapas at our restaurant heres is a tapas picture with chipotle hummus

    I also crust traditional hummus on seared tuna and serve with zaatar seasoned flatbread for a middle eastern feel


    chef chris albano

  3. What’s especially weird about American hummus culture is that even though America has thousands of restaurants run by Arab immigrants from the Middle East, the hummus is still lousy. You’d think Arabs would know how to make proper hummus, but no…

  4. Omnibot2000 // April 19, 2007 at 9:00 pm // Reply

    i just wrote a comment about Al Wadi but it was forever lost by my browser since i didnt fill in the email adress.
    i will re-attempt:

    I am an Israeli living in Berlin. The food here is mostly horrible and the Al Wadi tahina is one of my only comforts 😉
    i am not a hummus or tahina pro but it definitly reminds me of the “Yona” brand. it is very white , low on bitterness and in my opinion, even a bit sweet. i always enjoy just tasting some of it pure cuz it tastes really good! its definitly MUCH better than all the other Lebanese,Syrian and Jordanien brands i tried (The Turkish ones are not even worth mentioning)
    anyway here is the address of the company i found while googling for it:

    and shooky,if you are interested i can bring you one from germany to try 🙂

  5. Omnibot –
    a. Yes, I’d love it if you could bring one with you the next time you visit Israel. OR –
    b. I’ll probably visit Berlin later this year and see for myself. Already been there twice and really really really liked it. In fact, a possibility of a temporary relocation is on the table.

  6. I don’t know if this will advance the reputation of hummus in America or not, but I made some wonderful hemp seed hummus especially good for folks who need low-glycemic hummus.

    And here is New York there is delicious stuff at Hummus Place

  7. Well i believe many Americans have never heard of hummus, tahini, or falafel. But you may be surprised to know that these foods are in fact a stable for most if not all american vegetarians. And High quality tahini, organic even, is available in nearly every vegetarian health food store or coop I have ever been in. I’m looking forward to reading what you have to say about it all, haha, and be sure to share any vegetarian recipes ya know, well even non-veggie as I can certainly modify them. Thanks.

  8. hmmm…… // June 7, 2007 at 12:33 pm // Reply

    Dear Pimitive Hummus American Culture Blogger,

    The commentary is interesting, but it’s always risky to generalize.

    I would like to add that alot of Americans do know about hummus as well as many other Asian/Middle Eastern dishes.

    Instead of concentrating on the people that are apparently unaware of the details concerning eastern cuisines, why not celebrate the people who do appreciate them. Like yourself.

    One more thing…..I think it is a compliment that these “primitives” are enjoying the hummus their way. North America is on the otherside of Asia. I think it’s quite amazing in that of itself that we enjoy eating different cuisines that originate from so far away.

    Just because they didn’t grow with Grandma’s ancient hummus recipe doesn’t necessarily make them philistines.

    PS – “pink is the next white” 🙂


  9. Jim Trabacky // June 10, 2007 at 4:27 am // Reply

    I just had hummus it came in a new Swanson hungryman dinner in the desert square. I was so pissed because normally they put a brownie or some cherry pie in that square but instead they put this crap. Thanini hummas? or something it was called. LAME. THey need to keep that forgeign crap out of our american cuisine!!! word,,

    Snap In To a Slim Jim Trabacky,
    Jim Trabacky
    Michigan MI

  10. I LOVE Hummus – have tried them all – outside of my own I have just found the best product in the market today. It is called Fountain of Health – and comes in 6 flavors – at least in my Columbus Ohio Kroger store. Outside of the incredible creamy taste it has no preservatives – and from the good until date seems to be as long as the others. Label says it is made in Canada. This product is the very best.

  11. We should broaden the topics to Baba Genuj (or however one spells/pronounces it.

  12. John – and we will. In fact, I’m the master of the arts when it comes to eggplants. in time.

  13. karawan tahini israel’s best tahini is now available in the u.s!!!
    available sizes 450g and 18k
    to order please call 949-945-7397

  14. Dear Omnibot2000,
    For you info, Al wadi al akhdar is a Lebanese brand, and usually all the canned hummus are not perfect usually you have to add garlic and lemon (to taste) and 1 teaspoon of tahini to the canned hummus .

  15. i want to try making my own hummus, but i live in the uk and suppliers for the ingredients needed are not easy to come by, does anyone have a good recipe and know of any uk supermarkets that sell chick peas and sesame tahini please

  16. I really love your hummus blog. I am crazy about the stuff. I should be an honorary Israeli, I love it so much. I enjoy Sabra brand hummus, which is produced in New York. I’ve not had the pleasure of trying Israeli or Palestinian hummus so I probably have no idea what really great hummus tastes like, but I do think that Sabra is quite a bit better than most American brands. And lately I have tried a brand of hummus called “Eve’s Kitchen” made by Teva Foods in Los Angeles that was really good. The jalapeno-cilantro flavored one is really nice. Maybe that combination is anathema in the Middle East, but here in California just about every flavor is fair game!

    Best regards,


    • TinRoof – although the packaged hummus in the states evolved greatly this past couple of years, it is still far behind Israeli standards (to a thing that is, basically, “dead hummus”). Packaged hummus, at it’s best, can make a decent substitute to the real thing. So yes, I think you should try fresh hummus sometime.

  17. Can you freeze hummus? Tell the truth please. they told me I could freeze tofu; ech, gag.

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