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What Is Hummus?
Hummus is chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans) blended together with tahini (sesame paste), olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic into a smooth purée. Originally from the Middle East, hummus is traditionally eaten as a dip or a spread. “Hummus” is the Arabic word for “chickpea.”
Where Did Hummus Originate?
Hummus is a food with a long history. Chickpeas have been grown and consumed throughout the Middle East for almost 10,000 years. The earliest reference to pureed chickpeas is from Egypt in the thirteenth century. Hummus is a Levantine food, which means it comes from the Levant region—a historical area encompassing the Mediterranean and the Middle East. Several countries, such as Greece, Syria, Turkey, Israel, and Lebanon, all lay claim to being the birthplace of hummus but its exact country of origin is unknown.
What Are the Regional Variations of Hummus?
Throughout the Middle East, hummus is deeply ingrained into culinary culture and history. There are a few ways that hummus is prepared and served in different countries.
- Turkey. Turkish hummus recipes often use butter instead of olive oil. It also uses more tahini for a richer sesame taste. Here, hummus is often served as a warm meze (appetizer) with pastırma, which is seasoned, air-cured beef.
- Israel. In Israel, hummus is considered the national food. It is so important to the culinary traditions in the country that there are several hummus-dedicated restaurants around the country. For the most part, Israeli hummus is true to its original recipe.
- Palestine. Palestinian hummus is topped with mint, parsley, and paprika, and served warm with bread.
- Jordan. In Jordan, hummus is served as a main dish. Jordanian hummus uses yogurt in place of tahini.
- Lebanon. Lebanese hummus is often topped with veggies and sumac, which are powdered berries from the sumac bush. One Lebanese style of hummus, “hummus awarma,” has pine nuts and minced meat on top.
- Syria. In Syrian communities, hummus is often served with other dips, like tabbouleh. It is often paired with falafel, a fried chickpea fritter.
Canned vs. Fresh Chickpeas: Which Is Better for Making Hummus?
There are a few options when choosing your chickpeas and how to prepare them: dry or from a can, raw or cooked chickpeas. Here are several different methods for preparing chickpeas for homemade hummus.
- Straight from the can. For a method with quick prep time, simply drain and rinse chickpeas from a can.
- Boiled. To soften chickpeas from a can, put them in a pot of water on the stove and boil for 20 minutes.
- Pressure cooker. Put dried chickpeas in a pressure cooker, also known as an instant pot, with vegetable oil, water, and salt. When heated, the sealed pressure cooker traps the steam in and the pressure raises the cooking temperature higher than a regular pot. Cook for 45 minutes for tender chickpeas, and creamier hummus.
- Baking soda. Soak dried chickpeas overnight in cold water. Drain the liquid and put the chickpeas on the stove with baking soda and heat on high. After several minutes, add water and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for half an hour, or until the chickpeas have softened.
How to Make Your Own Tahini in 2 Easy Steps
Tahini is an essential ingredient in hummus. It can be found in most grocery stores but, just like hummus, it is easy to whip up at home and only requires two ingredients: sesame seeds and olive oil or avocado oil.
- Place two cups of sesame seeds on a baking sheet, spread thin, and bake at 350 F for ten minutes, or until they are golden brown.
- Place the seeds in a food processor and blend with oil until creamy yet thick, like peanut butter. Put the tahini in a jar with a lid and store in the refrigerator.
Make the Perfect Hummus in 4 Easy Steps
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Once the chickpeas are prepped, hummus is a fast and easy dish to make. The first time you make it, stick to the recipe to learn the basic steps. Then experiment with the ingredients. Add more liquid if you like a lighter, creamy hummus. Toss in a few more garlic cloves if you like a stronger garlic flavor. Try adding different ingredients, like roasted red peppers, to create your own variety of hummus.
- Prep your chickpeas. Prepare your chickpeas as you like them. This might be the night before if you’re starting with the dried variety.
- Gather the ingredients. Have all of the ingredients measured and ready to go. They will go into the food processor at roughly the same time. You’ll need the chickpeas, one-third cup tahini, two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, two to three garlic cloves, one teaspoon salt, half a teaspoon of ground cumin (optional), the juice from a fresh lemon, and several tablespoons of cold water.
- Blend. Add all of the ingredients to the food processor and blend for several minutes. For the smoothest hummus, blend a bit longer and add another tablespoon of water.
- Serve. The hummus can be served immediately. If you prefer warm hummus simply put it in the oven at 350 F for ten minutes. Spoon the hummus into a serving dish. Add a drizzle of olive oil and some traditional toppings, like smoked paprika, cayenne, sumac, or fresh parsley. For a more substantial hummus, top with pine nuts or kalamata olives.
4 Ways to Serve Hummus
Hummus is a healthy food, packed with fiber and protein. It is also gluten-free and vegan, perfect for most palates. Hummus can be consumed and enjoyed in many different ways.
- As a dip. Hummus is most often used as a dip in North America. Pair a bowl of homemade hummus with pita chips or pita bread cut into triangles. Smooth hummus also makes a great dip for crunchy vegetables, like carrots and cucumbers.
- Mediterranean meze platter. This assortment of small dips and dishes is a traditional way to serve hummus—on a platter meant to be shared. Whip up a batch of creamy hummus. Surround it with chopped vegetables, roasted eggplant, olives, feta cheese, and tabbouleh (salad containing bulgur, tomatoes, mint, parsley, olive oil, and lemon juice).
- As a spread. Next time you make yourself a sandwich, substitute hummus for mayonnaise and mustard. The lemony taste of hummus makes a flavorful condiment.
- As a main dish. In the Middle East, hummus is often served as a main dish. Try a Lebanese-style hummus with minced meat, like ground beef cooked up and seasoned with black pepper, salt, ground cumin, and paprika. Top with tahini sauce.
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