Okay, I know I am exaggerating with this title, but maybe not. Recently I decided to do a video on hummus taste testing with my mother, frankly out of morbid curiosity. You see, when you grow up eating homemade hummus all your life, way before it’s considered trendy, you don’t really feel the need to eat pineapple jalapeno or gingerbread hummus. You stick to the beautiful creamy, garlicky, and lemony hummus rooted in ancient Arab culture. We take pride in our homemade hummus the way Italians take pride in their pasta. So when I started seeing hummus go from a one flavor to 31 flavors with multiple brands, I started to wonder, what are companies doing to our beloved hummus?
There is no doubt that hummus is rooted in ancient traditions that are thousands of years old, and purists believe the only real hummus contains chickpeas, lemon juice, olive oil, tahini, salt, and cumin. However, with the recent popularity of hummus in American markets, the definition and interpretation of hummus has gotten lost in translation. This poor dip now wrestles with western gastronomic gaffes, mixed with everything from gingerbread spice and coconut curry, to chocolate and even salted caramel flavors. One of the latest offenders is “tabouli hummus” where days old tabouli salad, which only tastes good fresh, is incorporated into the hummus. Trader Joes must have thought adding soggy salad flavors to hummus was a good idea, since they now carry this product on their shelves.
They are expanding hummus product lines for good reason. In 2016, about 1 in 4 homes in the United States stocked at least one hummus product in their refrigerator, with hummus revenues accounting to more than $725 million annually. To meet the increase in hummus demand in the U.S. market, farmers in 2016 produced over 100 million pounds for the first time! By next year in 2022, the global market for hummus is expected to reach a total value of $1.1 billion, that is one helluva lot of chickpeas.
The meaning of cultural appropriation is “the act of taking or using things from a culture that is not your own, especially without showing that you understand or respect this culture.” Western companies have truly taken on this definition of appropriation, shoving true hummus and its ancient traditions by the wayside in favor of gimmicky flavors. Even their plain hummus products contain inflammatory seed oils instead of olive oil and tahini, as well as factory produced citric acid instead of fresh lemon juice. Cumin is only an afterthought, if added at all. Worse yet, all of these unconventional flavors have nothing to do with true hummus. Perhaps companies can be more truthful in their product labeling, calling them flavored chickpea purees rather than cashing in on the hummus name.
Picking out hummus for our taste testing was a daunting task, so I whittled down the options by choosing brands that used extra virgin olive oil, instead of inflammatory seed oils like soybean, sunflower and canola. This eliminated Sabra, Tribe, and Athenos brands, as they all have those oils in them. That left me with Hope Brand, Cedar’s, and even Safeway Organics. Some were surprisingly delicious, and others left an indelible stain on hummus-kind. We ended up sampling:
- Hope Black Garlic Hummus
- Lentana Yellow Lentil hummus
- Cedar’s Chocolate Hummus
- Hope Coconut Curry hummus
- Safeway O Organics Tabbouli Hummus
- Cedar’s Pineapple Jalapeno Hummus
To see our results, click on the video below:
Let me know in the comments below–what are your favorite, or least favorite brands of store bought hummus?
We would love to know!