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Try hummus. The word hummus is Arabic for chickpeas and it’s believed to be one of the first prepared foods in history. Its roots have been traced to ancient Egypt as well as the Mediterranean region.

Hummus can be served as a dip, a spread or a side dish. It’s a healthier alternative to mayonnaise or sour cream-based dips. Hummus packs a lot of nutrition including protein and fiber. Grocery store hummus can be pricey and also have extra ingredients that can add calories. Why not make your own?

The basic ingredient in hummus is usually chickpeas (also sometimes called garbanzo beans). Most of the hummus recipes use canned chickpeas. It’s quick easy-to-use canned beans, but they can be high in salt (or sodium). You might want to try from the very beginning with dried chickpeas. You get a lot more hummus for the money and a better flavor. But it does take time. Here’s a recipe from the Extension Service at Mississippi State University.

Basic Hummus

  • 1 cups dried chickpeas (the smallest you can find)
  • 1/2 cup tahini
  • juice from 1 squeezed lemon
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • olive oil
  • chopped parsley

Pour the chickpeas over a large plate or strainer. Go over them and discard any damaged beans or small stones. Wash the chickpeas several times, until the water is transparent. Soak them in clean water overnight. Then rinse again and soak again in tap water for a few more hours. The peas will absorb the water and almost double their volume.

Wash the chickpeas well and put them in a large pot. Cover with water. Cook until the peas are very easily smashed when pressed between two fingers. It should take around one to one-and-a-half hours. Remove any peels and/or foam which float in the cooking water. When done, drain, but keep a little of  the cooking water.

Put the chickpeas into a food processor and grind well. Allow to cool slightly before continuing,  Add the tahini and the rest of the ingredients and continue blending with the food processor until you get the desired texture. If the hummus is too thick, add some of the cooking water. Makes four large bowls. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with parsley, and server with vegetables such as carrots, celery or chunks of red or green pepper, whole grain crackers or pita bread.

Basic conversions:

1 pound dried beans = 8 cups cooked beans

1 can (15 ounces), drained = 1 ½ to 1 ¾ cups cooked beans

1 cup dried beans (after cooking) = approximately one 15-ounce can of beans 

Tahini is another ingredient traditionally found in hummus. Tahini is a paste made from grinding sesame seeds. It’s expensive and sometimes hard to find. It’s also high in fat. Plain or Greek yogurt can be used as a substitute for the tahini. If using the yogurt, drizzle with a little sesame oil or sprinkle with some toasted sesame seed to give it a little of the tahini flavor.

Other ingredients in traditional hummus are garlic, olive oil, lemon juice and seasonings. There are also recipes that add other healthful ingredients such as sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and eggplant.

One of the most unique recipes I’ve ever found was from North Dakota State University Extension for a dessert hummus.

Chocolate Dessert Hummus

  • 15 oz. can of chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 3-4 Tablespoon water

Drain and rinse chickpeas, and place in a food processor. Place all other ingredients into the same food processor and puree until a smooth texture is visible. If needed, add additional honey one tablespoon at a time until desired sweetness level is met. Dippers for this chocolate hummus could be fruit, pretzels, vanilla wafers or graham crackers. Makes 11 – two Tablespoon servings. Each serving contains 70 calories, 0.5 grams (g) fat, 2 g protein, 14 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber and 105 mg sodium.

Hummus is usually made in a food processor. If you don’t have one, it can be made in a blender. For easier mixing and a better texture, mash the beans with a fork, chop any other ingredients very finely and stir all ingredients together before adding in the blender. The final product should be thick and smooth.

Store homemade hummus in the refrigerator and use within 3-4 days. 

Syracuse is a Family and Consumer Science team member and can be reached at N.C. Cooperative Extension, Brunswick County Center 910-253-2610 or by email at