Hummus Holiday

No one knows how long ago the Mediterranean dip known simply as hummus first appeared, but traces of the chickpea have turned up in Middle Eastern history dating back to 3,000 B.C. Hummus is considered a crossover food because its exact place of origin is unknown, with countries including Israel, Lebanon, Greece and Egypt all claiming hummus as their own.

Its rich and extensive history aside, hummus today is earning a growing following among Americans seeking more healthful and adventurous snacks. Although chickpeas are a tiny crop compared with corn or wheat, the 2012 United States harvest totaled a record 332 million pounds, up 51 percent from the previous year according to the USDA, making chickpeas — also known as garbanzo or ceci beans — one of the fastest growing agricultural crops in the U.S.

Harvested chickpeas are boiled, mashed and mixed with a few ingredients to make hummus. Whether made from scratch or purchased ready made, traditional hummus is a mixture of cooked chickpeas, tahini, olive or vegetable oil, garlic, a dash of citrus or other acidic ingredients, and salt.

Chickpeas’ fiber, protein, iron and B vitamins make hummus a satisfying, nutrient-rich dip. Tahini, a paste made from lightly roasted and ground sesame seeds, contributes healthful unsaturated fats, minerals, and additional protein and fiber. The potent package of nutrients from hummus’ chickpeas and tahini’s protein and fiber can help improve the overall nutritional value and satiating power of meals and snacks.

In fact, its unique combination of plant protein, unsaturated fat, fiber, iron, zinc, magnesium and folate makes hummus’ health profile stand out among other popular dips, such as sour cream- or cream cheese-based dips. It's a healthy alternative to mayonnaise or butter. For example, replacing 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise with hummus on a sandwich can save approximately 65 calories and 6 grams of fat. School lunch programs looking for ways to include more legumes are introducing hummus as a dipping companion for fresh vegetables and whole-grain bread or crackers.

From a food group perspective, hummus counts either as a protein or as a legume serving in the vegetable group. As a vegetable, hummus may help fill a gap in meeting weekly legume servings of 1 1/2 cups per week. For example, 2 to 3 tablespoons of hummus per day add up to 1 cup of legumes for the week.

When you’re entertaining, hummus can serve as a dip, spread or ingredient that is vegan-friendly, gluten-free and appropriate for guests with common food allergies. Beyond dipping and spreading, hummus is finding its way into recipes. It can serve as a binder for tuna, chicken or egg salad; a sauce for Mediterranean pizza with roasted vegetables; a coating for baked chicken breasts; a topping for baked potatoes; an addition to turkey or lean beef burgers; or alone as a side dish.

Pomegranate Humus

Developed by Alex Caspero

Serves 16

1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
2 garlic cloves
1⁄3 cup tahini
1 lemon, zested and juiced
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons pomegranate juice, divided
2 drops Tabasco® or hot sauce
1⁄8 teaspoon salt
1⁄4 cup pomegranate arils (seeds)


  1. Place chickpeas, garlic cloves, tahini, salt, lemon zest and juice, Tabasco sauce and 1 tablespoon pomegranate juice in a food processor. Process until the hummus is pureed. Taste the hummus. Depending on the salt in the beans, you may need to add another pinch of salt.
  2. Scoop the hummus into a bowl and top with the reserved 3 tablespoons pomegranate juice. Using a knife or chopstick, swirl in the juice. Top with pomegranate arils.

Nutrition Info: 2 tablespoons. Calories: 74; Total fat: 5g; Sat. fat: 1g; Chol.: 0mg; Sodium: 95mg; Carb.: 6g; Fiber: 2g; Sugars: 1g; Protein: 2g; Potassium: 82mg; Phosphorous: 63mg

Rustic Hummus Kale Crostini

Developed by Carlene Thomas

Serves 15

1 whole-wheat baguette, sliced on the diagonal
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus enough to drizzle
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, stems removed, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1/4 teaspoon pepper (or to taste)
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 clove garlic
1 cup raw kale, thinly sliced


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Slice the baguette thinly on a diagonal. Drizzle bread slices with olive oil, place on baking sheet and toast in the oven until golden. Set aside.
  2. Add rinsed chickpeas to a bowl. Mince the garlic, nearly to a paste, and add it to the chickpeas. Pour 1 tablespoon olive oil into the chickpea mix with salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste. Mash the ingredients in the bowl.
  3. Slather the hummus onto the toasted baguette pieces. Chiffonade the kale and arrange on top of the hummus. Sprinkle fresh thyme and lemon zest over the top.

Nutrition Info: 1 slice baguette, 1.5 tablespoons hummus. Calories: 86; Total fat: 3g; Sat. fat: 0g; Chol.: 0mg; Sodium: 186mg; Carb.: 12g; Fiber: 3g; Sugars: 1g; Protein: 4g; Potassium: 112mg; Phosphorous: 62mg

Roasted Red Pepper and Rosemary “Hummus ”

Developed by Lauren Larson

Serves 18

1 red pepper
1 clove garlic
1 15-ounce can white beans, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon tahini
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
juice from 1/2 of a lemon
sprig of fresh rosemary
1⁄8 to 1⁄4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
freshly cracked pepper, to taste


  1. Heat the oven to broil. Cut the pepper in half, removing seeds and stem. Place on a baking sheet. Wrap garlic clove in foil and place on the same baking sheet. Broil until skins on the red pepper are brown on both sides, turning halfway through, about 5 minutes per side. Place red pepper in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap for 20 minutes. Remove the skins and peel the garlic clove.
  2. Place all ingredients into food processor and process until desired consistency is reached.

Nutrition Info: 2 tablespoons. Calories: 48; Total fat: 2g; Sat. fat: 0g; Chol.: 0mg; Sodium: 34mg; Carb.: 6g; Fiber: 1g; Sugars: 0g; Protein: 2g; Potassium: 103mg; Phosphorous: 41mg

Betsy Hornick
Betsy Hornick, MS, RDN, is manager of acquisitions and development at Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.