History: The earliest known recipes for a dish similar to hummus bi tahina are recorded in cookbooks published in Cairo in the 13th century. Hummus has been connected to the Ayyubid Sultan, Saladin, and according to some food historians he first prepared it. A cold purée of chickpeas with vinegar and pickled lemons with herbs, spices, and oil, but no tahini or garlic, appears in the Kitāb al-Wusla ilā l-habīb fī wasf al-tayyibāt wa-l-tīb; and a purée of chickpeas and tahini called hummus kasa appears in the Kitab Wasf al-Atima al-Mutada: it is based on puréed chickpeas and tahini, and acidulated with vinegar (though not lemon), but it also contains many spices, herbs, and nuts, and no garlic. It is also served by rolling it out and letting it sit overnight, which presumably gives it a very different texture from hummus bi tahina. Indeed, its basic ingredients—chickpeas, sesame, lemon, and garlic—have been eaten in the region for millennia. Though chickpeas were widely eaten in the region, and they were often cooked in stews and other hot dishes, puréed chickpeas eaten cold with tahini do not appear before the Abbasid period in Egypt and the Levant.
As an appetizer and dip, hummus is scooped with flatbread, such as pita. It is also served as part of a meze or as an accompaniment to falafel, grilled chicken, fish or eggplant. Garnishes include chopped tomato, cucumber, coriander, parsley, caramelized onions, sautéed mushrooms, whole chickpeas, olive oil, hard-boiled eggs, paprika, sumac, ful, olives, pickles and pine nuts (as photographed in the “History” section). Outside the Middle East, it is sometimes served with tortilla chips or crackers.
Hummus ful (pronounced [fuːl]) is topped with a paste made from fava beans boiled until soft and then crushed. Hummus masubha/mashawsha is a mixture of hummus paste, warm chickpeas and tahini.
Hummus is a popular dip in Egypt where it is eaten with pita bread, and frequently flavored with cumin or other spices.
Hummus is a common part of everyday meals in Israel. A significant reason for the popularity of hummus in Israel is that it is made from ingredients that, following Kashrut (Jewish dietary laws), can be combined with both meat and dairy meals. Few other foods can be combined with a wide variety of meals consistently with the dietary laws. It is seen as almost equally popular among Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs. As a result of its popularity, Israelis elevated hummus to become a “national food symbol” and consume more than twice as much hummus as neighboring Arab countries. Many restaurants run by Mizrahi Jews and Arab citizens of Israel are dedicated to hot hummus, which may be served as chick peas softened with baking soda along with garlic, olive oil, cumin and tahini. One of the fancier hummus versions available is hummus masabacha, made with lemon-spiked tahini garnished with whole chick peas, a sprinkling of paprika and a drizzle of olive oil. Hummus is sold in restaurants, supermarkets and hummus-only shops (known in Hebrew as humusiot).
For Palestinians and Jordanians, hummus has long been a staple food, often served warm, with bread for breakfast, lunch or dinner. All of the ingredients in hummus are easily found in Palestinian gardens, farms and markets, thus adding to the availability and popularity of the dish. In Palestinian areas, hummus is usually garnished, with olive oil, “nana” mint leaves, paprika, parsley or cumin. A related dish popular in the region of Palestine and Jordan is laban ma’ hummus (“yogurt and chickpeas”), which uses yogurt in the place of tahini and butter in the place of olive oil and is topped with pieces of toasted bread.
One author calls hummus, “One of the most popular and best-known of all Syrian dishes” and a “must on any mezzeh table.” Syrians in Canada’s Arab diaspora prepare and consume hummus along with other dishes like falafel, kibbe and tabouleh, even among the third- and fourth-generation offspring of the original immigrants.
In Cyprus, hummus is part of the local cuisine in both Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot communities where it is called “humoi” (Greek: χούμοι). In Turkey, hummus is considered as a meze and usually oven-dried with pastırma which differs from the traditional serving.
Chickpeas, the main ingredient of conventional hummus, have appreciable contents of dietary fiber, protein, B vitamins, manganese and other nutrients.
As hummus recipes vary, so does nutritional content, depending primarily on the relative proportions of chickpeas, tahini, and water. Hummus provides roughly 170 calories for 100 grams, and is a good to excellent (more than 10% of the Daily Value) source of dietary fiber, B vitamins, and several dietary minerals.
Fat content, mostly from tahini and olive oil, is about 14% of the total; other major components are 65% water, 17% total carbohydrates, including a small amount of sugar, and about 10% protein.