Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Bon Appetit Blog: Is Homemade Hummus Worth the Effort?

January 31, 2012

Is Homemade Hummus Worth the Effort?
In our column Fake It or Make It we test a homemade dish against its prepackaged counterpart to find out what's really worth cooking from scratch.

Those of you getting ready to host a crowd of hungry football fans this weekend may be looking towards hummus as a lighter alternative to the bacony, creamy, cheesy explosion that is the rest of your Super Bowl Sunday menu. We applaud you! Hummus is not only delicious, but also loaded with protein, fiber, vitamin C, and lots of other virtuous nutrients. Making your own hummus from scratch can be as simple as combining chickpeas and a few other ingredients in a food processor and pressing "puree"; but then again, with all the solid store-bought options out there, would anyone even notice the difference? Our testers weigh in.

The Contenders
Sabra Classic Hummus vs. Bon Appetit's Hummus and Crudites

Hummus is a cold dip or spread traditionally made from pureed chickpeas, sesame, lemon juice, and olive oil that hails from the eastern Mediterranean. It's thought to date back as far as 13th Century Egypt, and remains a dietary staple in Levantine countries including Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, and Syria. Once dismissed by mainstream America as a hippie health food, hummus's popularity as a low-fat, protein-rich snack food has skyrocketed here since the 90s. It's now available on supermarket shelves everywhere, and the category includes a profusion of non-traditional flavors ranging from roasted red pepper to--believe it or not--"buffalo style."

Relative Costs
Homemade is slightly cheaper. I paid $2.99 for a 1-cup container of Sabra's hummus, and around $2.50 for ingredients to make 1 1/2 cups of homemade.

Relative Healthfulness
Slight edge to homemade. Both dips are made primarily from chickpeas and plant oils and are therefore nutritious and low in fat, but the store-bought version does contain citric acid and potassium sorbate as preservatives.

Time Commitment
It took me 10 minutes to make hummus from scratch. 

Leftovers Potential
Homemade hummus can be kept refrigerated for up to a week; Sabra indicates that their hummus is safe to eat until the expiration date on the packaging, which is typically about two weeks after purchase.

What The Testers Said
First let me introduce our panel.

THE HEALTH NUT A delicate eater, the health nut is calorie conscious but also likes to eat well
THE FOODIE Calorie agnostic, our foodie judge has a sophisticated palate and a love of cooking
THE DUDE Ambivalent toward food trends and health concerns, this guy just wants to be fed when he's hungry
THE KID Between ages of 9 and 12 years old, not jaded, typically not into strong flavors

Testers sampled both varieties blind, alone and with carrot and celery crudites. Not everyone correctly guessed which dip was homemade, and the panel generally struggled to choose a favorite.

The Health Nut: Homemade; "You can really taste the lemon and olive oil, which gives it a sense of freshness. I also like the slightly lighter consistency."

The Foodie: Store-bought; "I like the nuttier flavor of the store-bought, as well as its thicker, more substantial texture."

The Kid: Store-bought; "The other is kind of sour."

The Dude: No preference. "Honestly, I would happily eat either of these. I can tell that one is more lemony than the other but I don't have a real preference."

The Verdict
Fake it. Save your energy for homemade guacamole. Hummus may be cheap and easy to make, but the store-bought version is just as good as what you whip together from canned chickpeas in a food processor. --Elizabeth Gunnison

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