Lots of oil and water, that’s not even hummus

‘Hummus Wars’, that’s the title of the chapter about the chickpea dip in the cookbook Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. Where the first hummus was made, who makes the best, what texture it should have, what can and cannot be in it, “Jews in particular, and especially Jewish men, never tire of arguing about it.” But whether hummus – actually hummus bi tahini, because hummus simply means chickpeas – was invented in Lebanon or Syria, or in the Old Testament, there is consensus on one thing. Hummus is made without oil. At least, that’s what Ottolenghi does. And in the Netherlands Jigal Krant writes in his book TLV: “Don’t make the classic mistake of mixing olive oil into your chumus. It makes him chubby instead of creamy.”

But we don’t make most hummus ourselves, we buy it in the supermarket, in increasing quantities. And there are different laws. We found 26 types of regular hummus – we’re not even talking about hummus with pesto, beetroot or ‘houmous chicken’ from Johma. 26 trays, from Aldi to Ekoplaza. From 5.45 to 18.17 euros per kilo. Would there be something in there that isn’t an insult to the real thing?

The numbers. The percentage of chickpeas ranges from 33 to 67. Now that doesn’t say everything, except that 33 percent is very little. At Ottolenghi and Krant, hummus roughly consists of half (dried) chickpeas and half tahini (tahini, techina, sesame paste). And that’s where factory hummus goes wrong. Where’s the tahini?

Cheap, tasteless stuff

The least tahini is in the hummus of organic brand De Hobbit: 0 percent. And that for the highest price, 3.09 for a tray, 18.17 per kilo. With ten other brands with tahini, the percentage is not mentioned at all. As if the word sesame seed or tahini alone guarantees sufficient quality. If it does, it often stays below 10 percent. In any case, tahini is not the second ingredient in any of the trays. Rapeseed oil or sunflower oil and then water. Or water and then rapeseed or sunflower oil. On average, half of the cheap, tasteless stuff has to go through to fill the container. And sometimes also dextrose or wheat syrup, so sugar. Instead of that deliciously creamy, unctuous sesame paste.

Price means nothing: Aldi hummus contains 16 percent more chickpeas than AH’s budget hummus, which is just as cheap. But that of AH mentions the highest percentage of tahini. Two of the most expensive, BioToday and TerraSana, contain more water than chickpeas (33 percent) and barely any sesame. The best known, Maza, ‘according to an authentic recipe’, remains at 37 percent and an unknown percentage of sesame.

More chickpeas make hummus healthier. Oil makes it less healthy. A good dash of tahini – fat and high in calories – does not make hummus healthier, but it does make it tastier. Only there is no factory that makes it like that. Why not? Because this is the only hummus that most Dutch people know? Because you can call everything authentic with impunity? Because it’s on sale right? Because nobody cares? Sometimes war is better than indifference.