As a home cook who loves a good project, I’m all for making things from scratch, whether that's something as easy as whipped cream or as intricate as homemade Cheez-Its. But when it comes to hummus, I like to pull an Ina and say, “Store-bought is fine.” Store-bought hummus is usually more than fine — oftentimes, it’s really good and potentially better than what you’d make yourself. Trust me, I’ve done the homemade hummus thing, and it can feel like a lot. Plus, recipes for the best homemade hummus typically entail soaking chickpeas overnight, which is a time-consuming step in and of itself.
With store-bought hummus, the only thing that requires some effort is deciding which one to buy. Dozens of companies make their own versions of the classic chickpea-and-tahini dip, not to mention spin-offs like spicy hummus, herby hummus, and even dessert hummus. I’m personally not a fan of sweet hummus — I’ve had the strange pleasure of sampling flavors like brownie batter and pumpkin pie throughout my years as a food writer — but I love a savory dip. To make your chickpea choice a bit easier, I’ve taste-tested several store-bought hummus varieties (all of the savory ilk) to find the best. Here’s how it went.
I set two parameters for this taste test. One, every hummus had to be available for purchase nationwide, and two, every hummus had to be tasted in both its original form and a fun flavor (think spinach artichoke or roasted garlic). I settled on six nationally available brands, leading me to 12 different kinds of hummus. From there, I tasted each of the originals — first just a forkful, then with a pita chip — paying close attention to details like texture, color, and scent. Then I did the same thing with the flavored hummus options. Then, I re-tasted, combing back through the lot to assign favorites and least favorites (though there were a few clear winners right off the bat). Once I designated my top six, I tasted those yet again, unpacking exactly what it was that I loved so much about each. These hummus winners, many of which I hadn’t tried before, run the gamut in terms of brand, flavor, and price — and I love them all.
The Classic Crowd-Pleasers
Ithaca Classic Hummus
Some hummus skews runnier, but I prefer a thicker texture — less like peanut butter, more like Greek yogurt. Ithaca Classic Hummus has my ideal consistency: dense enough that when you run a chip through it, the divot stays. Taste-wise, there’s a tang that makes it a great pairing for flavored chips versus standard pita chips (I’m lookin’ at you, Tostitos Hint of Lime). Although this hummus is great on its own, it’s got the perfect texture and flavor for pretty much any kind of cooking. For a more gourmet approach, you can spread it on a plate then top with roasted eggplant and pine nuts. For a quicker, easier way to incorporate this hummus into a meal, slather some on a turkey sandwich.
Esti Hummus Original Recipe
I found that many of the store-bought hummus brands had a one-note flavor profile: chickpeas. But with Esti Hummus Original Recipe, the first thing that hits you is a mouthful of sesame. The chickpea flavor takes a back seat, allowing the tahini to shine. I love the nuttiness in this hummus, and the healthy dose of silky tahini sets it apart from others in the grocery store aisle. To me, this tastes more like what you might get at a restaurant, where the kitchen likely makes hummus in-house. I’d pair this one with any of the traditional hummus accoutrements, from pita chips to carrot sticks, but I also think it would work well in a simple salad dressing, thinned out with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a squeeze of lemon.
The Traditionalists With A Twist
Sabra Roasted Red Pepper Hummus
In this variation on Sabra’s classic hummus, roasted red peppers are whirred into the dip, yielding a light red color that’s not just pretty to look at but indicative of its peppery notes. On top of the hummus, you’ll find a mixture of hot chili peppers, red peppers, and garlic, which I’d encourage you to scoop up for an extra kick. The taste of the dip itself is layered: At first, there’s a sweetness with a hint of spice, but then you taste the roasty smokiness. I love how flavor-forward this hummus is and find it hard to stop eating, whether with crunchy crudité or as a side to grilled chicken and brown rice.
Ithaca Lemon Garlic Hummus
If you like citrus, this is the hummus for you. Although the official name is Lemon Garlic, the garlic serves as an undertone to support the punchy fruit, which grabs you right at first bite. On the finish, it’s got a bit of heat from crushed red pepper. The overall taste is pleasantly piquant, and I love the sharp, lemony jolt. The ingredients in this hummus and Ithaca’s Classic Hummus are largely the same; if you’re deciding between the two, this one offers a more interesting flavor. I’d go simple with this hummus: Spread it on a slice of toasted baguette, then sprinkle with chili flakes and some olive oil, or dollop on a bowl of lemony linguine.
The Fun and Fancy Ones
Sabra Everything Bagel
What I love about this Everything Bagel hummus is that you get the best of both worlds. Sabra’s Classic Hummus makes up the bulk of the container, and a swirl of onions, garlic, sesame seeds, and poppy seeds sits in the center. So you can either dip into the plain hummus, or snag a big scoop of everything bagel seasoning. If you’re all in on the everything bagel, I’d suggest mixing it right into the hummus to get a little bit of that flavor in every bite. Bagel chips are my dipper of choice for this one, but I wouldn’t be opposed to spreading this hummus on an actual everything bagel to really gild the lily.
Esti Hummus Greek, Caramelized Onion
Of all of the hummus varieties I tasted, this is my absolute favorite. Though the name might lead you to believe that there are actual caramelized onions mixed in, there aren’t — the hummus is smooth as can be. Because of this, I’ll admit that I was skeptical. After all, it looks just like traditional hummus. But then I tried this one, dunking in a Stacy’s Pita Chip to get a hefty dip, and my tastebuds exploded. The deep, rich, caramelized onion flavor was spot-on. This tastes as if Esti caramelized onions, pulverized them, and then folded the rich onion and its juices into the hummus. I’d serve this hummus with potato chips in place of a sour cream and onion dip, or thickly lather it onto avocado toast. It’s versatile, unexpected, and a new staple in my fridge.
Photographer: Paul Quitoriano
Art Direction: Sarah Ceniceros Gomez