We Need the Government to Make Sure Your Hummus Is Authentic!


What, this is only 4 percent tahini? AWAY WITH YOU, ABOMINATION!
credit: Food Stories / photo on flickr

One of the leading manufacturers of hummus in the United States wants the federal government to mandate what ingredients (and what proportion of them) are necessary to label your creamy chickpea spread as such. This is, of course, to protect the consumers, not the company, food spread magnate Sabra claims. If people go around eating things labeled hummus that aren't really hummus, all sorts of … things … could happen. Disappointed party guests, for example! What if you bring impure hummus to an office luncheon and everybody realizes it, including your boss? It could cost you your promotion!

Rather than quietly pushing behind the scenes for federal regulations designed to harm competitors like many businesses do, Sabra boldly put out a press release declaring its intent to try to get the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to determine under what circumstances a spread may refer to itself as hummus:

According to the petition, hummus must be comprised (by weight, besides water) predominately of chickpeas, and must be no less than 5% tahini. Sabra defines hummus as, "the semisolid food prepared from mixing cooked, dehydrated, or dried chickpeas and tahini with one or more optional ingredients," some of which are specified in the 11-page petition.

"A food item that is not made of chickpeas… is not hummus," said Ronen Zohar, Sabra's CEO. "It is a testament to the popularity of hummus that companies are interested in labeling a variety of dips and spreads as 'hummus.'  As the category leader, we have introduced hummus to the market; we are driving continued adoption rates and we do see it as our responsibility to support the growing community of hummus lovers by protecting the purity of hummus in the marketplace."

Yes, that's right: an 11-page petition to describe what hummus is. Sabra also notes that the FDA has established standards of identification for things like peanut butter, ketchup, mayonnaise, and cream cheese. This information is used as justification for their own push and not yet another reason why the FDA is just the worst.

Over at Jewish news outlet Tablet, Stephanie Butnick notes the rise and Americanization of hummus as a popular product spreading beyond its Middle Eastern roots. As is typical whenever anything gets Americanized, this has caused some concerns by purists. One Middle Eastern deli owner complained that all those popular hummus variations with basil and black beans aren't real hummus. His comment is amusing because those are exactly the kinds of variations on hummus Sabra produces.

We don't need the government to tell us what hummus is. Anybody wanting to be that much of a purist about hummus can make it easily at home in 10 minutes or so.

(Hat tip to Megan McCardle's Twitter feed)

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  1. Fuck you, Sabra. I put up with your stiff and lackluster hummus as a snack option, when no other hummus is sold where I am, but you’re off the shopping list as of now.

    1. Ditto. You don’t have Athenos brand hummus in your store?

      1. I see it here and there, but hummus is more of an impulse buy for me.

        I do love the hummus at the kabob place nearby. Lemony and creamy.

        1. I’ll vouch for it. Especially the garlic one.

          1. Gracias, good sir!

  2. What do you call a vegetarian with diarrhea? Salad shooter!

  3. I don’t normally embrace the FDA, but I can get behind this. I once bit into something labeled “hummus” and discovered it was actually a cannister of kerosene. How could I have known something labeled hummus isn’t delicious garbanzo bean paste?

    1. Being a self-reliant doomsday prepper survivalist wacko, I would have recognized it immediately as kerosene and stored it away in the empty space of the hollow door of the hall bathroom for the day when the alien dinosaurs land their comet and take over all the gravel reserves…
      Oh really? You were kidding?

    2. So, the FDA doesn’t actually regulate food? Amazing revelation haha

  4. If we there were a hummus litmus test, or Purity Test, with an Arbiter to render a final decision on what is hummus and what is hummus in name only.

  5. I will now send Sabra a message that I won’t buy their products (I have bought their salsa) because of their protectionism petition.

  6. I would think Hummus has its hands full governing the Gaza Strip and no time for the FDA’s foolish games.


      1. Never mind!

  7. This is the kind of idiocy that Eurocrats spend their whole lives inflicting on people. No thanks. I’ll choose another brand.

  8. Wait. I have eaten black bean hummus. Have I violated some sacred trust?

    Hummus does literally mean chickpeas, I believe, but how many Americans know that?

    1. Hummus is an Arabic word (?ummu?) meaning “chickpeas,” and the complete name of the prepared spread in Arabic is ?ummu? bi ?a??na, which means “chickpeas with tahini”

      Well, I’ve learned something today.

    2. Infidel!

    3. I’ve never had black bean hummus, but it sounds good. Is it?

      Maybe next New Year’s day I’ll make black-eyed pea hummus.

      1. It’s delicious, but I’ve always had to add a little more liquid than with chickpeas.

        I’ve used white beans before, but only because I accidentally picked up a couple of cans of them while shopping for chickpeas. They were right next to the chickpeas on the shelf. I just grabbed six cans for a party, and only four were chickpeas. I honestly couldn’t really tell the difference, other than it was a little lighter in color than the batches with chickpeas.

        I like your idea of black-eyed pea hummus as well. The Southerner in me never lets me forget to eat some on New Year’s. My mother reminding me for like a week straight helps as well.

        1. Yes indeedy. Black-eyed peas with lots of onion and cornbread. My dad would insist it’s not complete without buttermilk, but I strongly disagree. That stuff is awful.

          1. He would just drink buttermilk?

          2. You don’t mean that cornbread made with buttermilk is awful, I hope.

            1. No, cornbread made with buttermilk is fine. Buttermilk by itself is another story. My dad would drink it straight up, or sometimes with crumbled cornbread dumped in.

              1. That sounds gross (the straight up buttermilk, not the buttermilk cornbread).

                I am also a fan of shoving cornbread into a glass of regular milk. Saltines work as well.

              2. I love things made with buttermilk, but I do not drink it.

      2. That’s an excellent idea! Every year I try to cook my black eyed peas in a manner that makes them edible!

  9. All I can say is this reminds of this video.


    I really want some Hummus now.

  10. Equal parts chickpeas and pitted black olives, add 4 cloves of garlic, sea salt to taste and put in food processor and add olive oil until it reaches desired consistancy.

    No more Sabra for me.

  11. Since it is super low glycemic and filling plus keeps the deuce sluice working I like to eat hummus a lot.

    I used to work for a Saudi and he helped me tweak my hummus so it is now outstanding.

    My personal hummus recipe:
    2 cans of Garbonzos (washed THOROUGHLY, I can’t emphasize this enough)
    4 Tbsp Tahini, pure and mechanically processed (no salt)
    1 package of Philly Cream Cheese (this was my bosses suggestion)
    1/3 cup olive oil (go expensive if you like)
    2 crushed and chopped garlic cloves
    1/2 lemon fresh squeezed juice
    1/3 can of water
    Kosher salt

    Blend beans, tahini, garlic first, then add a little water until thinner, then slowly add oil (think emulsion), then lemon and salt to taste, then add cubed cream cheese.

    I make a batch, split it, and then sometimes add 3/4 package of chives to one and 1 roasted, peeled, and towel dried red bell pepper to the other.

    or not


    1. Also, I serve on a plate, make a depression in the middle, add olive oil, chopped dill pickles, whole black olives and Hungarian smoked paprika. I also often add a perfectly hard boiled egg sliced.

      1. Thanks for this. I know what I’m going to do over the weekend.

        1. I noticed someone above said 4 cloves of garlic. It is all according to taste of course but be aware, if you are not going to eat it right away (it lasts about 7 days in the fridge) then the garlic will increase in potency in the hummus after a day or two in the fridge…fyi. I love garlic and made some with like 5 or 6 cloves…after two days I lost all my friends, my daughter wouldn’t come near me but my immune system was rockin’.

          1. Always add extra garlic. Now I’m hungry.

        2. Seconded. I love the idea of the paprika and hard boiled egg standing by too!

          God, I love this site…

      2. Don’t use paprika, use zatar.

        1. Mmmm. I roll out a basic wet dough, slather it in olive oil, coat it liberally in salt and zatar and bake it until it’s crispy around the edges.

          It is pure deliciousness.

          1. I could eat that.

            1. …with the qualification that, the form factor notwithstanding, it’s not pizza.

              1. It’s touted as lebanese pizza in some places, but I refer to it as a flatbread. There’s no sauce to speak of and no toppings, only seasonings.

                1. The last company I worked for was owned by a Lebanese guy. He and everyone else who was from the Middle East called it flatbread when they would bring it in after Ramadan for a company breakfast.

                  My other favorites that they would bring in were the cheese covered pita and the ground meat covered ones. I forget what those are called. Arayes or something?

                  Of course the hummus was delicious as well. Dammit, now I’m hungry.

                  1. I am now officially in the mood for borekas.

                    They are also not pizza.

        2. I happen to have some in the cupboard right now and have never thought of this. This is why I come here.

    2. That’s basically my recipe as well, minus the cream cheese. Very interesting. I think I’ll try yours this weekend, and also pick up Greek yogurt and dill to make tzatziki.

  12. Progs will have something else to blame on market failure and insufficient regulation.

  13. Personally, I’m glad that the FDA is getting in on labeling what is proper hummus. I mean, imagine me making hummus at home – now I know that if I use 4% tahini and threw in some tarragon or whatever then it’s not really hummus. Thank you Sabra and FDA.

    I wonder how their regulatory pedantry will help definitions of food in the future? I’ll be glad to know that my jam isn’t jam without at least 6.4% pectin, or my tea is not really tea without 1.459839 oz. tea bag in a 14 oz. cup! Thanks FDA and corporate cronies!

  14. What’s needed is legislation preventing Uno or Malnati’s from calling their thick Chicago product “pizza.”

    1. Lou Malnati’s pizza is a gift from God.

      1. It is delicious, but it isn’t pizza.

        1. IT IS PIZZA AND IT IS GREAT!!!!

          *looks around for dueling pistols*

          1. It is not pizza. Pizza has a thin crust made from Tipo Fino 00, is baked at high temperature for under two minutes, and is the most perfect substance on Earth. The Swiss are too close to the Germans to appreciate these nuances.

        2. The Eye-talians in this part of the world call it pizza-pie and it’s more of a meal than any sauce-and-cheese pita that I’ve had served anywhere else.

          1. I would be careful saying that in Naples.

        3. For chain pizza, Mama Lucia’s pizza is pretty damn good.

          If I could cast some kind of voodoo pox on Sbaro, I would.

          1. Sbarro is strictly for turnpike rest areas and mall food courts.

            1. I like the pizza arguments soooo much better than the abortion arguments!

          2. If I could cast some kind of voodoo pox on Sbaro, I would.

            But where would Michael Scott get an “authentic New York slice” from?

          3. Aren’t they in Chapter 11 or something?

      2. Lou Malnati’s pizza is a gift from God.

        I know plenty of people who would have a pizza delivered as a prank.

        Nobody does this with Lou Malnati’s. It’s like mailing somebody $20 as a prank.

      3. If you or anyone else doubts me, you are hereby invited to eat at Spacca Napoli where the Real Deal is served exclusively. The Pizza Princess and I will be the libertarian-looking couple in the corner flaunting our heteronormativity.

    2. JEEZUZ H KYSTE! Here we go.

  15. Anybody wanting to be that much of a purist about hummus can make it easily at home in 10 minutes or so

    Don’t worry, Sabra will have their legislators on that soon enough.

  16. BTW, hummus is disgusting. It’s like diarrhea with less flavor.

    1. INFIDEL!

      *starts sharpening scimitar*

    2. Agreed.

    3. I’m uninviting you to the hummus-themed, super-model orgy.

  17. I’d like hummus more if it didn’t give me terrible gas. Not a little, but a lot. As in a constant flow of toxic fumes coming out of my ass. As in driving around with the windows down in the winter. As in taking so many courtesy walks at work that I never sit at my desk. So bad that dogs don’t want to be around me. Ugh. Other than that, good stuff!

    1. But bad enough to repel STEVE SMITH?

      1. Repel isn’t the goal there, SS. Sarc is putting out the welcome mat.

        1. I mean…you…just…

          *walks away shaking head*

    2. I like a really strong and garlicky hummus that gives you the garlic sweats.

      People around me generally don’t.

      1. I made a chimichurri once that was absolutely pore destroying. I still have friends asking me to make another batch but I had tweaked it so much while I was making it I don’t remember the proportions.

      2. I know what you mean. I went on a hummus kick a while back, and made on particularly garlicky batch. Yum. Wife wouldn’t come near me for days.

        1. Is that a good or a bad thing?

          One of my roommates in college did the same thing with massive amounts of garlic. I didn’t know what was more potent in his room, the constant garlic smell or the fresh scent of Mad Dog/Cisco vomit in the corner.

          1. Bad. Very bad. sarc likes nookie.

  18. Why can’t we just ban hummus?

    Oh, by the way, I have a great recipe for Couscous:

    1 part cous
    1 part cous


    I’m here all week.

    1. I won’t.

    2. That’s delightful!

  19. How long after we get a Hummus purity law will it be before Hipsters start offering artisinal hummus?

  20. WTF?!?! A law about the composition of hummus, but nothing preventing the combination of ketchup and hot dogs or chili and noodles?

    Next thing you know, people will be spreading tomato sauce and cheese on a flimsy pita, eating it with their bare hands and calling it pizza!

    1. the combination of ketchup and hot dogs


      chili and noodles

      Extra Yum!

      Now, what were we talking about?

  21. OT: You know what’s wrong with Rock-n-Roll these days?
    VIP packages!
    VIP packages can make the average festivalgoer feel like a second-class citizen. “When I look at the VIP section, I see people folding their arms, looking serious,” says Alex Chorosevic. “It’s like they paid $1,000 to say, ‘I have more money than you.'”

    No they paid a thousand bucks to NOT smell your sweaty ass. [Also, everyone thinks you should “FEEL” like a second-class citizen.]

  22. “the combination of ketchup and hot dogs” AKA the Chicago Casus Belli

    “the combination of …chili and noodles” AKA Cincinnati Chili?

    1. It’s not really chili. It could be more accurately described as a Greek meat sauce.


    2. AKA Cincinnati Chili?

      Yeah, Cincinnati Chili. Real Chili is chili con carne, if you happen to be poor or otherwise need to spread the meat and peppers as thin as possible, it’s acceptable to cut it with beans and/or tomatoes.

      Beans with noodles should be a readily apparent sin and chili with noodles is an insult to chili, marinara, and pasta. You might as well mix in bavarian creme, stuff it in a pacski, and drizzle soy sauce over the top and make it a truly cosmopolitan culinary ‘fuck you!’

      1. Beans with noodles should be a readily apparent sin

        ??? (jajangmyeon) is the shit. I will hear no ill spoken of beans and noodles.

        Everything else there I agree with.

        1. That’s Chinese for pasta fazool (pasta fagiole)?

    3. AKA Cincinnati Chili?

      I made this to eat during the Pats-Bengals game last year, and was shocked at how good it turned out to be.

  23. I propose two, in my opinion, reasonable definitions for

    1) A spread made with chickpeas

    2) A spread made with no flavor

  24. Yeah, fuck Sabra. Their products aren’t bad, but they are nothing special. As noted above Hummus is easy to make, and easy to find in any arab or health-food store. But the best hummus bargain for me is the supermarket house brand. Suck it, Sabra.

    As a sidenote, Sabra is getting really agressive with marketing, as well as lobbying. They’ve been in my downtown business district all week handing out free samples.

  25. This is a great idea. Any FDA employee who spends any time on this at all is obviously superfluous, and should be downsized immediately.

  26. On the other hand, companies that call coagulated oil with cheese flavoring “American Cheese” ought to be jailed for fraud.

    1. They would be, so they don’t call it that. We, the consumers, call it that.

  27. We need the government to make sure your hummers are legitimate.

    That was how I read this. I miss Clinton. Funner scandals.

    1. Yeah, can we get a government agency to rule on how long your wife has to go down on your before she can say she gave you a hummer?

  28. “Ray, is that Lebanese or Israeli hummus?”

  29. I recently had “Mediterranean White Bean Hummus” at Olive Garden. I’m guessing now that there was no chickpeas in there at all. It was good, but I’m getting a “no true Scotsman” vibe now. 😛

  30. I believe this to be a proper fx of gov’t. It’s possible for the process & institution to be corrupted (as in the case of what’s happening to the words “spouse”, etc.), but the mere fact of determining the meaning of words for legal purposes by objective means is not evil. It should be a process of investig’n & discovery, not of advantage-seeking.

  31. More government protection for the established business. They love the free market only for as long as it benefits them.

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