We’re in the midst of a Middle Eastern food moment that shows no signs of abating, for which we are grateful. These days it’s comfortingly easy to find bowls of excellent hummus and labneh alongside za’tar-dusted flatbread at Los Angeles restaurants such as Kismet in Los Feliz, the new Silver Lake Israeli place Mh Zh, plus veterans such as Carousel and Hummus Bar & Grill in Tarzana.
Hummus, more so than labneh, baba ghanouj or muhammara, is a staple on mezze spreads and party crudité platters. But although hummus is a deceptively simple dish (just run chickpeas, olive oil, tahini, garlic and lemon through a food processor, then add salt), unless you have a Middle Eastern grandmother (we should all be so lucky), most of us buy the stuff rather than make it. If you want to try to make your own, we’ve got a recipe from Michael Solomonov’s cookbook “Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking.”
The average grocery store sells upwards of seven brands of hummus. So we decided to put our practiced palates — and all that hummus — to the test. The Food staff — myself, Editor Amy Scattergood, Restaurant Critic Jonathan Gold and Test Kitchen Director Noelle Carter — tasted 11 brands of plain, store-bought hummus. The hummus was tasted blind, eaten with spoons — no bread to sway the results.
We looked for both flavor and texture, how the hummus coated the spoon, and the consistency when stirred.
The upshot? The clear favorite was Cedar’s Original Hummus, which Gold went as far as saying it reminded him of the hummus at Zankou Chicken. That’s a huge compliment, by the way.
CEDAR’S ORIGINAL HUMMUS
It was well balanced, complex and nutty with a sesame flavor that didn’t overpower the beans. The texture was silky and coated the spoon nicely. This was also one of the few we tasted that did not have a metallic aftertaste. Available at multiple stores including Whole Foods, about $3.99 for 8 ounces.
HOPE ORIGINAL RECIPE HUMMUS
While we did think the hummus had nice notes of tahini, lemon, cumin, garlic and even black pepper, the consistency was a little too loose. We watched in dismay as the hummus slid down the spoon. Available at multiple stores including Whole Foods, about $3.99 for 8 ounces.
ROOTS ORIGINAL HUMMUS
We were a little mixed on this one. One panelist noted a bright acidity, while the rest thought it lacked in flavor besides the faintest hint of cumin. The consistency was also just a tad too thick — a little like spackling paste. Available at multiple stores including Whole Foods, about $4.99 for 8 ounces.
Not so great
ATHENOS ORIGINAL HUMMUS
Chickpeas were definitely dominant, but this one was a little heavy on the cumin, which fought to conceal any other flavor. There was also a weird acidity with a touch of mildew. As for the texture, one panelist called it chalky, while another simply said “peanut butter.” Available at multiple markets including Pavilions, about $4.99 for 7 ounces.
SABRA CLASSIC HUMMUS
It may be in nearly every grocery store, but it ranked as one of the lowest in our taste test. While the texture was average, and you could actually taste a bit of lemon, this one was heavy on the tahini and one panelist noted a “hint of rancidity.” It also had an odd oily, metallic aftertaste. Available at multiple grocery stores including Vons, about $3.90 for 10 ounces.
FRESH ’N NOVA AUTHENTIC HUMMOS
Can hummus be too bean-y? This one tasted of puréed chickpeas but that’s about it, unless you consider a metallic aftertaste a flavor. As for the texture, some panelists called it chalky, others said it was too grainy. Available at multiple markets including Pavilions, about $3.99 for 8 ounces.
HAFLA THE HUMMUS FACTORY CLASSIC HUMMUS
Some of the words the panel used to describe this one included bitter, artificial and bland. One panelist suggested that perhaps the sesame had turned. But if you can get past the flavor, the texture is smooth enough. Available at multiple markets including Pavilions, about $5.49 for 17 ounces.
TRADER JOE’S MEDITERRANEAN HUMMUS
The hummus had no real discernible taste besides an indistinguishable “acid,” and a bitter aftertaste. The texture was pleasant though, with a silkiness that bordered on fluffy. Available at Trader Joe’s, about $3.99 for 16 ounces.
OPEN NATURE HUMMUS
“What on God’s Earth is this?” asked one panelist. The hummus had an overwhelming sourness that made it difficult to swallow. It also had a stodgy texture. Available at multiple markets including Pavilions, about $3 for 10 ounces.
WHOLE FOODS ORGANIC ORIGINAL HUMMUS
Everyone agreed that this one was simply “sour.” The texture, chunky and loose, was also unpleasant. Available at Whole Foods, about $4.99 for 8 ounces.
O ORGANICS TRADITIONAL HUMMUS
The overall consensus was that this one was bland and a little too thick. But what really made us cringe were the bean skins. Please, please peel the garbanzo beans. Available at multiple stores including Pavilions, about $3.99 for 10 ounces.