What Magic Turns a Dip into Hummus?

hummus with chickpeas on top

What is Hummus?

According to Sabra, the leading seller of hummus dips in the US, the FDA needs to weigh in and define hummus so that consumers will be protected from fakes. According to Sabra, a dip should only be called hummus if it is made from chickpeas as the main ingredient, not beans or other pulses. Sabra filed a Citizen’s Petition with the FDA, requesting a strict definition, as is the practice in other countries such as Israel, Jordan, and the European Union.

The hummus market has been growing at a hefty pace in the last 10 years, and it is now a $600 Million a year business. Sabra’s move is an obvious attempt to gain more market share, but it’s not necessarily without merit. Hummus is a food with a proud tradition spanning almost a thousand years.

Our beef with Sabra is that its version of hummus may be even MORE PROBLEMATIC than some of the non-chickpea versions.

Traditional hummus is not made with any oil. When served, a touch of olive oil is often drizzled on top. So why does Sabra add oil as the third ingredient? And if adding oil, why does Sabra use soybean oil? Forget that soybean is GMO for a moment. No self-respecting hummus purveyor would add anything but olive oil to hummus.

Also, don’t get us started with some of the nasty preservatives used by Sabra, such as potassium sorbate, potentially toxic to human DNA, and sodium benzoate, which sometimes transforms into benzene, a known carcinogen and DNA harmer.

Perhaps Sabra should rethink its citizen petition, and work on getting its hummus right. In the meantime, there are plenty of healthy and tasty hummus options out there, made with the right ingredients. Use the free Fooducate mobile app (iPhone, Android) to find them. Or, make your own hummus!

(H/T to Foodnavigator)

  • teresa

    What do you mean hummus is not made with oil? Every recipe I have ever made calls for oil…. sometimes I get the feeling you guys don’t cook very much based on your comments…

    • http://www.fooducate.com/ Fooducate

      We mean that traditional hummus is not made with oil.

      Olive oil is added when plating.

      We make this hummus recipe 2-3 times a month. Try it: http://blog.fooducate.com/2011/09/07/the-virtues-of-hummus-secret-family-recipe-included/

      • InfiniteOnion

        Ummm, with all due respect, hummus is traditionally made with a substantial quantity of tahini (ground sesame seeds) which is more than 50% fats by weight.

        With that said, anybody who’s ever looked at the ingredient list on the Sabra package has probably inferred that there’s more to worry about there than the degree of traditionallity in a hummus with the consistency of marshmallow creme.

        • hummus

          they never said hummus is not made without fat… its made without added oil. of course tahini is in it, and of course sesame seeds (tahini) have fat.. read again.

        • Christine Cordaro

          With all due respect, no it’s not. Much like other regions and countries in Europe, it varies from region to region, country to country. Chickpeas are the base ..a lot of the rest is regional.

      • Chillin

        Even the recipe you posted calls for 3/4 cup tahini OIL. smh

        • http://www.fooducate.com/ Fooducate

          Tahini is not oil.

  • stardust

    Well, it looks like Sabra is being a hypocrite….

    • http://www.fooducate.com/ Fooducate


  • Michael Heffez

    Love this article and agree with everything you have said. The quandary however, is they (sabra) have grown exponentionally and if they implement any sound and proper means of using quality and sustainable ingredients their profits would tumble. They have become way too commercialized and popular, unfortunately. Aside from making our own homemade hummus, what we need is a smaller cap competitor that makes similar products to sabra to emerge. Right now they have no real competitor…as of yet. This small lineup will only incorporate all natural and organic ingredients without any preservatives. If this happens – it’s sayonara to sabra – forever…thanks for posting and enlightening us all.

    • http://www.fooducate.com/ Fooducate

      Yes, it’s a problem when companies grow and grow to a point where the only thing that matters is making more money.

  • H2O

    Thanks foodicate for exposing another greedy company that wants to make profits over our health.. Shame on them

    • http://www.fooducate.com/ Fooducate


  • Disgusted

    Tell those sons of garbage ..and I mean sabra that they lost a customer…pieces of crap …they are I did not even think of looking at the ingredients??they are dead to me ??and I will tell all my friends…

  • roxanne

    I noticed the mentioned ingredients on Sabra hummus. We make every effort to not eat soybean oil and palm oil! I like to make my own hummus adding garlic, lemon, or red pepper,….. If I buy it we enjoy Fountain of Health brand found in grocery stores. It does include sunflower oil (good/bad?) and olive oil using no preservatives. Thank you for your post & recipe!

  • Capricious

    Pita pal makes the best hummus!

  • Carol H

    When I made my own hummus I would blend the garbanzos in food processor with olive oil, lemon and tahini, because the oil (a liquid) made it easier to process everything. Then I drizzle a little more on top when serving. Whether you add the olive oil during or after churning everything together shouldn’t make a difference… it’s the same ingredients and nutrition.
    PS: Many smaller (generally local) companies make/sell hummus without preservatives (other than salt and maybe extra acid from lemon, etc.). It doesn’t keep well, so this is not going to work on a large distribution scale.

  • tina

    I have never like prepared hummus. I always make my own with chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice and garlic. It does take a food processor but much more flavorful. Barefoot contessa is a good recipe to follow.

  • Christine Cordaro


    This is the link to add your voice against (or for, if you must,,,ugh) Sabra’s petition.

    The Category to choose if you comment is : Private Industry – C0003