As we entered August, aka the Sunday of months, the Exponent staff was brainstorming different, creative ideas for stories.
Or maybe we were just hungry.
Whatever the reason, we decided to do what we do best: Eat and write about it.
We’ve already taste tested area bagels and matzah, so we looked to another of our favorite foods that abounds in myriad varieties: hummus.
Off I went to Trader Joe’s and Acme to pick out some choices. At Acme, where I received a puzzling look from the cashier as I checked out only nine tubs of hummus and three bags of pita chips, I was struck by just how many flavors are available now.
In addition to classics like roasted red pepper and garlic, there was strawberry (which, ew), yellow lentil, everything bagel (because what could be more Jewish than everything bagel hummus?), jalapeño and cilantro, snickerdoodle … The list goes on.
We decided to test five brands with both their plain/traditional flavor and one funky flavor.
Here’s how it went:
We started with what probably first comes to your mind when you think of hummus: Sabra.
It’s become such a household name, and — as our taste buds confirmed — for good reason.
The thick and creamy hummus tends to serve as the baseline for plain, Managing Editor Andy Gotlieb said.
It also tends to be more on the expensive side, with a normal-size tub ringing in at $4.99.
But its flavor — which was still distinct despite it being plain — makes up for it.
Next we tried the organic Acme brand, though we weren’t exactly sure what made it organic. It also had a smooth texture, but we noticed Sabra’s had a little more lemon flavor to it.
Dipping the chip revealed a thick, gummy, paste-like consistency, though you wouldn’t know it upon tasting it.
The lid of Trader Joe’s plain hummus promised a smooth and creamy experience. Which was true, but only for the individual container. We also had their compartmentalized quartet of hummus, which included a plain compartment but the texture was thicker than the solo tub.
Flavor-wise, it was, well, plain. Switching to a flavored pita chip or pretzel might enhance your eating experience with this one.
Next up was Tribe’s Mediterranean-style hummus, which was almost too pretty to eat. Almost.
With a top layer of a healthy drizzle of oil and smattering of herbs and spices, this was certainly the most aesthetically pleasing and “bougie” of the bunch, per Joshua Needelman, who noted it looked like the kind of hummus you would order for an $8 appetizer at a restaurant.
It was smooth and herby and definitely stood out among the rest.
Lastly, we tested Lantana sweet and spicy black bean hummus, which was the closest “plain” flavor I could find on the shelf.
Automatically, this one was different as it contained no chickpeas whatsoever and instead was all black beans. With a spicy corn relish in the center with garlic, pineapple, chipotle pepper and other spices, there were a lot of flavors going on, which didn’t result in the most satisfying first bite. It had a definite kick to it and reminded us of a more Southwest-style dip than the hummus you typically think of.
However, Josh and Andy said it grows on you the more you eat it.
Overall, Sabra and Tribe came out on top with a pretty even tie.
Welcome to Flavortown (I’m Sorry)
Next up were the flavored options.
The Trader Joe’s quartet also included garlic, tomato basil and spicy hummus.
The tomato basil tasted like a spring day; it was somehow refreshing and tasted clean and like spaghetti sauce.
The spicy was not actually that spicy but still had a satisfying flavor. The garlic one received a resounding “meh,” with the conclusion that if you want plain but you’re bored of plain, get the garlic, per Selah Maya Zighelboim.
Sabra’s roasted red pepper came next, which was flavorful and wet. It also had Josh second-guessing his decision to use the stuff as a spread on his sandwiches and as a dip for a good year and a half.
Keeping with the red pepper theme, we tried Acme’s organic red pepper, which had the peppers and everything all mixed in, unlike the small pile set in the middle of Sabra’s. It was creamy and smooth and came out a favorite for Andy.
Next, we had to try the everything flavor because duh. Tribe’s everything hummus pretty much tasted like an everything bagel in hummus form. It had all the seeds and spices sprinkled on top, leading us to wonder what it would taste like on a bagel — though we noted trying it on an everything bagel might be a little too much.
Finally, we tried Lantana’s edamame hummus, the quirkiest of the bunch, made with edamame and white beans with roasted red pepper and toasted sesame seeds on top.
I know you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, or a hummus by its looks, but this one was certainly questionable. It looked like it would be grainy and chalky and had a pale color to it, which revealed a greenish tint once the dip was broken up.
It broke Andy’s chip upon impact, which was not a good sign.
Initial reactions sort of went from, “Hmm, not bad” to “Interesting” to Andy grimacing and giving it a hard no. Its aftertaste was distinctly edamame-like.
But to hand it to Lantana, it’s an interesting idea. I like edamame and I like hummus, but I don’t necessarily think I would try edamame hummus again.
For this round, top honors were divvied between Trader Joe’s tomato basil, Tribe’s everything and Acme’s roasted red pepper.
Saving Room for Dessert
As with any meal, we needed something sweet to top it off.
Enter: Delighted By’s Brownie Batter Hummus.
I know what you’re thinking: Brownie batter … hummus?
I remember reading about this one when it was first released and agreeing with the skeptics that it couldn’t possibly be good and it was a sacrilege to the beauty that is hummus.
But I’ve gotta say, this was yummy.
Pita chips, however, were definitely not the right thing to eat with it. Strawberries or pretzels would be better complements to this thick, sweet, dense and delicious hummus.
It even smelled like straight-up brownie mix.
The first taste revealed some off notes and “non-chocolatey stuff,” but we might’ve also been expecting it to taste like the brownie mix it smelled like while forgetting it was still chickpea-based.
After agreeing the chips were not the right move, we switched to forks so we could better isolate the flavor of the hummus.
This brand was also responsible for the snickerdoodle hummus and another one that is vanilla bean, which seem more like icing flavors than hummus. But after trying the brownie batter, I wouldn’t be opposed to tasting the others.
Overall, it was a fun way to spend lunch and broaden our flavor horizons, though I don’t think any of us will be reaching for a tub of edamame hummus again anytime soon.