As our dietary habits change to reflect more health-conscious choices via whole, plant-based foods, hummus is a common food many of us turn to. Its versatile uses and flavors, along with its appealing creaminess and nutritional excellence, make hummus a popular food choice. However, as with most things in our society, not all hummus is created equal, which can turn this wonderful health food into a poor choice. In this essay I will provide you with a comprehensive guide to help you choose the healthiest hummus possible, and compare some of the best and worst options available.

Hummus can be an excellent, nutritious and wholesome food, but its health value will greatly depend upon the quality of its ingredients, which can vary drastically depending on the source, type, or brand of the hummus. Traditionally, hummus is made from just a few simple and wholesome ingredients: chickpeas, tahini (ground sesame seeds), garlic, lemon, and cumin. Nutritionally, it provides us with healthy complex carbohydrates, protein, fiber, some vitamins, and lots of minerals, including calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, etc. When it contains no oil or minimal oil, it also tends to be naturally low in fat and is cholesterol free.

Not only can hummus be a healthy food option, but it is highly versatile, delicious, and easy to use. Its creamy consistency makes it great for adults and children alike. You can easily make hummus a part of any meal—breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snack. For example, it makes an outstanding spread, filling, or side for wholesome wraps and sandwiches. It can be used as a dip for your raw or cooked veggies, including potatoes. It is great to enjoy at home or take on the road. It is highly nourishing and satisfying. But to enjoy the best of hummus, we need to make sure that we pick the best hummus.

6 Questions to Ask About Your Hummus

If we want the best and healthiest hummus option possible, a hummus that supports our health, rather than causes problems for our health, we need to consider the following:

  1. Are the chickpeas used for the hummus from canned or dry sources? Dry beans that are freshly soaked and cooked, rather than canned, decrease our exposure to toxins, such as the problematic and hormone disrupting BPA used in can liners, not to mention the high-sodium problems associated with canned food. Additionally, dry beans that are soaked are easier to digest, and do not typically cause any bloating or gas.
  • Are the ingredients used organic or not? Organic ingredients provide us with a higher quality food product and protect us from the harmful effects of pesticides, as well as GMOs. Not to mention, they are better for our environment.

  • Are there any genetically modified (GMO) ingredients? Soybean oil and canola oil, commonly used in many hummus varieties, will almost exclusively come from GMO sources unless the food is certified organic or non-GMO verified. Visit the Institute for Responsible Technology to learn more about the problems associated with GMOs.

  • Does the hummus contain any oil, and if so, what kind? All oils are processed to some degree and unnaturally provide us with an isolated nutrient—fat, making oils problematic food choices. Of extreme concern are vegetable oils, especially refined soybean or sunflower oils, which provide an overabundance of omega-6 fatty acids and are highly inflammatory, causing all sorts of health problems.

  • Does the hummus contain any additives? Manufactured additives, such as flavors or thickeners, no matter how “safe sounding” or “conventionally accepted” always have some drawback(s).

  • Does the hummus contain any preservatives? While there are better and worse preservatives, by avoiding these substances we decrease our exposure to various toxins and/or problematic chemicals that can be allergenic, carcinogenic, and cause various other health problems.

As I shared above, the quality of the hummus out there today varies drastically and the more we know, the more we can choose the healthiest and least problematic option. Given that we know what would make the best hummus, one may wonder why then would any hummus manufacturer not opt to provide the best? The answer, as always, comes down to money. Organic ingredients are more expensive. Many vegetable oils come from subsidized crops and are much cheaper than a higher quality oil, like olive oil. Additives and preservatives can falsely enhance a highly processed product and increase its shelf life, ensuring better sales and/or less lost revenue. Therefore, it is up to us, consumers, to take interest in our food and choose that which we would deem to be the best option for us. The good news is that we do have choices, right from the very best to the very worst.

Best Hummus Option

The best hummus that we can ever consume is a homemade hummus, assuming of course we are using the highest quality ingredients. As good as a store-bought hummus can be, nothing beats the freshness aspect of making it ourselves and by-passing any industrial processing and packaging, etc. And the best part is that making our own hummus is SO quick and simple! We can easily make large batches and have them comfortably last a week in the fridge where we can then always have this yummy health food on hand for quick and easy, wholesome snacks and meals. Homemade hummus is also the most economical choice, costing much less than any processed, packaged hummus.

To make the highest quality of homemade hummus we want to use dry, not canned, chickpeas, pre-soak them for roughly 12 to 24 hours and cook them. Although this step sounds long, keep in mind that it only takes a couple of minutes to set up your chickpeas for soaking. And when you are ready to cook, soaked chickpeas will take roughly 45 minutes to cook, but here again our job is just to set them up for cooking. You do not need to stir or watch over them. If you follow a raw food diet, instead of cooking your chickpeas, simply proceed to sprouting your chickpeas.

The highest quality of hummus would also be based on organic ingredients. This means anything from your chickpeas and tahini to lemon and spices. Due to the natural and wholesome fat content of tahini, a high quality hummus would also not need to include any oils, which are simply a source of isolated fats. If you do choose to include an oil, the best option here would be an organic extra virgin olive oil. Avoid canola oil, especially if not organic, or any other vegetable oils.

To help you put together an optimally healthy homemade hummus, I have put together two recipe options for you:

These recipes are for the most traditional kind of hummus, but once you get comfortable with them you can easily modify them to make all kinds of hummus, like roasted garlic, roasted red pepper, Kalamata olive hummus, veggie hummus, etc.

Best hummus option: homemade based on organic, wholesome, unprocessed ingredients

Very Good Hummus Option

If or when you cannot make your own hummus, the next best type of hummus would be an organic store-bought option. This means a hummus that is made from organic ingredients, which automatically avoids any GMO ingredients, as well as one that is the most wholesome and does not include any additives or preservatives.

The main ingredient to be aware of in this group of hummus is the type of oil used. Aim for organic extra virgin olive oil as the best case scenario here.

An example of brands that would fall into this area would be ones like:

  1. Pita Pal Organic Hummus line:

    • Sample ingredients for Pita Pal Organic Roasted Red Pepper Hummus: Organic chickpeas, organic tahini, organic bell pepper, organic lemon, organic spices, organic garlic, salt, organic olive oil, organic canola oil, and a lot of love. [based on January 2015 U.S. label]
  2. Tribe Organic Hummus line:

    • Sample ingredients for Tribe Organic Classic Hummus: Organic cooked chickpeas (organic chickpeas, water), organic canola oil, organic tahini (ground sesame), water, organic lemon juice concentrate, sea salt, organic dried roasted garlic, organic spices. [based on July 2015 website data]

Very Good hummus option: store-bought based on organic, wholesome ingredients

Good Hummus Option

If you cannot find an organic store-bought hummus, the next best option would be to find one that contains verified non-GMO ingredients, especially as it may relate to any canola or soy ingredients, which typically come from genetically modified sources, unless certified organic. This type of hummus would still have most of the quality characteristics mentioned above, though be mindful about the kind of oil(s) this option of hummus may include and any additives it may contain.

In this group of hummus, a common additive you may encounter is guar gum. This additive comes from the guar bean, is a soluble fiber, and is used as a thickener or binder in some processed foods, enhancing the creaminess factor of the particular food. Like all additives, it is neither a wholesome, nor an ideal ingredient. It is considered safe in tiny amounts, but can cause intestinal distress and other health problems for some, or if consumed in higher quantities.

You may also find in this group of hummus the additive citric acid, which is used as a preservative, as well as a flavoring agent. Where preservatives go, this one is considered perhaps the least problematic, though most commercial citric acid today is grown via black mold and high amounts of citric acid can be problematic for our oral and digestive health.

An example of brands that would fall into this area would be ones like:

  1. Cedar’s All Natural Hummus line:

    • Sample ingredients for Cedar’s All Natural Classic Original Hummus: Fresh steamed chickpeas, sunflower oil, olive oil, sesame tahini, water, sea salt, citric acid, roasted garlic, guar gum, cumin. [based on July 2015 website data]

      Problems: vegetable oil (sunflower), citric acid, guar gum

  2. Sunflower Kitchen Hummus Dip line and Hummus+ Artichoke and Dill with Garden Vegetables variety only:

    • Sample ingredients for Sunflower Kitchen Spicy Hummus: Chickpeas, filtered water, sunflower oil, tahini (sesame paste), Jalapeno peppers, fresh cilantro, sea salt, garlic, spices, citric acid. [based on July 2015 website data]

      Problems: vegetable oil (sunflower), citric acid

  3. Fontaine Santé Classic Hummus line:

    • Sample ingredients for Traditional Hummus: Chickpeas, water, tahini (sesame butter), extra virgin olive oil, sunflower oil, lemon juice concentrate, flax oil, sea salt, white vinegar, garlic juice (garlic juice, salt). [based on July 2015 data directly from company]

Problems: vegetable oil (sunflower oil)

Good hummus option: store-bought based on verified non-GMO, wholesome ingredients

Poor Hummus Option

While they can still be many times better than the average store-bought dip or spread, any varieties or brands of hummus that do not contain organic or non-GMO verified ingredients, and do contain problematic oils and various additives are far from ideal options. As your personal awareness and understanding of different food and health considerations deepens, you will also establish your own hierarchy of various trade-offs. For some it may be more important not to consume any GMO ingredients, while for others it may be more important not to consume any additives or preservatives. So how you navigate between the good and poor options will very much depend on your personal health needs and/or priorities.

An example of brands that would fall into this area would be ones like:

  1. Tribe Original Hummus line:

    • Sample ingredients for Tribe Classic Hummus: Cooked chickpeas (chickpeas, cold filtered water), tahini (ground sesame), canola oil, dried roasted garlic, sea salt, citric acid, spices. [based on July 2015 website data]

    Problems: verified GMO canola oil, citric acid

  2. Fontaine Santé Hummus Cocktail Humm! line:

    • Sample ingredients for Cocktail Humm! with Roasted Artichoke and Spinach Hummus: chickpeas, water, tahini (sesame butter), canola oil, artichokes, spinach, lemon juice concentrate, sea salt, vinegar, olive oil, caper puree (capers, salt, vinegar), garlic juice (garlic juice, salt), garlic, onion, spices. [based on July 2015 website data]

      Problems: probable GMO canola oil; dairy in pine nut variety

  3. Sunflower Kitchen Hummus+ all varieties, except for Artichoke and Dill with Garden Vegetables:

    • Sample ingredients for Curry Lentil with Spicy Cilantro Chutney: chickpeas, filtered water, sunflower oil, red lentils, tahini (sesame paste), fresh cilantro, roasted onion, spices, sea salt, citric acid, garlic, agave nectar, Jalapeno pepper, lime juice concentrate. [based on July 2015 website data]

    Problems: vegetable oil (sunflower), citric acid, agave nectar, and gum acacia and non-organic edamame in edamame variety

Poor hummus option: store-bought; not based on organic or non-GMO verified ingredients, problematic oils and/or additives

Worst Hummus Option

The worst hummus option would be any store-bought hummus that is not based on organic ingredients and/or includes GMO ingredients, and also includes problematic oils, additives, and preservatives.

  • Common oils in these hummus options include GMO canola or GMO soybean oil.

  • Common additives in these hummus options may include one or more of the following: guar gum, xanthan gum, sweeteners, or flavors.

  • Common preservatives in these hummus options may include one or more of the following: potassium sorbate, sodium benzoate, sorbic acid, or phosphoric acid.

Each of these additives and preservatives is associated with its own risk factors.

An example of brands that would fall into this area would be ones like:

  1. Athenos Hummus:

    • Sample ingredients for Athenos Original Hummus: Chickpeas, water, tahini (sesame seeds), high oleic sunflower oil, salt, dried garlic, citric acid, spice, sorbic acid, guar gum. [based on July 2015 website data]

    Problems: vegetable oil (sunflower), citric acid, sorbic acid, guar gum; some package labels contain sodium benzoate, phosphoric acid, and flavors

  2. Sabra Hummus:

    • Sample ingredients for Sabra Tuscan Garden Herb Hummus: cooked chickpeas, tahini, soybean oil, water, red bell pepper, tomato, carrot, garlic, spinach, salt, citric acid, natural flavors, potassium sorbate, spices. [based on January 2015 U.S. package label]

      Problems: probable GMO soybean oil, citric acid, flavors, potassium sorbate

  3. Tribe Farmers Market Hummus line and Tribe Swirl Hummus line:

    • Sample ingredients for Tribe Harvest Carrot Hummus: Cooked chickpeas (chickpeas, water), carrots, canola oil, tahini (ground sesame), cilantro, water, ginger, dried carrots, sea salt, garlic, citric acid, garlic powder, potassium sorbate, spices, paprika extract, turmeric, guar gum, roasted red bell peppers. [based on July 2015 website data]

    Problems: verified GMO canola oil, citric acid, potassium sorbate, guar gum; plus sugar and xanthan gum in select Swirl varieties

Worst hummus option: store-bought; not based on organic or non-GMO verified ingredients, poor oils, and/or multiple additives and preservatives


As a final tip, if you ever choose to purchase an externally processed humus, be sure to always read the ingredients. Companies regularly reformulate their products and the ingredient lists are not always the same or consistent between different states or countries. This is also important to do, every so often, if you found a hummus option that you trust and feel good about. Additionally, in unique hummus varieties or flavors you may discover ingredients that you cannot or do not wish to consume, such as some sweetener or dairy.

It is therefore vital to read those ingredients, as it is on the ingredient list that we can learn the most about any of our potential food options to make smart choices for our present and future health and weight. In our society today, it truly pays to empower ourselves by getting to know our food. This is the first step to making the best and healthiest choices for ourselves and all those in our care.