Has the fro-yo-ification of hummus reached its peak, or has it only just begun? It started with chocolate hummus, but now that’s the tamest flavor on the market. Suddenly we have snickerdoodle and red velvet hummus, strawberry, cherry and mango. Sprinkles, hot fudge and a whipped cream topping are not too far off, it seems.
Hummus is ancient and beloved, but people didn’t begin making it sweet until the late 2000s. The concept of dessert hummus is pretty odd, at first glance: Chickpeas aren’t exactly a neutral flavor (see: yogurt), and it takes a lot of sugar to mask their taste. But the quest for “healthy” dessert is eternal, and somewhere, a marketing genius decided it could be a good way to sneak some protein into your diet. If you close your eyes, you could almost trick yourself into believing it was pudding.
It’s becoming a big business, too: Delighted By, one of the pioneers in packaged dessert hummus, earned a $600,000 investment from Mark Cuban on “Shark Tank.” Bigger brands are getting in the game too, with Tribe, Boar’s Head and Lantana introducing flavors that range from mint chocolate to blueberry to pumpkin spice. Hummus milkshakes are on the menu at the Hummus & Pita Co. in New York. Some trendspotters have put dessert hummus on their list of foods that will be big in 2019.
But even as more chocolate hummus hits the grocery store shelves, you’ll find a lot of people who aren’t super enthused about a simple chocolate bean dip. It elicits strong reactions on Twitter:
Some say dessert hummus is cultural appropriation, because it imposes American flavors on a traditional Middle Eastern dish, substantially changing the way it is eaten.
“To say ‘hey, let’s make a pudding and call it hummus because hummus is kind of trendy right now’ is to exert the tyranny of marketing on a product that has little or no relation to the real thing,” wrote Liel Leibovitz in Tablet, a Jewish cultural magazine. “It’s just in bad taste.”
Others think it’s just gross. Dessert hummus is not a thing in Israel, where the newspaper Haaretz scoffed at the concept. “No matter how you look at it, the idea of sweet hummus didn’t quite sit right with me, and the combination of mashed chickpeas and chocolate seemed hopeless,” wrote Haim Handwerker, who pointed out how much Americans like sweets compared to other cultures. “A number of Israelis in New York say the idea of chocolate hummus is totally ridiculous.”
It is ridiculous. But it’s not all bad, exactly. In its best-case scenario, dessert hummus tastes like a particularly fibrous pudding — a concept that still sounds rather unappealing. Our favorite, the Delighted By vanilla bean hummus, could work as a dip for pretzels or spread on a graham cracker for a treat. The problem with some of the other flavors, though, was that they either couldn’t cover up the chickpea flavor, or they overcompensated for it. The strawberry and mango hummus, both by Lantana, were surprisingly tart, but not in a good way. They come in pretty colors, at least.
While dessert hummus brands have made fans of moms trying to trick their kids into eating healthy junk food, they haven’t been well-received by food media. “Let’s banish dessert hummus from the planet,” Thrillist’s Khushbu Shah wrote. Bon Appétit even put it on its list of food trends that need to go away in 2019. Wrote Alex Beggs: “If I attend a party where there’s a bowl of pretzels next to some hummus and it turns out to be cinnamon-sugar flavored — I’m going to call the police.”
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