Not Sad Desk Lunch

Why Hummus is a Lunchtime Savior

June 30, 2015

As a defiant response to sad desk lunches, the Food52 team works to keep our midday meals both interesting and pretty. 

Today: Kathryn Leahy of Remain Simple explains why you should stop buying lunch and start using hummus.

Pita chips are great with hummus, but that's only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to lunch.

Shop the Story

As a frugal person who will go to great lengths to avoid spending money—particularly on store-bought lunches—I'm constantly searching for ways I can squeeze five midday meals out of my weekend groceries without sacrificing quality. One of my favorite ways to do this is with hummus. You may recognize hummus in its most ubiquitous form—as a dip—but I'm here to tell you that this delicious chickpea mash can be so much more than an accompaniment to vegetables and pita chips.

More: Skip the line—here's how to make smooth, addictive hummus at home.

I'd like to challenge the system and relieve hummus of its singular role. It's time to expand hummus' horizons! Hummus is inexpensive, easily transportable, and can be used in just about any savory meal. Just leave a container in your work fridge—with your name on it, of course. Here are a few of my favorite ways to use it:

  • Use it on salads: Thin out your hummus with a little bit of olive oil, then dollop it into your greens. It’s heartier than most dressings so it won't make your greens soggy like lighter, liquidy vinaigrettes can. But because it's heavier than most dressings, pair it with substantial greens like kale that can hold their structure under its weight. And while you're at it, swap out mayonnaise for hummus in your chicken or tuna salad. It's a one-to-one swap that's a quick way to give even more substance to your already protein-packed salad.
  • Pair it with your summer barbecue leftovers: Hummus is really an any-condiment replacement when it comes to grilled meat. Swap out mustard and ketchup with hummus on a hot dog or hamburger to give a garlicky twist to the all-American classics.
  • Pull together a deconstructed lunch: Bring tortillas, cheese, hummus, and other fillings of your choice (meat, tofu, and beans are all welcome!) in separate containers and do all the hands-on work in your office kitchen (or at your desk). Spread some hummus onto the tortillas, toss in the other fillings, stick it in the microwave for a couple minutes, and voilà: a warm, healthy, hummus-filled meal.
  • Take a hint from the gyro: The traditional Mediterranean wrap is usually packed with shaved meats, vegetables, tzatziki, and hummus. While this is a fantastic combination, hummus can work on any sandwich—use it in place of mayonnaise in a Turkey and Cheese or use it as a vegan condiment to hold together your favorite vegetables, like in my Hummus and Sweet Potato Sandwich. To make it, simply pile roasted sweet potatoes, hummus, kale, and feta cheese onto whole-grain bread—or add your own toppings. When it comes to homemade lunches, there's no wrong answer.

Hummus and Sweet Potato Sandwich

Makes 1 sandwich

2/3 sweet potato
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
2 slices whole-grain bread
2 tablespoons hummus
1 handful kale
1 ounce feta cheese

View the whole recipe (and save and print it) here.

How do you use hummus for lunch? Tell us in the comments below!

Top photo by Mark Weinberg; second photo by Alpha Smoot

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Dee
  • Yael Elmatad
    Yael Elmatad
  • Lkbixby
Kathryn Leahy

Written by: Kathryn Leahy


Dee July 1, 2015
Ho-Hum... it figures... I was given a super recipe for hummus and my whole family devoured it. It figures that it wouldn't be the diet savior I was looking for. So I guess it's back to, "if it tastes good spit it our" routine. Thanks for the heads up, Yael.
Yael E. June 30, 2015
I don't think people in the middle east consider hummus (or falafel for that matter) a health food. It's very calorically dense. Especially if it's the good stuff with extra tahini and even worst when you just use it as a vehicle to put bread in your mouth. It's definitely a treat food not a health food.
Lkbixby June 30, 2015
Not all calories are created equal! Hummus is filled with protein, good fats, and fiber, and is a good source of iron, vitamins E and K, and folate. Most modern food science accepts that your body does not break down all calories in the same way. Now bread I can agree with you on...
Yael E. June 30, 2015
Healthy fats - in moderation - are a super important part of a healthy diet, however most commercial hummus are filled with tahini or worst oil as filler (the most delicious hummus is made with extra tahini in my opinion) which makes the protein content not so high. Sabra hummus has 70 calories per two tablespoons, 50 of which come from fat and only 2g of protein (so < 10 calories of protein). The math suggests that hummus suffers mightily from the health halo effect. Besides, most people tend to eat way more than one reasonable serving (have you ever seen anyone stop at 2 tablespoons?). If you're just eating some homemade hummus, mostly chickpeas, light on tahini, with carrot sticks and celery and portion controlling it then it *might* be healthy. I doubt this is how most people consume it thought.