All the Non-Hummus Dips We've Called Hummus

June 21, 2016

We take a lot of liberties with our words here at Food52: Just take a look back at all the foods we've described as "sexy" (eileenwho even saved that article to a collection: "Advice i guess?").

But words become weighty when we use them to tie a recipe to a dish with a long history. When we call lentil bolognese exactly that, does the word bolognese lose some of its meaning? Is the pool of what constitutes "bolognese" deepened—and diluted? When we call a dip made of cooked squash, olive oil, and garlic "hummus," is it just one step toward forgetting what "hummus" truly means?

Those last examples aren't just hypotheticals. Especially when it comes to hummus, we've used the word to name many, many dishes that don't fall under The Food Lover's Companion's definition...

This thick Middle Eastern sauce is made from mashed chickpeas seasoned with lemon juice, garlic and olive or sesame oil. It's usually served as a dip with pieces of pita, or as a sauce. When tahini (sesame-seed paste) is added, it becomes hummus bi tahina.

...or our commenters' understanding either. Hummus, we're sorry—and we hope you take it as a compliment! We love you so much, we just want everything to be hummus. Is it dishonest? Is it misleading? Is it blasphemous? Or does it not really matter in the grand scheme of things?

Shop the Story

Regardless, here are all of our crimes against "hummus"—and what you had to say about it in the comments sections. Consider it an act of airing our dirty laundry.

"Actually I would call this Squash Pesto because it is more like a 'pesto,' which means paste, than hummus. The only ingredient it shares with hummus is garlic & possibly lemon juice. Just sayin. One of my biggest pet peeves is when someone calls something that is something else and has no connection to the original recipe." -karen

"I want to mention that the word 'hummus' means chickpeas. The popular Arabic dip named for short/ease in the U.S. 'hummus' is actually called 'hummus with tahini.' Because one can make hummus (i.e. chickpeas) in a gazillion ways. Hence when you mix beets (or squash or beans) with tahini, what is being created is a 'beet with tahini' dip. There is no hummus whatsoever in this dish. Having said that, this recipe looks awesome and also try 'butternut squash with tahini' or 'pumpkin with tahini'—they are delish, popular Arabic variations on a theme." -hana

"Hummus misnomer here. Why call it something it is not?" -Yokeko

"Hummus is the Arabic word for chickpea. If I order hummus in a restaurant and got this, I'd be appalled—no matter how good it is. Chard dip or betteré or something would be more honest." -frog

"I love chard, this spread looks like a keeper except it's not hummus. What about calling it Greek Chard Spread." -Julia Conrady

There are chickpeas in this one. So maybe it really is hummus. No one in the comments seem perturbed.

Hana chipped in again here: "This is a semantic issue, I know. Hummus (or Hummos) is Arabic for chickpea. Hummos b tahini is the dip that is widely popular, and given its ubiquity in Arabic communities, 'hummus' became a shortened, acceptable version of the name. But when tahini is mixed with other beans (such as this recipe) and/or vegetables (squash...), 'hummus' becomes a misnomer. So what is presented here is cannellini bean tahini dip. And that is a good thing."

So we didn't call that White Bean Dip hummus in the recipe title, but we did call it "hummus' spunky sister."

And as for the sweet pea hummus, we all remember what happened when a certain NYC restaurant tried to call mashed peas guacamole, right?

Not feeling annoyed yet??? Head to the link below:

And if you're looking for some true-blue nothin'-but-chickpeas hummus, look right here:

What other names have we defiled? List your grievances in the comment section.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • rengahan
  • Daphna Edgar
    Daphna Edgar
I used to work at Food52. I'm probably the person who picked all of the cookie dough out of the cookie dough ice cream.


rengahan June 22, 2016
Well, now that you have brought it up, the beet thing is a legit middle eastern dish called Mutabel
Daphna E. June 21, 2016
Thank you! The word dip being displaced by the word humus is one of my culinary pet peeves. Nobody else gets it...thanks for setting the record straight.