My friends make fun of me for focusing too much on condiments, beverages, and accompaniments. I've got a fridge stocked with homemade harissa, chili oil, yogurt, candied sesame seeds, and almond milk, but come dinnertime, these random jars do not a meal make.
I reached a real breaking point last week, when my food processor positively pooped out in the middle of puréeing chickpeas for Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s genius hummus. It was gluey, gloppy, and unmoving, so thick, it would’ve snapped a poor pita cracker right in half. What's worse, the time was 7 PM and I had not thought beyond the appetizer course. It was a minor wake-up call: It was time for this girl (ahem, woman) to prioritize the actual meal—rather than the meal accompaniments—in my life. It was time, in other words, to turn to store-bought hummus.
While much more convenient than the homemade kind, grocery store hummus is also much less delicious. Luckily, there are lo-fi tweaks that make hummus from the tub taste much better, while still leaving plenty of time to focus on the bulk of the meal.
Here are 10 ways I’m doing it (some adjustments a little more involved than others, but all are easier than dragging out the food processor or cooking chickpeas from dry):
1. Add salt, lemon juice, cumin, paprika, and cayenne to taste.
Maybe that grocery store hummus is not quite seasoned to your liking. It might just need a touch more of the flavor-boosters you’d normally use to season hummus (salt, lemon, spice)—start slowly and taste as you go.
2. Mix in another tablespoons of tahini.
And the same goes for tahini, which will make store-bought hummus creamier and more nutty with sesame. Just be sure to season with salt and lemon juice to offset its richness.
Just a couple of tablespoons, folded in gradually, will make your hummus simultaneously lighter and creamier. Tangier, too.
4. Stir in puréed or mashed roasted garlic.
While you use your oven to make whatever you’re having for dinner, roast a head of garlic: Trim the stem side, drizzle it with olive oil, then wrap in foil and bake until completely soft. Once it’s slightly cool, squeeze out the cloves from their paper shell, then mash them into hummus for an incredible fragrance and slight sweetness. If you’re not a garlic fan, try using roasted red peppers or chipotles in adobo in its place.
5. Add coarsely-mashed chickpeas.
I don’t always want impossibly smooth hummus—so sue me! Mashed chickpeas (and bonus points if you warm them first in spiced oil, along the lines of Joan’s on Third’s Curried Chickpeas) provide much-needed texture and some straight-up garbanzo flavor.
6. Toast za’atar and nuts in oil, then pour over top.
Adding oil is good, adding spice is good, and adding both is great. Heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a small saucepan, then stir in za’atar (or any spices or spice blend you prefer) and let sizzle until fragrant, just a few minutes. Add slivered almonds, roughly chopped walnuts, pistachios, or pine nuts and cook until they’re smelling good and beginning to brown. Let cool slightly, then spoon over your hummus.
7. Drizzle over herb oil.
Make it with your favorite tender green herbs (or the basil that’s slowly losing its will to live), then pour it over your hummus, mixing it in as you scoop with vegetables or pita. Use the rest of the herb oil in pasta, vinaigrettes, and avocado toasts.
8. ...or chile oil.
For a mix-in that leans towards spicy rather than herbaceous, make a quickie chili oil: Heat olive oil in a small saucepan with chile flakes and your favorite aromatics (maybe that’s woody herbs, like thyme or rosemary), lemon peel, or more seeds and spices (coriander, cumin, mustard, sesame, nigella). Bring to a simmer, then cook on the lowest heat for 10 minutes, until the oil has made your whole kitchen smell wonderful. Let cool slightly before dripping over your hummus.
9. Punch up with salt in many forms.
My favorite forms: chopped olives (Castelvetrano or black Cerignola) and capers. It’s extra good if those capers are roasted so that they’re sizzled and crispy.
10. Top with marinated or roasted cherry tomatoes.
It’s summer, after all! Slice tomatoes, then dress them with olive oil and season with salt. Let stand for 10 minutes, then sprinkle in fresh herbs and spoon over hummus. Over toss those tomatoes, whole or, if large, halved, with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and roast on a rimmed baking sheet until charred and bursting, about 30 minutes at 400° F.
Your turn to dish. Do you buy store-bought hummus? What's your favorite brand and how do you doctor it, if at all?