Relatively new to the American palate, hummus has exploded in popularity in the United States. The Middle Eastern dip or spread consists of cooked, mashed chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans) blended with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, garlic and tahini (a paste made from sesame seeds).
Research from 2010 showed a 35 percent increase in hummus consumption in the United States over 21 months. The Israeli hummus company Sabra, now partnering with tortilla-chip brand Tostitos, has marketed the snack to American consumers by developing America-centric flavors like "Buffalo Style" and convincing some Virginia tobacco farmers to switch to chickpeas.
Low in fat and high in vitamin C, hummus offers a healthy snack alternative. The proteins in chickpeas and sesame seeds complement each other, providing more complete protein nutrition, much like rice and beans.
Traditionally, diners pair hummus with pita, using this flatbread to scoop up the dip. Chopped tomatoes, pine nuts, pickles and other garnishes often enliven the dish, which is popular throughout the Mediterranean region, including the Middle East and North Africa.
Israelis have adopted hummus as an unofficial national food, with gourmet hummus restaurants drawing long lines. This has prompted some backlash from other Middle Eastern countries who claim to have originated the cuisine.