I'll defend the dip but not the name

By Rebecca Firkser
Updated July 10, 2018
Credit: Kimberly Holland

Who’s afraid of dessert hummus? I am! But in name only.

Dessert hummus—the sweet chickpea-based blended spread—is kind of a misnomer. Indeed, the Arabic word for hummus translates to “chickpeas.” But to the average American shopper, “hummus” is more likely to be assumed to refer to the Levantine spread made of chickpeas, tahini, garlic, and lemon. Sweet chickpea spreads are destined to be mocked by some, and hailed as miracle “healthy” desserts by others.

In my opinion, the term “dessert hummus” should be banned. The treat, however, can stay. Like avocado or silken tofu, blended chickpeas’ mild flavor and velvety thick texture is kind of a dream for those looking to create custardy dairy-free treats. From a culinary standpoint, smooth chickpeas are a powerhouse ingredient. Hummus, the savory kind, is a dish with a history that span centuries and cultures. It is also plain and simply not a dessert, and its name shouldn’t be invoked wherever blended chickpeas appear.

The term "dessert hummus" grinds my gears particularly because it presumes that people think hummus is healthy, and therefore dessert hummus must also be healthy. Not only is that ambiguous, it’s also probably not true. By calling something dessert hummus, it suddenly occupies the same space as other wellness-oriented foods, like pancakes made of oats and banana, or brownies made with black beans. The thing is, as a human who tends to make a lot of plant-based, vegetable- and protein-dense meals, I actually don’t have a problem with any of these dishes when it comes to ingredients. I take umbrage at those who claim that because their sweets were made with legumes and fruit, the treats (and, by extension, the people who eat them) are somehow morally superior.

Take the brand Delighted By Hummus, which makes dessert hummus in flavors like snickerdoodle and chocolate mint. The company says it's committed to making "high-vibrational foods" that leave you feeling lots of positive energey. Delighted by Hummus says they’ve swapped out classic hummus ingredients like garlic, lemon, and olive oil, for cinnamon, vanilla, and coconut oil. Their Vanilla Bean-flavored dessert hummus contains chickpeas, water, turbinado sugar, coconut milk, vanilla extract, ground vanilla beans, cultured dextrose (a digestive enzyme), sea salt, and nisin (a preservative). Sure, their spreads contain fewer highly-processed ingredients than other commercial spreads, but the nutrition facts of this dessert hummus read almost identically to that of Marshmallow Fluff. Most importantly to me is the fact that this spread is still decidedly not hummus.

I’ll leave it at this: If you want to blend chickpeas with a sweetner and nut butter, maybe add a handful of chocolate chips, and treat it like Nutella, go forth and spread. I’d simply ask that you not call it hummus. But hey, you’re feeding yourself, and sometimes that's enough.