As a dietitian and health coach, I help my clients come up with healthy, delicious foods that won’t cost them boatloads of time or money or make them feel they have to march to a totally different diet drum from their friends and families. When it comes to easy entertaining, hummus is top of the snack-food chain (#ClichedForAReason).
Whether you make your own or buy from the store, it’s convenient, budget-friendly, and versatile. That said, it’s easy to get in a rut of the same old humus-and-baby carrots. Ditto pita chips. Here, I and other healthy living bloggers and dietitians share some of their favorite ways to dress up store-bought hummus.
Upgrade with olive oil
A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil can elevate a tub of hummus to “fancy snack” status. You’ll get rich taste and flavor, plus a dose of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats — the type that raises your good cholesterol and lowers the bad kind.
Try this tip from Dietitian E.A. Stewart of The Spicy RD. “Take plain hummus and top it with EVOO, smoked paprika, and LOTS of pine nuts.” If you’re allergic to nuts or just want to keep it simple, a simple drizzle will do, and don’t be afraid to spring for the high-quality stuff — the first-class flavor is totally worth it.
Add herbs and spices
It’s amazing what a sprinkling of herbs and spices on top of or mixed into your hummus can do. Christy Brissette of 80 Twenty Nutrition is all about za’atar in her hummus. “It’s an herb blend you can get at Middle Eastern grocery stores or make your own — sesame seeds, sumac, thyme, oregano and marjoram.” Yum!
Dietitian Jessica Spiro says, “I like to give my store-bought hummus a Latin flair by adding chipotle chili powder, cumin, and chopped cilantro! I recommend starting with a quarter teaspoon of each spice per cup of hummus and increasing as desired. Serve it with toasted tortillas and you have a unique (and anti-inflammatory!) appetizer to spice up your next dinner!”
Stirring in some plain Greek yogurt is a great way to up the protein content and make your hummus extra creamy and satisfying. The protein helps keep you satisfied for longer — awesome if you’re feeling super-hungry and know you want to eat a lot of hummus without going overboard on calories, as the yogurt lightens it up a bit. I often recommend this hack as a way to make a vegetarian sandwich more filling when you use it in place of other condiments.
If you hate Greek yogurt, any kind of unsweetened yogurt will do, or you could sub in cottage cheese, ricotta, or mascarpone. Enjoy it as a dip, spread on toast, or tossed into salad. This is a great option if you’re running especially low on time or lacking a food processor or blender — you can just mix together with a spoon.
Add color and texture
A little pop of color does a lot to enhance your hummus experience. Mandy Enright, a registered dietitian nutritionist, registered yoga teacher, and creator of couples nutrition blog Nutrition Nuptials says, “I like to add color to plain store-bought hummus by stirring in mashed avocado, mashed edamame, red pepper puree, or beet juice. It gives the hummus a fun color and adds extra nutrients.”
Dietitian Whitney English of To Live and Diet in L.A. also loves sun-dried tomato for adding a pop. “They give it a beautiful color and delicious flavor!”
Dietitian Kara Golis of Byte Sized Nutrition uses spices that do double-duty as color upgrades. “I love adding turmeric and cumin (about half a teaspoon each) to store-bought hummus for a fun and tasty Moroccan-inspired dip. Not only does the turmeric add a beautiful yellow hue, but it also provides a punch of anti-inflammatory nutrients!” When it comes to other favorites, she says, “I’ve also been known to make shortcut beet hummus by blending roasted beets with store-bought original hummus and a dash of balsamic vinegar. No one can tell it’s not made from scratch!”
Olives add a classic Mediterranean flavor and a dose of satiating, heart-healthy fats to your hummus. Dieititian Janet Brancato of My Nutopia uses olives to add some healthy richness. “I love to add olive tapenade and pine nuts to my hummus! It’s great with vegetables and whole wheat pita.”
Registered Dietitian Judy Barbe, author of Your 6-Week Guide to LiveBest, keeps it simple with chopped Kalamata olives and a drizzle of olive oil. Alicia Slusarek, a registered dietitian nutritionist from Northeast Wisconsin is also a fan of this flavorful garnish.
“When I fancy up a store-bought hummus, first I ditch the plastic container and scoop it into the center of a cute bowl. Then, I take a spoon and make a shallow hole in the center to add a garnish of olive tapenade.” Feta cheese crumbles are an optional, but delicious addition to this variation.
Pureed sweet potato
Whether you use leftover mashed or steam one up in the microwave and mash with a fork, pureed sweet potato makes a delicious addition to hummus. You’ll get a boost of fiber, potassium, and antioxidants like vitamins A and C — not to mention that mellow, just-sweet flavor. For a fun color twist, try purple sweet potato. Unicorn hummus, anyone?
Need some spice with your sweet? Dietitian Katie Morford, author of Mom’s Kitchen Handbook, has a great-go to recipe. “I like to blend a small roasted, peeled sweet potato, a generous squeeze of lemon, and a squirt of Sriracha into one cup of regular hummus. It adds a kick of sweet and spicy, not to mention all the nutritional benefits that come in a sweet potato.”
One of my personal favorite hummus upgrades is canned pumpkin. It’s super-easy to mix in, since it’s already nice and smooth and doesn’t requite much more work than opening a can. Like with sweet potatoes, you’ll get lots of nutrients like vitamins A and C and fiber but for fewer calories — each tablespoon of pumpkin only provides about five.
It’s a great option if you’re looking to lighten things up without skimping on nutrition. The flavor of pumpkin is pretty mild, so it won’t overwhelm the hummus, meaning to can add other mix-ins if you like.
Creamy avocado is a no-brainer pairing with hummus. It provides heart-healthy monounsaturated fats along with filling fiber. Just be sure to use ripe avocado for easy blending. Because avocado has a very mild flavor, it blends beautifully with all different herbs and spices. This recipe from healthy living blogger Laura Hall of Sprint2theTable incorporates basil.
If you have time to make your own hummus, she recommends peeling the chickpeas for an extra-smooth texture. Aside from tasting delicious, meditative hands-on work that takes a while can be a great way to de-stress after a rough day. In a pinch, store-bought guacamole could work too. Mix with a spoon and call it your special secret recipe.
When I have a little extra time (and by a little, I mean, like, 20 or 30 minutes — nothing crazy), I love to roast some chickpeas to sprinkle on top (here’s my go-to recipe). They’re easy to make and add a nice crunchy texture that’s a great contrast to smooth, creamy hummus.
Dietitian Maria Adams of Halsa Nutrition is also a fan of this crispy add-in. “Drizzle with a little EVOO, sprinkle on some chopped parsley or paprika, and top with a handful of roasted chickpeas. So good!”
To incorporate even more crunch, Adams adds, “surround with colorful veggies such as snap peas, carrots, radishes, and bell peppers.” Watch it disappear.
Top with bruschetta
You’ve probably had bruschetta, the classic Italian antipasto, in its traditional context of chopped tomato with olive oil and basil on grilled bread, but it turns out it’s a great hummus-topper too.
Healthy living blogger Jenn Laughlin of Peas & Crayons shows us how a bruschetta garnish can take your store-bought hummus to the next level in this blog post. It’s one of her favorite ways to sneak some extra veggies into her family’s day when they need a little boost.
The bruschetta itself adds some cucumber and tomato, and serving up an adorable platter with a mix of pita and sliced raw veggies ups the nutrient value without tasting too “healthy.” Enjoy this as a snack or appetizer.
Fold in roasted veggies
This hack will take a little more work but is totally worth the effort. Dietitian Liz Weiss, the voice behind the Liz’s Healthy Table blog and podcast, is a big fan of carrots.
“Dice up a few carrots and toss with EVOO, kosher salt, pepper, and a pinch of ground cinnamon. Roast until very tender. Puree and then fold into hummus for a vitamin A boost.” This would also be a great way to repurpose any leftover baby carrots you have after getting sick of after snacking on them a few days in a row. Please tell me I’m not the only one who has this problem!
Time saving hint: If you make roasted veggies as part of your weekly meal prep, (excuse me, #mealprep) this is a handy way to use up any excess.
Sauteed Brussels sprouts
Roasted veggies aren’t the only vegetable game in town. Toronto dietitian Abbey Sharp, blogger at Abbey’s Kitchen finds sautéed veggies equally as delicious. Her magic hummus combo is to “sauté Brussels sprout leaves in olive oil and lemon. Then I mix honey, hot sauce, lemon, and olive oil and drizzle it all over the hummus. Finish with some toasted pecans and enjoy!”
If you’re not feeling a big plate of green stuff or can’t stomach the idea of raw vegetables (baby carrots again?!), adding some cooked vegetables to hummus is a great way to fit in a little extra and introduce different flavors and textures into a snack or a meal.
If you’ve never had tuna salad made with hummus instead of mayo, put this healthy — and delicious — hack on your to-do list, stat. Dietitian Basheerah Enahora, Owner of NutritionBE, has the perfect easy recipe.
“I use store-bought hummus to make a quick tuna salad. Mix two tablespoons of hummus with two ounces of canned tuna, one teaspoon of garlic powder, one teaspoon of smoked paprika, fresh black pepper, a sprinkle of fresh lemon juice, diced celery, and presto, your tuna salad is ready!”
Make a pretty plate
Presentation is everything. For starters, pour your hummus into a cute bowl instead of leaving it in the plastic container it comes in. Take things a step beyond pouring some baby carrots on a plate or placing a bowl of pita chips nearby. Add garnishes on top and slice up some fresh veggies.
Dietitian and blogger Lindsay Livingston of The Lean Green Bean shared a beautiful Greek hummus plate that will be a hit at any gathering. It also makes a delicious afternoon snack if you need to add a little festivity to your day.
Use it as an ingredient in something else
Hummus actually makes a handy marinade when you mix it with spices and maybe stir in some yogurt. Dietitian Katie Pfeffer-Scanlan of One Hungry Bunny says to try it “mixed with fresh chopped herbs as a marinade for tofu and shrimp skewers. The hummus is an excellent coating for baked chicken as well. Instead of flour, bread crumbs, and egg wash, you get a little heart healthy fats, protein, and fiber!”
Registered Dietitian Lauren Sharifi of Bite of Health Nutrition uses hummus as an ingredient in these adorable Mediterranean-style appetizers. Or you could put hummus in your tacos! Yes way. Dietitian Sharon Palmer shows you how in this delish vegan recipe.
Don’t be afraid to try new stuff. Hummus is one of those foods that’s so versatile, you can pair it with almost anything. Don’t be afraid to get weird! Lots of my clients enjoy it with apple slices, and I’ve even been known to tuck some into an omelette or eat on top of a baked sweet potato. If you try something and you hate it, then at least you know what you won’t be serving at your next party.