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Jul 19, 2013 12:53 PM

Why is hummus expensive?

Can someone why prepared hummus is so expensive in relationship to the cost of its ingredients and the ease of preparation?

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  1. Define expensive.

    I can get commercially packaged hummus for $2.50 for 8oz near me. If I go to the local, family owned Armenian deli, that makes homemade hummus every morning, I pay $6.99/lb. I don't consider either one of those expensive. My time to purchase and prepare the ingredients costs me way more than $3.

    It's not a matter of the cost of ingredients and labor -- most people who sell hummus want to make some money too.

    1. I can't answer as to the 'why' behind the expense. I assume it costs what it costs because people are prepared to pay that amount to purchase it. That being said, I agree with you that once I began making hummus at home (can o' garbanzos, spoonful of tahini, couple of garlic cloves, and a splash of lemon juice. Whirl in tiny countertop food processor for ten seconds. Finish with olive oil), I vowed that I would not be likely to be paying 5 bucks for a plate of it ever again...on a side note, I have a friend who once LAUGHED at me (a little rudely, to tell you the truth) when I used the word 'tahini.' She said it sounded like I was 'just making words up.'

      1. imho, because it's a PITA to make the garbanzos from dried beans and it's a PITA to clean the food processor.

        also, i don't eat enough of it to finish the jar of tahini, so there is the added cost of the waste involved.

        i can taste it and smell it when canned beans have be used so making it using canned would be OUT.
        years ago, WF used to sell jarred, cooked, garbanzos that tasted better, but no more.

        i wish i lived near an ethnic market that sold fresh garbanzos. i'd like to experiment with them.
        i've tried a hummus like spread made with fresh, steamed, soybeans and it was very tasty.

        18 Replies
        1. re: westsidegal

          you are so right about the tahini. you can buy 8 oz tubs of hummus, why can't you buy tahini in 8 oz jars? by the time I use two cups of tahini its turned bad.

          1. re: KaimukiMan

            Not sure where you are, but I think the Pearl River Market in Manhattan has larger-than-usual tahini containers.

            1. re: BuildingMyBento

              what we'd want is smaller-than-usual containers.
              of course, the per ounce cost of such tahini might make the homemade version even MORE expensive than the prepackaged version as well as being a PITA.

            2. re: KaimukiMan

              I portion my tahini into the typical amount I use for a batch of hummus, spoon into snack ziplocs and freeze. Ten minutes defrosting on the counter (Texas, y'all) or drop baggie into bowl of hot water and knead, then you're ready to go.

              Otherwise I'd have fuzzy tahini. (Which sounds like either a trendy cocktail or the trendy bar it's served at; but it's a much less pleasant experience than it sounds.)

              1. re: DuchessNukem

                You just made me chuckle, Duchess. A tip of the 10-gallon to you ma'am.

                To all: I learned to call hummus "HUMmus" whereas in some regions it appears to be labeled and pronounced "HOMmus". I recently, for reasons of "goofing off", started calling it the latter but now it's become a habit and instinctive. My wife didn't SAY I sounded affected and pretentious but she kind of alluded to that. She's not wrong I suppose. damn her. :-)

                What do you call it? What regions in the middle east call it the former and which call it the latter? Perhaps I'll choose my pronunciation based on political alignment!

                Also, bonus questions: do you ever cheat and use sesame oil rather than the never-seem-to-keep-on-hand tahini? What about toasted and ground sesame seeds? Do you put cumin in yours?

                1. re: e_bone

                  Ina Garten pronounces it hoomus.

                  1. re: e_bone

                    Hum-mus is a commonly accepted American pronunciation, but so is chipoltay. I say hoo-moos (with a short oo as in "took") in English, hoom-moos (with a longer m sound) in Arabic. I'm understood fine in both languages. In Hebrew it is choo-moos (with a guttural h); in other dialects of Arabic it is hom-moos with the pronunciation of the short o varying depending on dialect.

                    I've never ground my own tahini, but I have used sesame oil and found the flavor too strong. I usually add a pinch of cumin to hummus.

                    1. re: JungMann

                      I've often heard it pronounced like this, hemoos

                  1. re: PommeDeGuerre

                    somehow or other, after it's been sitting in my refrigerator five months, i find myself opening a new container. . . .

                    that goes for tahini and lots of other things that supposedly last a "LONG" time.
                    they taste different to me after months of refrigeration

                    1. re: westsidegal

                      Not sure why. Assuming relatively airtight storage to avoid the odors given off by whatever else might be in your fridge, rancidity from oxidation at refrigerator temperatures should take place at a very low rate.

                    2. re: westsidegal

                      I don't think of myself as one of those "make it yourself" scolds, but (and this might be a big but) (hurr hurr) if you have access to bulk sesame seeds, tahini is zero big deal to make. Two bucks for a half pound of seeds, a few minutes toasting, small food processor, one glug olive oil, done. Bonus-- I felt like a genius all day long after I found out about this.

                      1. re: monfrancisco

                        Why didn't I think of that? Brilliant. I don't find keeping tahini to be a chore, but since I usually have sesame seeds around anyway (for making granola), I could free up jar-space in the fridge, and make just what I need! Brilliant, my dear monfrancisco.

                        1. re: tonifi

                          Thanks! You just made my perfectly pleasant Sunday even better. I found the method ("recipe" probably too technical a term in this case) at serious eats. I toast the seeds on the stovetop rather than in the oven just because I think that's easier.

                      2. re: westsidegal

                        Tahini infused with honey is great on toast...

                        1. re: westsidegal

                          I imagine using fresh garbanzo beans would feel like a waste of such a great fresh product. First of all shelling fresh garbanzo's is no less of a PITA than dealing with dried beans (for around a kilo of fresh garbanzo's it usually takes me between 45-60 min to shell all of them). Second, the taste/flavor of a fresh garbanzo is closer to a soy bean. You can eat them raw, and personally I like keeping them in tact.

                        2. It costs what it costs because that is what people are willing to pay for it.

                          I am a business major.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: jpc8015

                            Too bad they don't teach you about inference in business school.

                            The OP is indirectly asking 'why' people are willing to pay for it if it's so simple to make and the ingredients are cheap. "Because that's what they're willing to pay" is not an answer.

                            So far, the answers I've gleaned from above is that it's a PITA to make with fresh beans and there is possible ingredient waste which makes it not as cheap as you'd think.

                            Personally, I don't care much for hummus/tahini; I prefer baba ganouj 'mayonnaise style.' But a well-made fresh hummus can be good too. Just not that stuff they sell in the supermarkets.

                          2. Convenience..but the true ripoff....ordering guacamole in a restaurant...or edamame

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: grant.cook

                              I don't know where you live but I can get edamame in my local restaurants for $3.99-4.99. I can get guacamole for $ 4.99-$6.99 but the cheapest hummus appetizer is $6.99 and it goes up to $9.99 and the food cost on hummus is practically zilch.