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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.

                            2. For me, it's cheaper to buy it than to make it. Tahini is not very cheap to buy at the stores I go to, but I can get my favorite hummus on sale for 2 for $5 or buy one get one free. Plus, convenience always comes at a cost. I also prefer the flavored hummuses (hummi?) so that adds to the cost to make at home as well.

                              But, it's like with any convenience food. Most prepared foods can usually be made at home, and often for cheaper (mayonnaise and pasta comes to mind), but there's the convenience factor in there too. I'm currently unemployed as of a few days ago, but when I was working, I was gone from the house for 10+ hours a day, and my weekends are usually pretty packed because that's when my other half is in town (he travels during the week). So, my free time to make things like hummus is pretty limited. But, I eat it every day so I buy it.

                              1. I don't find store bought hummus to be expensive. I can get a large tub at Costco for approximately $6, and it will easily last me a week or more. I also love the cilantro jalapeño hummus at TJs, which is more expensive per ounce, comparatively, but it would still cost me considerably more than that in person-minutes to make my own!

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: ohmyyum

                                  <<I also love the cilantro jalapeño hummus at TJs>>

                                  Same here! That is my favorite flavor. I also like the Sabra brand for its creaminess and assortment of flavors (such as their roasted garlic and the supremely spicy), but I ALWAYS grab a couple of tubs of cilantro jalapeño when go to TJ's.

                                  Yea, I've made hummus a bunch of times too, in numerous flavor variations, but I do find it to be a lot of work. As mentioned, I also hate cleaning my food processor. And my hummus just never seems to be as creamy and delicious as Sabra and TJ's.

                                2. One has to also factor in several other factors then just cost of ingredients
                                  Cost of container, both individual and shipping
                                  Shipping costs.
                                  Marketing costs
                                  Promotional costs(set up costs with some retailers gets extremely pricey).
                                  Price can also be based on the old supply/demand concept.
                                  Some categories are "trendy" and retailers and manufacturers definetly want to cash in when the category is "hot".(Greeek Style yogurts as an example)
                                  Cost of ingrdients is sometimes one of the minor costs of a retail price. After all how expensive is water? Look at those retails!!

                                  1. Hummus isn't expensive in my part of the world (Brooklyn), as a matter of dollars and cents - $3 for 16 oz at Trader Joe's, less than that at a nearby middle eastern food store. Anyway, when is a prepared food not marked up substantially from the cost of its raw ingredients? That's business.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: John Francis

                                      It isn't expensive in Montréal either, with a huge Lebanese and other Middle Eastern communities.

                                      I can get good tinned chick peas here.

                                    2. To directly answer the OP - it is because manufacturers want to get a high rate of profit on a relatively cheap item. Nothing new there, then.

                                      Personally, I don't find it an expensive item to purchase. But then, I'm not going to be making it from scratch by way of comparison

                                      1. I checked the price while shopping today, $1.89 for one of those small tubs, not bad. A can of beans is about $1, so counting the other ingredients, prep, etc... pretty good price.

                                        1. In my experience, tahini is one of those things that lasts for YEARS in the refrigerator. You have to stir the oil back in to it, but how big a deal is that, really? And I'm paying .69 for a can of garbanzos...so it is worth it to me to make it at home. To each his own, no biggie.

                                          1. westsidegal, I do understand what you mean about the food processor, though. I bought one of those little 'oscar' processors/choppers a few years ago...12.99, easy to clean, and I don't think I've hauled that big old PITA food processor out of the cupboard since then. I ought to just give the stupid thing away.

                                            1. Unless I make it on a regular basis, it's cheaper for me to buy it prepared due to the price of the Tahini.

                                              I've made it on occasion, but it's always come out inconsistent for me for some reason. Some times it will get stuck in the blender, some time the fresh lemons and/or garlic don't taste right, or it's too runny, etc...

                                              1. But isn't that true of so many prepared foods? Making your own pasta isn't that hard and the ingredients are dirt cheap yet few people make it.

                                                1. Umm, isn't your question true for everything? Why eat out at a restaurant when you can make it cheaper yourself? Why buy any food product if you can make it cheaper yourself?

                                                  Anything you buy will cost more than the cost of ingredients and preparation (ignoring periodic loss leaders) otherwise there would be no business as there would be no reason for anyone to sell it. We're willing to pay for the convenience.

                                                  1. I ate almost exclusively homemade hummus for the first half of my life and continued to avoid storebought hummus after I moved away from home because of both the price differential and the additives in commercial brands, but at some point, my time became worth more than the cost of a tub of hummus. I always have all the ingredients to make hummus on hand, but sometimes it is more convenient to buy some hummus rather than futz around with shelling chickpeas and dealing with the food processor.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: JungMann

                                                      I use a ricer to skin the chickpeas. If you use canned beans it is easy to rub the skin off with a rough towel.

                                                    2. Hummus is outrageously expensive to buy (compared to the cost to make) because it's a in vogue food item right now and people are willing to pay for it. When the fad wears off and sales drop the price will drop. Just look at other fads, Hanger steaks were unheard of years ago and would sell for $2.99 a pound then the fad hit and they went from $2.99 to $12.99 in less than a year. Now they are back to $6.99 a pound, when people forget about them they will drop even further.

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: RetiredChef

                                                        You make an interesting observation about hangar steak.

                                                        One difference with hummus is the question of competition.

                                                        Any supermarket I go to has at least three different brands it seems. You'd think someone, anyone could start undercutting on price and take over all the market share, if the price is outrageously inflated. As where if you want a different hangar steak, you'd have to leave the supermarket and go elsewhere or buy something else (hence the fad aspect).

                                                        I'm sure my knowledge of pricing strategy is somewhere close to zero, so I am looking to others for insight.....

                                                        1. re: RetiredChef

                                                          Hanger steaks sure did go up in price when folks discovered them! Same thing happened with flatiron steak. They were once a real bargain considering how tasty and tender they are (I prefer them over filet mignon any day).

                                                          As to the OP's original question,I've never found hummus to be expensive (and I'm a miserly bastard). Home made is cheaper (and generally better), but the commercial brands aren't over the top price-wise...and why shouldn't the companies charge what they know consumers will pay???

                                                        2. I like to think my time is worth so much per hour, so I can either make it myself and include my "labor" charge into the cost, or I can pay someone else to do it.

                                                          On vacation, labor charge is worth it. At home, where I have my preferred tools I'm more willing to do it myself.

                                                          And there are always hormonal cravings which makes lots of things priceless. . .

                                                          1. I make my own using canned chick peas. I use a blender (easy to clean) and it is cheap and easy and lasts a while in the fridge.
                                                            Processing, packaging, trucking etc. dictate the cost in a supermarket.
                                                            In a store where it is home made and sold by the pound it will be less.

                                                            1. As noted ad nauseam below there are fixed costs associated with commercial production, transportation/distribution of refrigerated items. Add to that the cost of materials and profit (wholesale/retail) and you will likely lose any economies of scale.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: ferret

                                                                whenever any of these threads gets going, it is rare that anyone believes that there are fixed costs, labor costs, energy costs, insurance costs, capital costs, etc.

                                                                the only cost that most folks seem to be able to keep in mind is the food cost and even then, they never seem to take wastage into account .
                                                                also, most seem not to notice any degradation in food quality from prolonged storage.

                                                              2. I never understood why! Its so crazy to pay that much... I just use this simple recipe I found at chow.com and its so good!

                                                                6 Replies
                                                                1. re: FoodFan83

                                                                  I'll just throw out that the only time I've ever made my own hummus has been from the powdered mix you find in the bulk foods section of some organic-type stores. It's not bad but hummus is not something I need to get all authentic over.

                                                                  I do remember telling my Iraqi coworker that a falafel and hummus appetizer had cost $6 (2004 prices) and he frowned at me. "Why you pay?" Each to their own skill level, I suppose.

                                                                  1. re: ennuisans

                                                                    The trouble with store-bought hummus is it has a very short shelf life. After a few days, even refrigerated it begins to turn sour.

                                                                    1. re: Puffin3

                                                                      But I find that to be true even when I make from scratch, whether from canned, or dried chic peas I boil (I'm done with that method, BTW -- I'd rather pay $3 for 10 oz, myself).

                                                                      1. re: Dave B

                                                                        Can't it be frozen, in small containers? I see no reason it couldn't be.

                                                                        1. re: lagatta

                                                                          No problem freezing in my experience - maybe a slight graininess in texture when defrosted but nothing that I'd worry about. We regularly freeze tubs of supermarket houmous.

                                                                      2. re: Puffin3

                                                                        I don't have that problem with my homemade. Could be the amount of lemon juice used. I use a 1/4 cup per 15 oz of cooked chickpeas

                                                                  2. The question may as well be "why isn't bottled water free?"