Protein-rich, with good-for-you fats, hummus is (nearly) always a healthy choice.

Protein-rich, with good-for-you fats, hummus is (nearly) always a healthy choice.

There are lots of reasons why we love to keep a tub of hummus (a.k.a. hommus) in the fridge. Protein-rich hummus-a creamy blend of chickpeas and tahini (sesame paste) flavored with lemon juice and garlic-is a staple in the Middle East, where it is traditionally served as part of a meze platter with bread or vegetables for dipping. We use it the same way, dipping veggies in it instead of creamy dressings or spreading some in a whole-wheat pita along with leftover roasted veggies. It's a great take-to-work snack or lunch.

The good news, the basic ingredients in hummus mean that most brands we found are generally healthy, made with omega-3-rich canola oil or heart-healthy olive oil, along with chickpeas, tahini, garlic and lemon. And you can feel good about using it to replace your creamy veggie dips for snacking-most brands of hummus have one-third to one-half fewer calories and a fraction of the fat. Plus they have a little bit of fiber and protein, while most creamy dips have none. It's hard to say that any hummus tastes bad, as everyone's preferences on taste and texture are different (indeed, even our tasters couldn't agree on one favorite).

But hummus does warrant a label reading as we were surprised to see that one of the national brands is made with high-fructose corn syrup. And if you're watching your sodium intake, check that too, as sodium levels vary from brand to brand.

With so many to choose from, we limited our tests this issue to the best and most widely available hummus brands that met our nutrition guidelines. And all of them merit Smart Choice ratings for both their taste and nutritional value. But don't limit yourself to the ones we tested; try those available in your area to find the one that will keep you dipping in for more.

Our 5 favorite brands all meet the Smart Choice criteria for good nutrition and good taste.

Cedar's Original Hommus Tahini

Generally smooth with little flecks of chickpea throughout. Carolyn C. appreciated its "authentic taste with a nice balance of chickpea and tahini flavors." This hummus was the highest in protein and fiber.

Emerald Valley Kitchen Organic Traditional Hummus

If you're looking for a hummus that's all about the chickpeas, this slightly chunky one's for you. Stacy observed, "The garlic and lemon flavors are good, but it needs more tahini." Sodium watchers might want to consider another brand.

Joseph's Hommus Tahini

The tasters were divided on this one, but Carolyn M. thought it looked most like homemade hummus with little bits of chickpea mixed in. She loved its "lemony flavor and thick, rich texture." It's also the lowest in sodium.

Sabra Classic Hummus

The lighter color of this hummus was off-putting to some, but this was the favorite of many of our tasters. Hilary said, "Nicely balanced and the creamy, smooth texture is fabulous." Sabra is higher in calories and fat than the other brands we tested.

Tribe Hummus Classic

This hummus rated high overall, with tasters enjoying its smooth texture and lemony flavor. "Real garbanzo flavor and a touch of lemon add nuance to this one-yum!" commented Jessie.

Tasting Panel:

Carolyn Casner, Recipe Tester | Stacy Fraser, Test Kitchen Manager | Carolyn Malcoun, Associate Editor | Hilary Meyer, Recipe Tester | Jessie Price, Food Editor

March/April 2007