Let’s Hear It for Hummus


Hummus is enjoying its turn in the culinary spotlight thanks in part to acclaimed chefs Michael Solomonov and Yotam Ottolenghi, who’ve put it front and center in their restaurants and cookbooks. In the right hands, this Levantine dip typically made with chickpeas, garlic, tahini, lemon juice and salt can be a real showstopper.

At Yalla Yalla Bakery & Mediterranean Spread in Citrus Heights, hummus purists delight in the Liddawi family’s classic recipe. The rich, creamy spread—a contender for best hummus in the Sacramento area—is topped with whole chickpeas, parsley, paprika and a generous slick of olive oil. Pair it with warm pita or, better yet, the bakery’s taboon bread, a moist, dimpled flatbread baked over hot stones. Nina Liddawi, the matriarch in the kitchen, also prepares a special chocolate hummus around Thanksgiving, Christmas and Valentine’s Day. Made with Dutch process cocoa (the other ingredients, aside from chickpeas, are top secret), this not-too-sweet dessert hummus is a guilt-free accompaniment to pretzels and fresh fruit.

As the name suggests, Extreme Hummus in Citrus Heights pushes the boundaries of what hummus can be. Shahnaz Akbarpour, who owns the fast-casual gyros joint with her husband Farid, is the mastermind behind the inventive flavors sold here, including artichoke-pesto, garlic-white bean, spicy chipotle and customer favorite cilantro-jalapeño. Akbarpour, who taught herself how to make hummus, cooks 30 to 40 pounds of chickpeas daily to meet customer demand. “It’s a passion for me,” she says. “I love feeding people. And I love coming up with new hummus flavors.”

Eli Mazahreh’s foray into hummus began with making the spread for potlucks at work. After winning a vegan food competition with his recipe, he set aside his career as a biomedical engineer to found Maza Hummus, which is sold locally at the Midtown Farmers Market, Nugget, Raley’s and select specialty grocers. The Amman, Jordan, native grew up eating hummus with his family, he says, but once in Sacramento he “never found the right hummus for me, so I made my own.” His recipe has a taste and texture that’s far superior to commercial brands and comes in three flavors: classic, garlic and jalapeño. Says Mazahreh, “I feel so lucky to be able to make something that puts a smile on people’s faces.”