Hummus, it's what's for...dessert?

Hummus, the ancient Middle East staple turned art-opening hors-d’oeuvre, is being reborn once again — this time as dessert, in a range of flavors from chocolate to snickerdoodle.

Dessert hummus first shot to national attention last fall when a commercial version debuted on the reality show Shark Tank. Panelist Mark Cuban sampled a product called Delighted by Hummus and his surprised reaction was, “This sh*t is good!” He backed young entrepreneur Makenzie Marzluff with a $600,000 investment; the product took off and it can now be found at health-food stores and supermarkets.

What does dessert hummus taste like?

Taste-wise, dessert hummus is a cousin of red-bean paste, a dessert staple of East Asian Cuisine. Depending on the flavor, it can range from tasting like brownie batter (in the case of chocolate hummus) to cookie dough (hence the "snickerdoodle" flavor). Delighted by Hummus also offers vanilla bean and choc-o-mint flavors, as well as brownie batter hummus, so there's something for every sweet tooth.

Is dessert hummus good for you?

Like many millennial food trends, this one is an offshoot of the movement toward healthier eating. Dessert hummus far outdoes most other sweets nutritionally. Made from garbanzo beans (also known as chickpeas) and either traditional tahini (sesame paste) or nut butter, this innovative dessert is rich in protein and fiber, vitamin B6, Vitamin E, iron and other minerals, but it’s low in saturated fat and gluten free.

Still: It's sweet.

Add chocolate, which famously increases brain serotonin levels, a natural mood lifter, and you’ve got health food for the soul, too. A bowl of dessert hummus in the center of the table, along with graham crackers, rolled wafer cookies or slices of apple for dipping, creates a convivial atmosphere for conversation as you sip sparkling Moscato or linger over an espresso.

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Easy to make at home

Making your own dessert hummus is quick and easy, even though you have to prepare it from scratch. (You can’t use packaged hummus from the store as a base because the dessert version has no olive oil, garlic or lemon juice.) The ingredients are tossed into a food processor or blender and pureed, which only takes about ten minutes from start to finish. Chill it in the fridge and it’s ready to eat.

Options for special diets

There’s room for play, too. Choose your favorite healthy sweetener — raw sugar, honey, maple syrup, agave. If you’re vegan, lactose intolerant or just want a different taste, substitute almond milk or soymilk for the cow’s milk. Coconut oil works well in place of some or all of the nut butter or tahini.

Lots of room for creativity

And improvise! For a party, create your own toppings bar with embellishments like berries, sprinkles and chopped walnuts. Here are two of our favorite dessert hummus recipes — chocolate-chocolate chip and banana snickerdoodle. Serve them as dips, on apple slices, with pretzel rods or sugar cookies, or eat them with a spoon like pudding. A sprinkle of sea salt is a nice finishing touch for any sweet hummus you make.

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Hummus

A chocoholic’s dream, but high in nutrition and lower in calories.

8 servings (serving size: 1/4 cup)
Calories: 212 per serving
Preparation time: 10 minutes (plus a half hour to chill)

Ingredients
1 can garbanzo beans (15.5 oz. or approx. 2 cups)
1/4 cup tahini
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (dark cocoa, if you prefer)
1/2 cup raw turbinado sugar (or the same amount of brown sugar)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Instructions
1. Rinse and drain the chickpeas
2. Place all ingredients in a food processor and puree for one minute.
3. Fold in the mini chocolate chips.
4. Chill in the fridge for half an hour.
5. Serve with slices of Asian pear for dipping.

Banana Snickerdoodle Hummus

A velvety-smooth dessert for cinnamon lovers — and ridiculously low in calories.

8 servings (serving size: 1/4 cup)
Calories: 140 per serving
Preparation time: 10 minutes (plus a half hour to chill)

Ingredients
1 can garbanzo beans (15.5 oz. or approx. 2 cups)
1/4 cup almond butter
1/2 cup maple syrup
1-1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. milk
1 small banana

Instructions
1. Rinse and drain the chickpeas
2. Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and puree for one minute.
3. Chill in the fridge for half an hour.
4. Serve with cinnamon pita chips or graham crackers