Can celiacs eat hummus?

What is Celiac Disease?

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that affects around 1 in 100 people worldwide. When someone with celiac disease consumes gluten, it triggers an immune response that attacks the small intestine and damages the villi – the small, finger-like projections that line the intestine and absorb nutrients from food. This damage leads to an inability to absorb nutrients properly, which can cause symptoms like diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloating, weight loss, fatigue, and anemia. The only treatment for celiac disease is following a strict gluten-free diet, meaning avoiding all foods and products containing wheat, barley, and rye.

What is Hummus?

Hummus is a thick, creamy spread or dip made from cooked, mashed chickpeas blended with tahini (ground sesame seeds), olive oil, lemon juice, and spices. It originates from Middle Eastern cuisine and has become popular worldwide as a protein-rich, nutritious snack or sandwich filling. The main ingredients in basic hummus are:

  • Cooked chickpeas
  • Tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • Olive oil
  • Lemon juice
  • Garlic
  • Salt

Additional ingredients like roasted red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, feta cheese, olives, cilantro, or spices are sometimes added for different flavor varieties. Store-bought hummus may also contain preservatives.

Are Chickpeas Gluten-Free?

Yes, chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans) are naturally gluten-free. Chickpeas are legumes, not grains. They do not contain the proteins glutenin and gliadin, which cause issues for those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Pure, unadulterated chickpeas will not cause problems or intestinal damage for people avoiding gluten.

Canned, dried, cooked from scratch – all forms of chickpeas are gluten-free and safe for celiacs as long as they have not been cross-contaminated. Chickpea flour is also safe, though some brands may be mixed with small amounts of wheat flour. For maximum safety, look for brands that are certified gluten-free.

Is Tahini Gluten-Free?

Yes, pure tahini made from sesame seeds is gluten-free. Tahini, also called sesame paste or sesame butter, is made by grinding sesame seeds into a thick paste. Sesame seeds do not contain gluten. So if the only ingredient in your tahini paste is sesame seeds, you can be sure there is no gluten present.

Some tahini products may add wheat flour or thickeners that are not gluten-free, so check the label carefully. Again, looking for certified gluten-free brands provides an extra layer of safety for celiacs. Major hummus brands and restaurants often use dedicated, certified gluten-free tahini to cater to celiac and gluten intolerant customers.

Can Celiacs Safely Eat Hummus?

Yes, hummus made with pure, uncontaminated ingredients should be safe for most people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. Chickpeas and sesame are naturally gluten-free, making basic hummus a perfectly celiac-friendly food.

However, there are some important considerations when choosing hummus:

  • Check labels carefully and avoid any hummus with added wheat or questionable ingredients
  • Look for brands that state the hummus is certified gluten-free
  • Be cautious of hummus topped with breadcrumbs or gluten-containing garnishes
  • Avoid hummus from self-serve bulk bins, as cross contamination is more likely
  • Ask about dedicated equipment and precautions if purchasing hummus from a restaurant or cafe

With so many delicious hummus options to choose from, from traditional to gourmet flavored, celiacs don’t need to fear missing out on this savory snack and dip. Just take care in choosing reputable brands or restaurants that understand gluten-free needs.

What About Contamination Risks?

Cross-contamination is always a concern for celiacs consuming any processed food that could come in contact with gluten during manufacturing. Thankfully, many commercial hummus brands take great care to prevent cross-contamination for gluten-free consumers:

  • Some facilities are entirely gluten-free with dedicated equipment
  • Others schedule gluten-free production before gluten ingredients are handled
  • Packaging is often done in closed systems with no open air exposure
  • Strict sanitation protocols may be followed between production runs

When choosing a brand of pre-packaged hummus, look for information about testing and how they prevent cross-contamination. Reputable brands should display a gluten-free certification logo, which evaluates facilities for best practices. Hummus sold at restaurants or in bulk bins is inherently more risky due to chance of cook errors or scoops coming in contact with gluten ingredients. Check policies and precautions before consuming.

Should Celiacs Make Homemade Hummus?

Homemade hummus avoids any risk of gluten cross-contamination from factories or restaurants. For extremely sensitive celiacs, or if you cannot find a hummus brand produced in a dedicated facility, making your own at home gives you full control.

Ensure all ingredients used are certified gluten-free, especially the chickpeas and tahini. Make a large batch and refrigerate or freeze in airtight containers to have ready when you want an allergen-free, homemade snack. You can customize the flavor with any gluten-free additions like roasted veggies, herbs, citrus, and spices.

Here is a basic celiac-friendly homemade hummus recipe:


  • 1 (15 ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 3 tablespoons tahini
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • Dash of paprika or cumin for garnish (optional)


  1. Add the drained chickpeas to a food processor and pulse several times until broken down.
  2. Add the tahini, lemon juice, garlic clove, olive oil and salt to the food processor.
  3. Process for 1-2 minutes, occasionally scraping down the sides, until very smooth.
  4. Taste and adjust flavor as needed, adding more lemon juice for tang or salt for overall flavor.
  5. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  6. Sprinkle the top with paprika or cumin before serving if desired.

This easy hummus recipe can be made in just 5 minutes and customized with any gluten-free add-ins. Remember to use all certified gluten-free ingredients for safety.

Precautions When Eating Out

If purchasing hummus from a restaurant, cafe, or shop, there are some important precautions celiacs should take:

  • Ask if the hummus contains any wheat or gluten ingredients besides chickpeas and tahini
  • Inquire about risk of cross-contamination on shared equipment or in the kitchen
  • Request hummus made fresh if concerned about contamination risks
  • Avoid hummus that is scooped from a shared, self-serve bulk bin
  • Skip hummus with pita chips or other gluten-containing dippers
  • Ask for a dedicated gluten-free menu if available

Some restaurants use hummus as an ingredient in other menu items too, like sandwiches, bowls, salads, and appetizers. Check that the hummus itself is gluten-free, and that any items containing it avoid other gluten ingredients. Celiac-friendly restaurants will understand your concerns and be able to accommodate your needs.

What About Sabra Hummus?

Sabra is one of the largest hummus brands in the U.S. and widely available at grocery stores. Sabra’s classic hummus products are labeled gluten-free and are considered safe for most celiacs, with some caveats:

  • Sabra hummus is produced on shared equipment that also handles wheat
  • The brand has a comprehensive gluten-free protocol to prevent cross-contamination
  • Their facility is inspected by the Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG) certification program
  • Sabra does not test final hummus products for gluten, which some celiacs prefer
  • Those with severe gluten sensitivities may wish to avoid due to shared equipment

Overall, Sabra hummus is a good option for less sensitive celiacs when choosing a widely available brand. But individuals should make their own judgement based on their comfort level with potential cross-contamination. Always check labels for new gluten-containing flavors.

Other Brands to Look For

Besides Sabra, some other well-known hummus brands considered safe for most celiacs include:

  • Tribe – certified gluten-free and made in dedicated facility
  • Hope – certified gluten-free and tested for under 5 ppm gluten
  • Cedar’s – certified gluten-free with dedicated equipment
  • Boar’s Head – labeled gluten-free with precautions against cross-contact
  • Lantana Foods – certified gluten-free facility

There are also many smaller, regional hummus brands that clearly label products gluten-free and take steps to avoid cross-contact. Check your local health food stores or specialty markets to discover new favorite options. Online stores like Amazon now carry a wide range of gluten-free hummus choices that can be shipped directly to your door.

Tips for Cooking with Hummus

Besides enjoying hummus the classic way with fresh veggies or pita bread, this tangy chickpea spread can also be used to add flavor in gluten-free cooking and baking:

  • Use as sandwich spread instead of traditional mayo or mustard
  • Thin with lemon and drizzle as a salad dressing or veggie dip
  • Add to gluten-free pizza dough for extra texture and protein
  • Stir into rice, quinoa, or buckwheat dishes for moisture and flavor
  • Blend with spices as a marinade base for chicken, fish, or tempeh
  • Use in veggie wraps or lettuce cups instead of cheese or sauce
  • Swirl into pureed soups like carrot, butternut squash, or tomato for richness
  • Top eggs, baked potatoes, or grilled meats as an easy gravy substitute

With its smooth, creamy texture and versatility, hummus can enhance so many gluten-free foods. Keep a tub on hand to whip up quick sandwiches, veggie dips, dressings, spreads, and more.

Potential Problems Celiacs May Have with Some Hummus

While hummus made from pure chickpeas, tahini, and seasonings is gluten-free and celiac-safe, some varieties may cause issues for the gluten intolerant:

  • Cross-contamination – Major risk if hummus made on shared lines with wheat-based foods
  • Rogue ingredients – Added grains, flour, malt, or questionable thickeners
  • Garnishes – Croutons, wheat crackers, or bread crumbs as topping
  • Dipping foods – Typically served with pita or other glutenous bread
  • Bulk bins – Self-serve tubs often used over and over with shared scoops

As long as you read labels diligently, ask questions when dining out, and purchase from reputable gluten-free companies, traditional hummus should be safe for almost all celiacs. Some with severe wheat allergies or sensitivity may need to avoid brands made on shared equipment as traces of gluten could still be present. When in doubt, make your own hummus at home.

What About Mediterranean Restaurants?

Mediterranean and Middle Eastern restaurants often feature hummus as a classic appetizer or part of the meal. How safely can celiacs eat here? Some tips for enjoying hummus when dining out at these restaurants:

  • Tell your server you have celiac disease and inquire about menu safety
  • Ask if their hummus is made in-house or provided by a gluten-free vendor
  • Choose hummus without bread or wheat-based dippers like pita
  • Request hummus as a spread on your entree instead of toum or tzatziki sauce
  • Opt for naturally gluten-free sides like Greek salad, grilled veggies, rice pilaf
  • Avoid fried foods that may be dusted in flour, or ask for fresh oil
  • Select safer meats like grilled chicken, lamb, or fish
  • Check that sauces and dressings do not contain wheat thickeners

With savory staples like hummus, olive oils, rotisserie meats, and fresh produce, Mediterranean spots can be a tasty option for gluten-free diners. Just double check the menu and watch for hidden gluten ingredients.

What About Sensitivity Reactions?

In rare cases, some celiacs or those highly sensitive report reacting to ingredients in hummus like chickpeas, garlic, lemon juice, or tahini. There are a few possible explanations:

  • Traces of gluten cross-contamination
  • Chickpeas do not agree with your system
  • Fructans in garlic trigger symptoms
  • Citric acid in lemons causes problems
  • Sesame allergy or sensitivity to tahini

Generally, these instances are uncommon as the main hummus ingredients are typically fine for celiacs. But everyone’s bodies are different. If you experience worrisome symptoms after eating hummus, try an elimination diet to identify the trigger. Homemade hummus with simple ingredients can also help determine if a purchased brand is at fault. Consult a dietitian or doctor if hummus frequently makes you sick.

Tips for Gluten-Free Hummus Lovers

Here are some takeaways for celiacs who wish to keep enjoying hummus while sticking to their gluten-free diet:

  • Read all product labels carefully and look for “gluten-free” in bold
  • Research brand protocols for avoiding cross-contamination in facilities
  • Choose certified gluten-free brands for reassurance
  • Ask restaurants about menu items and preparation
  • Make your own hummus at home using certified ingredients
  • Enjoy hummus as a spread, sauce, or dip paired with naturally gluten-free foods
  • Avoid self-serve bulk hummus bins with potential cross-contact from scoops
  • Seek hummus without gluten-containing garnishes or dippers

While celiacs need to remain vigilant, thankfully hummus is considered a gluten-free food and safe for almost everyone following a strict gluten-free diet when chosen mindfully. Loaded with nutrition and flavor, hummus makes the perfect celiac-friendly addition to your snacks, app spreads, plant-based meals, and more. Dip in without worry!

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