The Trick To Make Store-Bought Hummus Look Restaurant-Level In A Flash

It isn't too technically very difficult to make your hummus — you just mash up chickpeas with tahini and add seasonings until it tastes good. But when you're hosting friends and family, chances are you're not going to have the time or energy to make everything you serve them from scratch. And since a container of really good store-bought hummus will rarely cost you more than $6 or $7 max, it's a reasonable trade-off.

But before you just plop that plastic tub on the coffee table, hold it right there. Store-bought hummus doesn't have to look store-bought: With some thoughtful plating, you can turn even the most casual kickback into an elegant affair.

Hummus by itself isn't the most aesthetically breathtaking food, which is why you wouldn't catch any self-respecting chef sending a bowl of it out of the kitchen unadorned. If you've ever ordered a hummus plate at a restaurant, it probably arrived at your table artfully swirled, drizzled with olive oil, and topped with chickpeas, mushrooms, spices, or something else. Fortunately, this jazzed-up serving style is easy to do, and won't add more than a few minutes to your snack prep time.

Start with a swirl

The first thing you'll need to do is transfer your hummus of choice to a serving dish, preferably one that isn't a completely flat plate but isn't as deep as a soup bowl, either. (Keep the container in case you have leftovers you need to store later.) Spoon or pour the hummus right into the center of the dish, then level the little mountain of chickpea purée by gently shaking the dish side to side, and/or pressing into it with the back of a spoon.

To add the ever-important swirl, hold your spoon at an angle while you turn the bowl with your other hand. You'll create a spiral of peaks and divots that add some visual interest to the otherwise plain-looking dip, but even more importantly, you're making nooks and crannies for toppings to nestle into.

Before you add any solid toppings, your next step is to drizzle the bowl with a generous amount of olive oil, adding some contrast with its bright yellow-green color. If you have any fancy, high-quality olive oil on hand, now would be the time to break it out — using it as a cooking oil will burn off most of the complex flavor notes, but since you're eating it as-is, you'll be able to really appreciate the delicate taste.

Top it off

Your swirled, oil-drizzled hummus plate probably already looks miles better than it did in the plastic container, but don't stop here. If you have them on hand, you can sprinkle a heavy handful of whole chickpeas on top for some textural variation. Sautéed mushrooms also make a delicious and hearty addition to scoop up with pita. Israeli or Lebanese pickles will add some bright acidity to break up the thick creaminess of the hummus.

This is also the time for spices and fresh herbs to shine. Parsley, cilantro, and basil would all make excellent inclusions — you could use whole leaves as a garnish, but we recommend chopping them up so you can better incorporate them into each bite. Pine nuts and sesame seeds are both great as far as shelf-stable ingredients; if you're in a pinch, dried seasonings like za'atar or good old paprika will work wonders as well.

There are tons of ingredients to take your hummus up a notch, so don't be afraid to get creative. Use two or three different toppings of your choice to really layer on the flavor and turn a simple snack into a work of art that will wow your guests.