Could avocado toast have competition brewing in the form of hummus pizza? From where I sit in downtown Portland, the signs point to “yes.”

First, consider this: Both involve bread with a simple, plant-based topping. Second, recall the already high and growing demand for plant-based meals. Third, remember the enduring popularity of pizza and hummus, with 2020 trend spotters saying chickpea everything will soar to new heights this year. Next, know that at least three commercial kitchens in Portland already make hummus pizzas.

The Olive Cafe on Commercial Street began testing hummus pizza topped with fried okra as a special about two years ago, and customers now ask for it even when it’s not listed on the specials board. As soon as grilled pizza restaurant Coals Bayside opened last summer next to bowling alley Bayside Bowl, customers began ordering the off-menu hummus pizza that had gained buzz at the restaurant’s locations in the Bronx and Port Chester, New York. In September, Maine’s largest school district added hummus pizza to its lunch menu.

It’s not that hummus pizza is new. Creative moms with pita bread have been making it for decades, while Google tells me that bloggers and cookbook writers have published millions of hummus pizza recipes, including a 2013 version from Bon Appétit magazine. What’s new is that Portland restaurants are serving it and the dining public is responding.

According to Olive Cafe chef and owner Rayan Elkhatib, who grew up in Lebanon, hummus pizza isn’t a traditional Lebanese or Middle Eastern food. Instead his is a variation on the cafe’s vegan Ya Baba pizza. Since Elkhatib opened the cafe 11 years ago, he has offered the Ya Baba, which is topped with baba ganoush (roasted eggplant spread), pickled banana peppers, either fried cauliflower or fried Brussels sprouts, parsley and tahini and hot sauces. This winter, the Olive Cafe’s hummus pizza, an occasional special, has featured hummus topped with fried okra, olive tapenade, tomatoes, spinach and tahini sauce.

“The Ya Baba is one of my top sellers,” Elkhatib told me. “Putting hummus and baba ganoush on pizza is fun and it tastes really good. You can’t go wrong with it.”

Customers at Coals Bayside seem to agree.

“It’s a very popular pizza,” said Ozzy Morales, chief operating officer and co-owner of the Coals restaurants, when I asked about the hummus pizza listed on Coals Bayside’s online menu but not on the temporary printed menus inside the restaurant. “It’s off-menu, but you can get it any time.”

The grilled pizza is topped with hummus, onions, cherry tomatoes, arugula and spicy oil. Most of Coals Bayside’s pizzas are vegetarian; the hummus pizza is the only vegan option.

“The hummus pizza has been offered almost since the inception of Coals back in the Bronx in 2005,” said co-owner and executive chef Bill Etzel. “It was actually not conceived as a vegan pizza. It was just a delicious hummus delivery system. It was only after we started selling it that we realized it was vegan and started calling it that.”

These playful hummus pizzas are all-vegan and have been on regular lunch rotation at Portland’s elementary schools since fall. Photo courtesy of Portland Public Schools Food Service Department

Hummus pizza is also a regular part of the weekly menu rotation for Portland’s elementary schools.

“Hummus is a staple within (students’) lives now,” said Jane McLucas, food service director for the Portland Public Schools. “They eat at restaurants and hummus is something they see. And look at all the different hummuses in the store.”

McLucas said hummus pizza, or Mediterranean pizza as it’s called on the lunch menus, is “familiar to the kids and incorporates something for the vegans.” The pizzas consist of flatbread and hummus with chopped vegetable toppings.

I’ve yet to find any U.S. brands of frozen pizza, but over in Europe there are at least two, one from German brand Garden Gourmet, the other from Irish brand Goodfellas. Could hummus pizza one day reach this level of mainstream acceptance and show up in freezer cases here? I’d wager a sack of chickpeas that the future will deliver a lot more hummus pizzas in the U.S., both fresh and frozen.

Avery Yale Kamila is a food writer who lives in Portland. She can be reached at

[email protected] 

Twitter: AveryYaleKamila


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