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Hummus – stuffing our pockets

Hummus was one of the first things I learned to make as a 20-something year old bent on eating well, while not making life difficult on relatives of cows I’d grown to love as a girl. The hummus of those days has morphed a number of times over, as we ourselves tend to do.

Back then I used canned chickpeas. I prefer to cook my own these days, but I’d much rather use canned chickpeas than face the dreadful plight of hummus-lessness when the mood for hummus-in-a-hurry strikes. I’m not at all a fanatic about cooking my own and  always have canned chickpeas on hand. BUT, I do think home-cooked beans are noticably better-textured and flavored and if you want to consider giving it a gohere are some reasons why you might consider it too –

You’ll cook them with no preservatives, no gross amounts of salt in the canning liquid – (though not all canned beans come loaded this way.) You can use some of your own cooking liquid to puree in with the beans. (Much better than plain water.) I won’t use the liquid if they’re canned. A batch of your own fresh-cooked chickpeas is a fraction of the cost of canned. There’s less to throw away (or recycle.) And then, there’s the taste.

One of the changes to my hummus has come about quite recently – only since developing a mad crush on Ottolenghi (I mean, his recipes!) It would seem that the skins of the chickpeas, even when the beans are cooked to softness, retain a bit of their toughness unless measures are taken to further soften them. Ottolenghi adds baking soda to both the soaking water, and then again to the cooking pot. This addition and sufficient cooking time are  probably THE keys to THE creamiest, most velvety hummus your mouth will ever taste. I’d like to compare it to ambrosia’s savory cousin, but having never tasted ambrosia…Anyway…

Another measure which I’ve read about recently – in several places – seems awfully tedious at first. – but perhaps especially in the case when canned beans are used, worth the extra effort. You squeeze each and every little chickpea between thumb and forefinger, easily slipping them out of their filmy skins. This happens all the more easily with the addition of baking soda to the cooking water. (It’s as if they were itching to shed them, and you came along, right place, right time.) What’s left, once these naked beans are pureed with garlic and fresh lemon juice and tahini (the “butter” of sesame seeds”) is exquisitely smooth.


The pita-pocket sandwich is just about whatever you’d like it to be. What I’d like it to be goes something like this:

Home-baked pita, sliced in half. A good slathering of lemony hummus, topped with thinly-sliced tomatoes and English cucumbers (the kind with the very small seeds); perhaps some sprouts or pea-shoots or micro-greens; maybe some delicate leaves of Spring lettuce, or any other lettuce shredded; perhaps some shredded carrot; a little feta; thin slices of red onion; perhaps some marinated & grilled kabobs of fish or chicken (or you decide); definitely some Greek-style yogurt or tzatziki. And maybe an extra drizzle of olive oil. And because each half is fairly small and because life comes with SO many choices, and choosing is sometimes very hard, make them every which way.


But DO start with the hummus:


The Hummus


1¼ cups dried chickpeas, soaked in cold water overnight (See NOTE)

1½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)

Juice of 2 to 2½ lemons, or to taste

2 or 3 cloves garlic, crushed

salt to taste

4 – 5 Tablespoons tahini (sesame paste)

a pinch (or several) of ground cumin

extra virgin olive oil


OPTIONAL: see below for optional garnishes & serving suggestions

Hummus becomes a personal thing over the years. You find what you like – more garlicky or lemony, or less? – more tahini, less tahini? – more herbs or none at all? It pays to taste a little as you go. Taste your tahini before you start. Is it bitter? Then go with far less than what’s shown above. (I ruined a batch once with tahini far different than what I was used to.) Add most of the lemon and 2 cloves of garlic to start. It won’t be the right consistency yet, but Taste. If it’s tasting about right, don’t add the rest until closer to the end if at all. You’ll develop your own perfect proportions. With that out of the way, here’s the method –

NOTE: 1¼ cups dried chickpeas will equal about 3¾ cups cooked – if you use canned chickpeas you can give them a little extra cooking time in fresh water to soften them further, and then if you like, remove the skins from them as well.


Pick over the dry chickpeas. Rinse, then soak in a bowl of water that covers the beans by 2 inches. Add 1 teaspoon only of the baking soda. Stir. Allow chickpeas to soak over night (or 8 hours minimum.)

Drain and rinse the chickpeas. Add them to a large pot with remaining 1/2 teaspoon baking soda. Add water to cover by several inches. Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. In the first half hour of cooking time, remove and discard any skins that rise to the top, and skim off any foam that forms. Cook until the beans are very soft, can easily be squished between finger and thumb, but are just short of mushy. Depending on the age of your beans and how dried they are to begin with, this may take from 1 to 4 hours, but “generally” around 2 hours. (To speed the process up, I’ll frequently used a pressure cooker for this – bringing the beans to near-doneness under pressure then finishing with the cooker’s lid ajar.) 

Put a colander over a large bowl and empty the contents of the pot into the colander, reserving the bean cooking liquid.  Add the juice of 2 lemons, 2 cloves of garlic, 2 to 3 tablespoons of tahini (unless you find it to be bitter-tasting, then add less) to the bowl of the processor. Whir until they’ve blended thoroughly and you have a very loose paste. Add the chickpeas to a food processor and a little of the bean-cooking liquid. Process to smoothness. Add a generous pinch of salt and a pinch of cuminTaste for lemon and garlic and tahini. Add more as your taste directs you. I like to add a glug of olive oil to the puree itself, but it’s optional. Add enough of the bean cooking liquid so that what results is a silky smooth puree.

Spoon the hummus into a shallow bowl, make a depression or wave patterns across the surface with the back of a spoon, drizzle liberally with good extra-virgin olive oil. And garnish as you like…

Optional Garnishes & Serving Suggestions:

  • Soak and boil an extra ¼ cup of chickpeas and keep them aside (about ¾ cup cooked) to reheat just before serving. Spread the hummus in a clay dish, and pour the drained hot chickpeas on top; drizzle liberally with olive oil and sprinkle paprika and chopped parsley.
  • Garnish with a just a few cooked chickpeas and olive oil.
  • Sprinkle sumac and a little chopped parsley.
  • Serve with warmed flat bread brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with za-atar and salt.
  • Scoop it up with fresh pita.
  • Stuff it in a pita “sandwich”
  • Serve with raw vegetables.

To print a shortened version of the hummus recipe, click here.

36 Comments Post a comment
  1. Nothing better than hummus, especially with fruits and veggies and pita – Yum:) Happy Tuesday!

    January 29, 2013
    • Nothing like it in the world…and thanks for the reminder about fruit and hummus! I love sweet-tart apple wedges dipped in hummus too! Have a wonderful day!

      January 30, 2013
  2. Positively beautiful and sounds so smooth and velvety. Would eat a whole batch right now with that heavenly bread of yesterday. And I love that idea of helping those little chickpeas along in the process — helping them to peel their skins…you come along at the right time, right place. Haha! You are so fun.

    January 29, 2013
    • Thanks Ashley! 🙂 Your girls would LOVE helping chickpeas out of their skins! I say give those girls a job they’d love! xx

      January 30, 2013
  3. I said I was anxious to see what you were going to use to fill your pita pockets and you certainly didn’t disappoint, Spree. Your hummus sounds delicious and has tempted me to try making it — something I’ve never done before. I can only imagine how good it tastes in your freshly make pita.

    January 29, 2013
    • It’s pretty wonderful John, that combination of fresh from the oven pita slathered in lemony hummus, drizzled with extra olive oil – if you like that sort of thing, that is. 🙂 Maybe you’ve found a good source for good hummus…you’ve found a good source for about everything else wonderful under the sun! But if you haven’t, I hope someday you’ll try!

      January 30, 2013
  4. Ottenlenghi is a genius isn’t he ! If you want more recipes from him check out the Guardian website, he does a. column called the new vegetarian x

    January 29, 2013
  5. lovely… my mouth watered at the first photo

    January 29, 2013
    • Thank you for your lovely comment! Happy to make your mouth water! 🙂

      January 30, 2013
  6. I’m so with you on the home cooked chickpeas (I even bought a few kilos with me from Spain, the ones our neighbour grows are so good), the bicarbonate and Ottolenghi! Love hummus, a lovely recipe 🙂

    January 30, 2013
    • Oh, Tanya, how lucky you are, a neighbor’s own chickpeas! I can see why you’d reserve an extra suitcase for them! And thank you for your nice comment! And YES, Ottolenghi’s brilliant!

      January 30, 2013
  7. Om nom nom, just my thing. Beautiful pockets and delicious hummus. Cracking stuff going on here 😀 Frugal too!

    January 30, 2013
    • Just my thing too, Nick, and how good of you to notice how Frugal! 🙂

      January 30, 2013
  8. I would think squeezing each and every chickpea would be a rather lonely job. I think the bicarbonate of soda is the better route. Very clever title.

    January 30, 2013
    • Well, you’re right Maria, it CAN be a lonely job…or it could be shared…have little ones at home and it’s JUST the sort of things they’d LOVE doing! However, that being said, if you’re cooking your own beans, the bicarb of soda is a much easier route and yields the same creamy results! Thanks very much for your comment!

      January 30, 2013
  9. Fantastic! I can’t wait to try the baking soda method, as I often cook my own too – I will let you know how it goes Spree! Hummus how do I love thee…

    January 30, 2013
    • Oh Hummus how I do love also!…Yes, do let me know what you think Shira. I love this little “trick” myself! xx

      January 30, 2013
  10. Hummus is always in our kitchen, as is pitta bread. A plate with both of them is often by me as I write – like now! The baking soda tip has been taken on board.

    January 30, 2013
    • Seems like perfect brain food when writing! Glad you thought of it and that I can borrow from it!

      January 30, 2013
  11. I’ve always wanted to make hummus, but its one of those things that I’ve just never gotten around to making. But you’ve really inspired me to give it a shot, especially since yours looks like the perfect recipe. I’m so happy to see that you added lemon. Whenever I buy the store bought stuff I always squeeze a bit of lemon juice on top to brighten it up a bit. So, when I see that you’ve already added it to your recipe I knew that this was one for me. Also, I have to add that I love your garnish ideas and the photos that you took. They are really beautiful.

    January 30, 2013
    • You are VERY kind – thank you SO much! I absolutely love when a someone who’s been intimidated or cautious about making something gets inspired or encouraged enough to plow right in! You go girl! You will make a beautiful hummus, and you may never turn back to the store stuff again! Have fun, and thanks again for your comment! spree

      January 30, 2013
  12. That is the best homemade hummus recipe I have seen yet! Good job!

    February 3, 2013
  13. This is definitely the most thorough recipe for hummus I’ve found!! Thank you for that =) I just have one teeeeeeeny question for you: we live in a very small town with limited resources within a reasonable distance…is the tahini necessary? Or perhaps a substitute for it? I have a sneaking suspicion the closest it’d be found is about 2 hours away =(

    June 13, 2013
    • We can purchase tahini in virtually all our local markets here but know that’s not the case in some small towns. good news! You can make your own and it’s not difficult. I’ll include a link for a good version here:

      This hummus will be good, even without the tahini. I’ll be honest though – it’s even more delicious with – and the combination of sesame seeds (from which tahini is made) and the chickpeas forms a complete protein so you’re getting a nutritional boost. Still, don’t hesitate to make it without…you won’t be sorry. 🙂 And thanks for your comment too!

      June 13, 2013
      • Thanks so much!! I’ll definitely look next time I hit the grocery. What area should I look in for it? (Or sesame seeds, for that matter. Lol) Thanks, again, for your reply!

        June 13, 2013
        • : ) ok, a couple things: you may find tahini in the peanut and other nut-butter section – it’s in the same size jar usually. Or you may find it in the “ethnic” food section, but that’s perhaps less likely. Sesame seeds – either find them in the spice section (though only in little jars), the baking section (possibly in a cello-bag), or the bulk foods (if you have such a thing, that would be your best option.) 🙂
          Also, just the other day I read another way to remove the skins from chickpeas. My next batch of hummus will test this method: Soak overnight in water. Next day place in single layer on kitchen towel. Cover with another towel. Using a rolling pin, roll back and forth firmly but not heavily, about ten times. Almost all the peels will roll off! (Awesome, if it works! And I love and trust this author, so I’m very hopeful!) Then bring a pot of water to a boil, throw in the chickpeas and boil for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to sit for a few minutes. Most of the skins remaining will float to the top! Skim them off with a “skimmer” and continue with the recipe. I’ll try next time as I said and post the results. Best of fun and luck! : ) spree

          June 13, 2013

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