Wednesday, April 10, 2013

How to Make Really (Smooth) Authentic Hummus

 











Hummus . . . a creamy, garlicky, lemony,  protein-packed dip.  It's all the rage in this country now, the most ubiquitous Arabic food to reach the American table.  I am not sure when hummus became so popular here, because when I would travel back to the States as a child and teenager, most Americans approached our plate of hummus with a great deal of, um, suspicion, and rarely tasted it enthusiastically. My, how things have changed. 

The word hummus is the Arabic word for chickpea (also known as a garbanzo bean).  In fact, this dip is technically called hummus bi tahini, meaning chickpeas with tahini.

 

Hummus, from an Arab Sensibility


To understand what hummus is in Palestine and throughout the Arab world, you have to understand that it is more than an occasional veggie dip or appetizer. Hummus is a daily food, a nourishing staple that has been perfected over many centuries. Most Arabs don't actually make it- they buy it at little hummus shops in their neighborhoods. Strolling through a neighborhood, you will see young children carrying plastic plates spread with hummus and bags of Arabic bread, to take home to their families.   Hummus is a dip for bread, often served alongside plates of fresh and pickled vegetables, falafel, and other salads and dips. Hummus is commonly served for breakfast (yes, you read that right!) or for the lighter evening meal, since the main meal for most Palestinian families is served early in the afternoon.  

Arabs have a certain understanding of hummus which is very different than the way that we eat and serve it in the West.  And while I am not a purist about many things, I have to say that most Arabs have very strong feelings about what hummus is and is not. 

The first thing is that hummus is a chickpea-only dip.  There are lots of other lovely bean dips out there, but please don't call them hummus.  Hummus means chickpeas.  I think that all Arabs are bound by a disgust for "flavored" hummus.  Kalamata olive blended into your hummus?  Cilantro hummus?  Roasted red pepper hummus?  We don't understand you.  We like our hummus lemony, with a little bit of garlic, and maybe a few spices. 

Second, hummus should be smooth, and slightly thin.  We don't believe in chunky hummus.  Instead of scooped into a mound on a bowl, Arabs spread their hummus onto a shallow bowl or a round plate, and drizzle with olive oil.

Finally, Arabs do not actually dip their bread into the hummus.  They hold a small peice of bread up to the hummus and pinching their bread together, pinch up the hummus into the fold of the bread.  We teach our children to eat politely from the side of the common bowl that is nearest to us and to never drag their bread across a plate of hummus. 


Skinned chickpeas


 

Say Goodbye to Grainy Hummus


Hummus can be as easy as opening a can of chickpeas and blending it with a few other ingredients.  You can get somewhat decent hummus that way, but you will never get silky-smooth hummus.   

To get that really fresh flavor and smooth texture, the best thing to do is use fresh chickpeas, soak them for 8-12 hours, boil them until tender, and then make hummus right on the spot, with the hot chickpeas. 


Why use the hot chickpeas?  Because each chickpea has a little skin on them. Freshly boiled chickpeas' skins are soft and will break down in the food processor, to make a silky smooth hummus.  But if you used cooled (and especially canned) chickpeas, the skins will have hardened and your hummus will have a grainy texture.  If you don't have a choice but to use canned or cooled chickpeas, then you can bring them back up to a boil and let them boil for a little while too soften their skins, which will work to some degree, or you can actually peel the skin off of each chickpea (which is what my mother taught me to do).  This is rather time-consuming, so I prefer to just work with hot chickpeas. 

One more thing.  While yogurt might not be the most traditional ingredient in hummus, it will make your hummus velvety and creamy.  For more authentic hummus, just add extra cooking water, but I find that just a tablespoon or two of yogurt makes for a lovely smooth and creamy hummus.

 

Hummus bi Tahini

 
Step One:  Prepare your chickpeas

1.  Soak your chickpeas.  I like to soak them in hot water for 8 hours or overnight. 
2.  Rinse the chickpeas, and then pour then into another pot and boil them until tender, about one hour.  If you have a pressure cooker (I don't), you can use that and the chickpeas will be done in no time. 

*Note:  I like to make large batches of chickpeas.  After you have boiled your chickpeas, you can portion them and freeze them for later use.  I like to freeze mine in two-cup baggies, nested in a freezer bag.  This will make your next batch of hummus come together in no time!

Step Two:  Make your hummus.

2 cups chickpeas, still warm, or cold and peeled
1/4 cup tahini
2 1/2 fresh lemons, or about 8 tablespoons lemon juice
1-2 cloves of garlic, pasted
1 tsp sea salt
2 tbsp yogurt (optional)
Additional water (or cooking liquid from chickpeas) to thin

Optional:  add in 1 tsp cumin for a smokey flavor. 

1.  Pour tahini and lemon juice into your food processor and pulse until creamy and pale in color. 

2.  Add salt, and pasted garlic to your lemon-tahini sauce.

3.  Pour chickpeas and sauce into a food processor and blend until well incorporated.  Add yogurt and process again for another minute.  Then add as much water as you want to achieve your desired thinness.  Taste and adjust seasonings. 

4.  Let this all run in your food processor until silky smooth, for a couple of minutes. 

5.  Refrigerate for a couple of hours for best flavor. 
 
Serve drizzled with olive oil, and any of the following:  sprinkled with paprika and cumin, and garnished with chickpeas, olives, pickles, or parsley. 



















 
 
Sahtain!
May this double your health!


 

33 comments:

  1. YES! I am so happy you posted this. I'll be making it soon. The trick about using warm chickpeas makes so much sense. I have been seeking that silky smooth homemade hummus for so long, but I didn't want to peel my chickpeas. Very excited!

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    1. I know, peeling is a pain, right? My mother always nagged me to do it, but I would ignore her and just throw them in my food processor and blend them like crazy. This way is much better (though I still do run them through my food processor for a while). Let me know how it turns out for you!

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  2. I've been wanting to get some chickpeas to make hummus, too! My mom gets amazing hummus and crispy pita chips from a market near where she works. It's so so so good!

    I had never heard about making the hummus with hot chickpeas to make it smooth! That was a neat trick to learn.

    Joining you from the Real Food Forager's link up. :)

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    1. Thanks for stopping by! I hope that you like this hummus as much as you like the variety that your mother buys. It love pita chips, too, for dipping. Yummy, yummy. :)

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  3. I have been searching for someone to show me how to make good hummus. I am so excited to try!
    Can you tell us what makes good tahini? Is there a particular brand that is best. What should we look for?
    Someone recently told me that natural peanut butter can be substituted for tahini...any thoughts on that?

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    1. Glad that you are excited about my hummus! Right now I am using a Woodstock brand (you can see a picture of it on my post on tahini) and that's pretty good. I have used many brands, and some I like a little better than others, but I don't see a great difference in brands. I prefer unsalted, roasted sesame seed versions.

      As for substituting natural peanut butter for tahini, I am sure that you could do that for some recipes because they both are natural nut/seed butters, but I have to tell you that I would not do that for hummus, because the flavors wouldn't sit right with me (or for most Arabs). If I were you, I'd just buy a jar of tahini and if you don't want it sitting in your pantry after you make a few batches of hummus, use it for something else. I have several other tahini recipes on here. Tahini has a very long shelf life, so even if you just use it for hummus, it will keep long enough that you will never waste it.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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    2. Can you use sesame seeds instead of tahini? Using 1/4 cup would have me going through my expensive tahini quickly. Or do you have a souce for reasonable bulk tahini?

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    4. It's really, really nasty if you substitute peanut butter. If I were going to substitute, I'd go with almond butter for its more neutral flavor. Although either way, it still won't taste like traditional hummus.

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  4. I have never done it, but I know that you can make your own tahini. I think you just use a blender to break down sesame seeds while drizzling in olive oil. What a great money-saving idea - I'm going to try to learn how to make it.

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  5. The tricks of using warm chickpeas and thinning it out revolutionized my hummus-making. I usually gave in and bought it because I didn't like thick, grainy hummus.

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  6. How do you use the chickpeas after you have frozen them? Do you just thaw them out, or do you heat them back up again too? Thank you.

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    1. If I am make hummus with defrosted chickpeas, I usually peel them. Freezing and defrosting the chickpeas makes the skins tough, so you should really peel them for a smooth hummus. If you don't have time, though, bring them back up to a boil, and then when you make your hummus, process it in your food processor for a REALLY long time. It will become smoother, though it will not have quite the same smooth texture as if you worked with fresh, hot chickpeas.

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  7. I am sitting here at my dining room table on my laptop and I keep hearing a tiny little popping noise behind me in my kitchen. I finally realized what it is: my soaking chickpeas! I never noticed it before but they sound like a rice krispie commercial... snap, crackle pop! Lol, have you noticed this?
    I am making your recipe tomorrow. My 15yo son is having a party tomorrow night at our house (20 teens!) and my husband and my older (17 & 19yo) daughters are out of town. I got a little nervous at the prospect of handling the partygoers all by myself so I invited a couple girlfriends (also mothers of teens) over and promised them food and wine. Your hummus better be perfect. Oh my, just kidding. ;) I know it will be. Thanks for the post.

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    1. That's a lot of teenagers . . . you are a brave woman! I've never noticed my soaking chickpeas making noise, probably because I usually soak them overnight. I will have to listen in next time! Good luck and may the hummus fairy be with you. :-)

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    2. Update: the hummus was very nice and my girlfriends were complimentary. I just kept finding something to scoop up a little more, quite addicting and good with cucumber slices too. I still thought it was a little grainy so I put in a movie, sat at my dining room table with the rest of my pot of chickpeas and popped the skins off all of them! It was tedious but easy and I can see how it might be no biggie if one was doing it with a small group of other mamas around the table. I tried to imagine them speaking Arabic!
      My boys (I have a 14yo as well) are on cleanup duty this morning. Looks like a frat party, except no beer cans!
      One cute thing happened towards the end of the party: my youngest (the 14yo) came upstairs to the kitchen with one of his friends, looked at his friend and said "Dude, you want some REAL food instead of the junk downstairs?" Warm fuzzy moment. They wanted hot dogs, chips, sodas, s'mores, etc... for the party but in the end they would have enjoyed real food more. A good sign.

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    3. Beth---I have to thank you for your comment here about cracking chickpea sounds---that's what brought me to the website! I'm sitting in my living room, worried about a cracking noise in my kitchen, and it was the chickpeas soaking...so I googled--and now I
      am in love with Jessica's recipes for vegatarians! New favorite site for my recipes folder!

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    4. Welcome, C.J.! I'm so happy to have a new reader.

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  8. Thank you for this recipe. My doctor suggested I add hummus to my diet so not being one to buy premade I set out to find the best recipe. Most of the recipes I found called for canned chickpeas. That is until I found this recipe. Couldn't find tahini so had to make my own. After a week of getting all together I made my hummus. I did add the yogurt and it is wonderful. Now to find recipe for pita.

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    1. I am so glad that you liked it! I'm surprised but happy to hear that your doctor suggested that you add hummus to your diet. I also have recipe on here for tahini and for pita bread. You can browse the recipe section to find them.

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    2. Thank you for the info. You have many recipes I will be trying. Stuffed grape leaves...Yum

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  9. Hi Jessica, I'm so happy to have stumbled upon your blog! I am a real foodie and my family is from the same part of the world as you, so your blog is heaven :-) Can you tell me what you mean by "fresh" chickpeas? I have occasionally seen chickpeas that are not dried, but have never bought them and they seem very hard to find. Thanks!

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    1. Sorry, my mistake. You should use dried chickpeas. I meant "freshly boiled chickpeas." :-)

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  10. We love the hummus! Thanks for the recipe!

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  11. I have never figured out why, when I *buy* hummus, the garlic flavor is mild (like cooked garlic), but hummus recipes always call for raw garlic, so if I make it, it has that acrid bite of raw garlic.

    Is the stuff we buy just that inauthentic, and really it should have that bite? Or am I missing something?

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    1. Fresh hummus, if it has garlic, will always have some bite to it. If you don't like that flavor, you can always substitute a little garlic powder instead. My mother, actually, doesn't like garlic in her hummus! If she does add it, she only adds a little. And she never adds garlic until right before serving it. If you make a big batch, try doing that - leaving the garlic out until right before serving it, because the garlic does become more pronounced over time. But like I said, you actually don't *have* to put garlic in it, if you don't like it.

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  12. Recipe sounds good, i'll have to try it. Just a heads up for people who like to shop in fancy stores like Whole Foods or less fancy Trader Joe's, the brands they carry for tahini are horrible. I spent 8 dollars on some organic tahini, and it was the worst texture I've ever had for tahini. I recomend an arabic brand, I don't know what it is but fancy overpriced tahini lacks the real texture or flavor of tahini. It's important to.

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    1. I agree, not all tahini is created equal. My favorite is probably the Ziyaad brand, which is Palestinian.

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  13. I am looking forward to trying your recipe. I made some hummus yesterday that did not turn out the the smooth velvety hummus I have had in the past. I did not know I needed to soak and cook my chickpeas! Also, my recipe used not enough lemon juice (2 tbsp.) not enough!!! I am going to try 3 lemons instead on my next batch. In Shaa Allah.

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    1. I hope it goes well! You only *need* to soak and cook dried chickpeas, but canned ones will never have the same flavor as fresh ones. If you use canned ones, you can bring them to a boil for a little while and then proceed with the recipe, with similar results. I agree, I like my hummus very lemony!

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  14. This was great. I used roasted cumin seeds and rolled the canned chick peas between my hand. The skins came off really easily.

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    1. That sounds absolutely delicious! I happen to really love the flavor of cumin, but I have never tried roasted cumin seeds. I bet that makes the cumin extra "smokey."

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