at last, great hummus (MLLA#24/Real Food)

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summary: recipes for hummus (based on a recipe in “Mediterranean Street Food” by Anissa Helou) and pita chips; information about My Legume Love Affair, Two For Tuesdays! (Real Food) and Yeast Spotting; (click on image to see larger views and more photos)

My Legume Love Affair #24

hummus Since January, I have been meaning and meaning to post about hummus. I absolutely adore hummus but until this year, we had never succeeded in making really good hummus. And then we got Anissa Helou’s really wonderful book “Mediterranean Street Food”.

Hommus is now part of the global menu, sold in most Western supermarkets neatly spooned into hygienic plastic tubs with trendy labels. But when hommus is sold on the streets in Syria, it is squeezed into plastic bags […]. Not perhaps the saftest way to package such a creamy concoction but an amusing one. – Anissa Helou, Mediterranean Street Food, p.68

Following that is a clear, easy to follow recipe. And our search for really good homemade hummus was over. This hummus is fabulous!!

It’s SO much better than any of the commercially purchased hummus we’ve tried. Not to mention that it’s much less expensive when made from scratch.

Our previous attempts really hadn’t been very successful. We’d used dried chickpeas that had stayed impossibly hard even after being boiled and boiled and boiled. And we’d used canned chickpeas but the resulting hummus was a little watery, soft, dull and just a little bit grainy.

However, we really couldn’t resist trying again, especially because there have been so many other recipes in Anissa Helou’s cookbook that have been really excellent: chickpea soup with harissa and croutons, sesame twisted rings, Moroccan-style chicken with preserved lemons and oil-cured olives, fuhl, za’tar, etc. etc.

We had already learned the following when making chickpea soup with harissa and croutons ( for MLLA #19):

If your chickpeas WON’T get soft no matter how many hours they are cooked, use a little baking soda in the soaking water!!

We have a tendency to play fast and loose with recipes, making automatic changes as we read. But in view of our less than thrilling hummus-making history, we decided we’d follow Anissa’s instructions to the letter. She wrote:

Sprinkle the raised edges and center with paprika, and trickle a little olive oil in the dip in between the whole peas. – Anissa Helou, Mediterranean Street Food, p.68

Our immediate question was “what whole peas?” But there is no earlier mention of setting some of the chickpeas aside before pureeing them. Is this what is intended? Are there supposed to be a few whole chickpeas in the bowl?

Obviously, we knew we could just go ahead and try the recipe without clarification but we thought we’d take a shot and ask Anissa.
anissa helou's hommus
Very soon afterward came her kind response.

Date: Mon, 18 Jan 2010 21:53:48 +0000
Subject: Re: hommos recipe in “Mediterranean Street Food”
From: Anissa Helou
[…] I guess it must be an editorial mistake. You could use whole chickpeas to garnish the hommus, usually piled in a mound in the middle but I don’t do this any longer. I just sprinkle paprika or Aleppo pepper and drizzle olive oil in the dip. Here is a picture of how it looks when I serve it. Enjoy.
Best, Anissa
Attachment Converted: C:\in_box\hommus.jpg

Of course, we had suspected all along that it was a typo but it was very handy to have it confirmed. And indeed, we have enjoyed the hummus. Tremendously. Many thanks again, Anissa.

In spite of saying that we were going to follow the recipe to the letter, I confess that we’ve strayed a little by caramelizing some extra garlic in olive oil to use as a garnish with the olive oil. Also, instead of paprika, we’ve sprinkled sumac on the hummus. And other times, we’ve omitted the sumac entirely and chopped some parsley to use as a garnish rather than sumac. When we didn’t have any parsley, we used coriander leaf. All ways are delicious – frankly, there is little flavour added by anything but the olive oil and caramelized garlic. The other things are more for looks (we think hummus is a little bit bland looking on its own).

The first few times that we made hummus, we served it with pita. Then one day, we didn’t have any of our pita in the freezer and didn’t feel like making any (gasp! how lazy!!) because we wanted to eat the hummus NOW. So we bought pita from the store. It looked like pretty good pita but not quite as good as ours. T had a brilliant idea for rescue. Turn it into pita chips!

The pita chips worked out so well that I chose to take chips rather than fresh pita triangles to a potluck one evening. Not surprisingly, virtually all the hummus and pita chips disappeared. As one of my friends tasted the hummus, she said with surprise, “Ooh!! This is better than mine. This is really good.” I asked her if she used canned chickpeas in hers. Her answer: “Yes”.

Case closed. Use dried chickpeas to make hummus!! It doesn’t really take that much longer AND it’s more economical. (If you don’t believe me, look at how much a tin of chickpeas costs as opposed to a bag of dried chickpeas that could make several tins of chickpeas.)

Hummus and Pita Chips hummus
Hummus . Pita Chips

based on the recipe for hommos in “Mediterranean Street Food” by Anissa Helou

  • 1 c dried chickpeas
  • water
  • baking soda
  • olive oil
  • good shot of garlic, sliced thinly
  • 1 additional clove garlic, chopped finely
  • 4 Tbsp tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • lemon juice from 2 lemons
  • sea salt, to taste
  • sumac, chopped fresh parsley or coriander leaf (optional)
  1. On the day before you are going to make hummus, sort (to remove stones and/or damaged bean) and wash the chickpeas well. Place them in a bowl large enough for them to triple. Add plenty of cold water and a pinch of baking soda – the beans will expand – add a little more water than you think is necessary. Cover the bowl and leave to soak overnight.
  2. The next day, remove any beans that are floating. Drain and rinse the beans. Discard the soaking water. Put the drained beans in a big pot and cover with fresh cold water. DO NOT ADD SALT. Bring to a boil. Immediately turn down to a low simmer. Cover, and simmer gently for about an hour – until the beans are tender. The outer husks will still be firm when the insides are soft. They are done when the insides of the beans are soft.
  3. In a skillet, heat some olive oil. Sauté garlic til it is just turning gold. Set aside.
  4. When the beans are tender, add salt. The salt stops the beans from getting much softer. Drain the beans but reserve the liquid. Use a food processor to purée the chickpeas. If they seem a bit dry, add a little of the cooking water. Gently stir in fresh lemon juice, tahini, and the finely chopped garlic.
  5. Spoon the chickpeas into a shallow bowl. Use the back of the spoon to make a moat. Drizzle with the caramelized garlic and olive oil. It’s very nice to have a generous amount of oil. Sprinkle with sumac, chopped fresh parsley or coriander leaf if you have them.

Serve at room temperature with pita or pita chips.

Pita Chips pita chips

  • pita
  • olive oil
  1. Cut the pita into triangles and put the triangles into a bowl.
  2. Pour some olive oil overtop and toss well to disperse the oil evenly.
  3. Spread the pita triangles out on a cookie sheet and bake at 325F til crisp and tinged with gold (10 minutes or so).

So the triangles remain crispy, allow them to cool completely before storing in a tin.


» To ensure that the chickpeas soften in the cooking, Anissa Helou suggests adding a bit of baking soda to the soaking water for the beans and then to rinse the beans well before cooking. However, Sally and Martin Stone in their book “The Brilliant Bean” say: “Do not add baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) to the cooking water as some cookbooks recommend. […] Baking soda can actually toughen beans – as does salt – if added to soaking or cooking water. It also destroys some valuable nutrients. […] Baking soda adds so much alkalinity to the water that it affects both flavor and nutrient content adversely. Cell wall hemicelluloses are more soluble in heavily alkaline water. The resulting loss of cell wall material allows nutrients to be leached out of the beans and escape in steam or when the soaking or cooking water is discarded.” We have found that with dried chickpeas, especially if they are older, the baking soda is essential.

» According to Sally and Martin Stone in “The Brilliant Bean”, most dried beans double in volume and weight after being soaked and cooked. Soybeans and chickpeas can triple.

“As a general rule, 1 cup (8oz) of dried beans increases to 2 to 2½ c (1 to 1¼ lb) of cooked beans. One cup of dried beans is usually enough to serve four as a side dish.”

… (1 lb = 453.6 gm)

Canned beans can be used but the result is not quite as pleasing. Drain and rinse canned beans first. The liquid in canned beans is often a bit stinky, murky, and oversalted.

» Anissa Helou suggests sprinkling the hummus with paprika or powdered aleppo pepper rather than sumac and caramelized garlic.

» Making pita chips out of stale or storebought pita will rescue the bread, making inferior pita completely palatable, if not downright delicious.


Oooooh, I just thought of something. I bet barbecue-baked pita turned into pita chips would be great. Hmmm, is it time for more hummus? Excuse me while I go to wash some chickpeas…. :-)

MLLA #24 to 30June2010My Legume Love Affair (MLLA)
Susan (The Well Seasoned Cook) created this event to celebrate and expand our legume repertoire:

Legumes are […] chock full of protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals, they are one of the natural wonders of the plant kingdom and a staple where meat, fish or dairy are scarce.

This month, Diana (A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa) is hosting MLLA. She wrote:

Your choice of recipes is very broad. […] All courses and cuisines (vegetarian/vegan/non-vegetarian) are welcome, as long as legumes are the dominant ingredient. (Please note: In France, vegetables of all sorts are known as légumes. They are not included in this event.)

The deadline for posting is 30 June 2010.

And yes, once again, there are two prizes being offered!! Random Drawings from the MLLA#24 post will be taken and the prizes will be:

  • Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Express: 404 inspired seasonal dishes you can make in 20 minutes or less (shipped worldwide)
  • Hurst Bean Box – A case of six bags of the winner’s choice of Hurst Bean products, suitable for every diet, donated by Hurst Bean. (Due to shipping restrictions, this prize can only be awarded if the winner is a U.S. resident.)

For complete details on how to participate in My Legume Love Affair, please read the following:

Two for Tuesdays - Eat Real Food


Two for Tuesdays!
Eat Real Food

This event was created by Alex (A Moderate Life) with the idea that each “Two for Tuesday” post would contain two things (two recipes, two links, two variations on a theme… as long as it’s about real food. Heather (girlichef), Beth (, and Michelle (Health Food Lover) have joined forces to co-host the event. Heather wrote:

REAL food is homemade. REAL food is from scratch. REAL food has recognizable ingredients. REAL food is made from traditional ingredients. REAL food is food you make with your own hands.

For complete details in how to participate in “Two for Tuesdays! (Real Food)” please read the following:

  • Alex (A Moderate Life): Two for Tuesday Recipe Blog Hop Volume 3
  • Beth ( Two for Tuesdays June 29
  • Heather (girlichef): Apricot jam w/ noyaux Tuesday, June 29, 2010
  • Michelle (Health Food Lover): Two For Tuesdays #3- June 29


Yeastspotting - every Friday ( image)

Each week, Susan (Wild Yeast) compiles a list of many bread-specific recipes from across the web. For complete details on how to be included in the YeastSpotting round up, please read the following:


previous Two for Tuesday (Real Food) post: asparagus and baby red onions
previous MLLA post: fuhl without favas
previous YeastSpotting post: you win some; you lose some (multigrain bread with oatmeal topping)


Please read more about “Mediterranean Street Food” and Anissa Helou:


7 responses to “at last, great hummus (MLLA#24/Real Food)

  1. girlichef

    Isn’t it funny what a difference cooking the chickpeas yourself can make!? Hummus is one of our favorite snacks-turn-meals around here! This sounds delicious…and how kind of Anissa to take the time to write you back….love that! Thanks so much for sharing it with Two for Tuesdays this week :).

  2. Baking Soda

    I love hummus! Never had any success in soaking dried beans though, not able to get them tender. (seriously! lacking skills in the dried beans dept.. how dorky can I be?). I’ve been making hummus with canned chickpeas and getting rid of the skins by softly squishing the peas with your fingers in a bowl of fresh water, the skins separate and come to the surface ready to scoop out, resulting in a more tender hummus. (Hmm now that I think of it maybe one looses some valuable nutrients by doing that?)

  3. Bethany

    This hummus sounds so yummy! I always use dried beans and can only get them soft enough if I add baking soda to the water. I found your info on baking soda and nutrient loss really interesting, but since it works I’ll probably keep doing it ;) The book about Mediterranean street food sounds so fun and super interesting – I’m gonna be looking that one up. Thanks for sharing this great post with us at Two for Tuesday!

  4. Joanne

    I’ve been looking for a really good hummus recipe! Still haven’t found one that I love yet but this might just be it! It looks like the perfect texture and has a wonderfully large amount of tahini!

  5. ejm Post author

    We were thinking the same thing, Christy. So we made some to have for breakfast this morning. And it was delicious!

    Yes, Heather, we were absolutely thrilled to get a reply from Anissa.

    Karen, if you soak the dried beans overnight with a bit of baking soda, they get beautifully soft. There’s no need to pull off the skins. (That sounds like way too much work!) :stomp:

    Bethany, we’re not overly concerned about the nutrient loss. It’s GOT to be better to make hummus from dried beans that have soaked in a bit of baking soda than it is to use canned chickpeas that have been boiled for so long they’ve turned to mush.

    Joanne, Anissa uses even more tahini in her recipe. And I think it’s the extra tahini that makes this hummus so wonderfully smooth.



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