How often do you see recipes for “quick and easy” hummus? It’s true, the steps are simple. Cook chickpeas, puree them with tahini, garlic, lemon juice, and salt. Thin with water to reach the desired consistency, season to taste. Easy right? Yes…but…it still drives me crazy sometimes.
There are a few variables that fell into the cracks. How many different brands of chickpeas are there? They behave differently. How much did they break down when cooked? What about the consistency of the tahini? This will determine how much water gets added at the end. Desired consistency? It changes when the hummus is refrigerated. Season to taste? the flavours also mellow.
I’d like to share a few tips that I dug out of the cracks and that are key to achieving consistently delicious results.
1. Properly cooked chickpeas – The chickpeas need to be mushy…mushier than you would cook them for anything else. In this state they’ve absorbed enough water and can be pureed initially before other ingredients are added. The images in the top right (below) show the chickpeas at different states – dried, soaked, and cooked. Adding baking soda to the soaking and/or cooking water helps them break down faster.
2. The initial puree – Ideally you can achieve a pureed consistency before adding more water. Getting it to this state is the most important step to perfectly smooth hummus, if that’s what you’re after. It also helps if they are warm. The image of the pureed chickpeas below is the ideal consistency to start with before adding water. If this isn’t working out (and sometimes it doesn’t) add water, little by little until you can make a puree.
3. The other ingredients – I totally appreciate the creative takes and variations that people often share, but I often see recipes calling for olive oil in the hummus. In my opinion that messes with the flavour. A good extra-virgin olive oil is best reserved as a garnish, as is the cumin. Except for the additional water, it doesn’t really matter if the other ingredients are added initially with the chickpeas, but I prefer to do that as a second step after the initial puree to better monitor the texture.
4. Adjusting the texture – The biggest thing here is that the hummus needs more liquid than you think, as it does get quite a bit denser once refrigerated – see bottom left images for initial vs. refrigerated texture. The quantity of water added can range dramatically, based on chickpea and tahini brands, and initial cooking water absorption. This is one thing that shouldn’t be strictly followed from a recipe, it’s almost never consistent and keen observation is way more important.
5. Adjusting the seasoning – Like anything else we cook, tasting and adjusting is important in achieving balanced flavours. The important thing to remember here is that the flavours mellow once the hummus is refrigerated, so if it tastes just right, I add another pinch of salt and squeeze of lemon juice. This subjective art takes a bit of practice but the results are worth it.
- 1 cup dried chickpeas
- 1 tsp baking soda
- water for cooking (reserve for thinning)
- 1 cup tahini
- 1 large clove of garlic, chopped
- 1/2 cup lemon juice
- 3/4 tsp salt
- extra-virgin olive oil (garnish, optional)
- cumin (garnish, optional)
- olives (garnish, optional)
- Soak chickpeas in water overnight, or at least 8 hours.
- In a medium pot, cover chickpeas with water by at least an inch, add baking soda. Bring to a boil over high heat, and lower heat to medium-low to simmer until starting to break down and mushy, about 1 hour. Add more water if needed.
- Drain and reserve cooking water. Transfer chickpeas to a food processor and puree until smooth. If this isn’t working out, add reserved water, a teaspoon at a time, until smooth.
- Add remaining ingredients and continue to puree.
- Continuing to puree, add more of the cooking water, a little at a time, to adjust consistency (see tip #4 above – important!).
- Adjust lemon juice and salt if necessary.