How to Make Hummus Without a Recipe

January 12, 2015

Here at Food52, we love recipes -- but do we always use them? Of course not. Because once you realize you don't always need a recipe, you'll make your favorite dishes a lot more often.

Today: All you need to turn a can of chickpeas into the most versatile dip around is a food processor and a little creativity (and some good olive oil won't hurt, either).

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Oh, hummus. It should be the perfect food. It’s economical, it's safe for even your crazy vegan friend with an endless list of food allergies, and it's good for sharing. But it can go very, very wrong.  

Take a look at the hummus wall at most supermarkets and you’ll see that there are more varieties than there are gum flavors. But -- just like that strawberry cheesecake gum -- the crazy flavors of hummus often taste even worse than they sound. Pumpkin pie hummus? I know hummus and pumpkin pie filling have a similar consistency, but that doesn’t mean they should be mixed together. 

More: Say goodbye to tubs of hummus forever.

The real problem is that hummus has become the generic term for some sort of bean dip which, at its worst, is a vehicle for beans, oil, and stale spices. But use good beans, quality olive oil, and some fresh spices, and you can redeem hummus from its sad supermarket state. You can still have fun with flavors, adding in roasted carrots or smoked paprika, but the results will be much better. Since hummus is loaded with healthy beans and olive oil, you'll still have room for that slice of pie afterwards -- just don’t eat it on the same plate.  


Here's how to make it:

1. Choose your flavor. I like to evaluate my fridge and pantry to see what needs to be used up. I might find a half-used jar of pesto or a spice blend and decide to mix it in. If you're not a huge fan of chickpeas -- or you're tired of classic hummus -- you can replace up to half the quantity with roasted vegetables. I’ve found that starchier veggies like sweet potatoes, beets, or carrots (pictured here), work best. Chop carrots or sweet potatoes, toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roast in a hot oven, between 375° and 425° F, until soft and caramelized. For the beets, wrap them in aluminum foil and roast until tender, 35 to 50 minutes. Peel the beets once they're cool, then give them a rough chop.


2. Bust out your food processor. To make good hummus, you’ll need to purée the mixture until it is super smooth. Chickpea mash can be tasty, but that’s not what we’re going for here.  


3. Combine everything. Dump around 2 cups of chickpeas (or, if you’re going the vegetable route, 1 cup chickpeas and 1 cup roasted vegetables), around 1/4 cup of olive oil, a few dollops of tahini, the juice of a lemon, a chopped garlic clove, and a large pinch of salt into the bowl. Add spices, like smoked paprika (shown here), za'atar, or cumin.


4. Blend it. The mixture will come together fairly quickly, but let the machine keep running. Depending on your food processor, this can take between 1 and 4 minutes. Once the hummus is silky smooth with no visible chunks, taste it. Bland? Add more seasoning and salt. Flat? Add some more lemon juice and olive oil.  



5. Make it last. Hummus is the queen of versatility. Spread it on sandwiches, eat it with pita chips as a snack, or dollop it on your salad. You can’t really go wrong -- just keep it away from your dessert. 

What ingredients do you use to make your hummus into something special? Share with us in the comments below!

Photos by Mark Weinberg

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Bjorn van der Harst
    Bjorn van der Harst
  • Marie Jacobson
    Marie Jacobson
  • Picholine
  • Donna Hayes
    Donna Hayes
  • bas26
Hillary Pollak

Written by: Hillary Pollak


Bjorn V. September 15, 2017
I really want to start dissecting recipes like this into ingredients by category: Salty, sweet, umame, acidic, bitter, etc.
I love substituting miso for tahini. Has anyone tried using anchovies?
Marie J. April 23, 2017
I added fresh ground black pepper, coarse salt, and garlic stuffed olives - perfect!
Picholine September 16, 2016
After making my Hummus recipe, love to serve the dish with olive oil drizzled on top of some whole chickpeas and some smokey paprika sprinkled on top for color. I just tear some pita bread and place around the dish. I'm sure most of you do that.
Donna H. September 10, 2016
Freshest EVOO - preserved lemons, and a healthy splash of chipotle infused EVOO. Fantastic
bas26 September 6, 2016
Adding pimento sounds great--wish I'd thought about that before. I usually use 1 very large meyer lemon (about 1/4 cup) but find that it could use more. Sometimes, I add a whole head of roasted garlic.
Pat August 4, 2015
I've been making roasted red pepper hummus, using Mancini roasted peppers in the jar (one small jar or half of the larger jar) to 2 cup of chick peas. And I start by blending the tahini into the lemon juice, adding the olive oil, minced garlic, and seasonings (cumin, a pinch of sea salt, a pinch of red pepper flakes, and pimenton) in a measuring cup, then adding the mixture to the food processor. After the chick peas have been thoroughly processed, add the roasted red pepper pieces and pulse until coarsely blended.
gail January 19, 2015
Don't see why a vegan friend with an endless list of food allergies has to be listed as "crazy." After all, not everyone is blessed with your perfect genes and carnivorous appetite. I'm neither a vegan nor afflicted with food allergies, but don't see why a perfectly good article has to start out with making fun of others not in a position to defend themselves, kind of like in elementary school.
Georgia J. January 19, 2015
I make my own savory pumpkin hummus and have shared my recipe with many. It's available on Spark and All Recipes. Gets rave reviews and requests all the time. I've been making my own hummus for years and have come up with many other favorite recipes like my guacamole hummus and recently made a beet hummus. It's fun to experiment with this stuff!
Kore W. January 17, 2015
You know, putting down pumpkin and then adding carrots was not well thought out. They substitute for each other quite well in many recipes :)
Max S. January 14, 2015
I agree with burns Wattie; I'm more of a purist, I guess. Adding half veggies, it would cease to be hummus and then become hummus-like veggie dip ;) lol.

I've been telling my budget-conscious family and friends this for years. Homemade hummus is much better -- taste-wise, quality-wise, and budget-wise! Unless you're buying it on-sale and with double (or triple?!) coupons, it's a waste to buy it in a tub.
MRubenzahl January 14, 2015
True. Every week, I walk past the hummus guy at the Farmer's Market who offers a sample, saying his is the best hummus. "No," I think. "Mine's better."

Homemade is awesome.
Kate's K. January 14, 2015
Rolled and rubbed the chickpeas around in a clean dish towel to remove a lot of the skins before pulverizing in food processor. It was a bit of a time consuming step but made a lot of difference in how smooth and creamy the final product was. Started with dried chickpeas, soaked overnight, brought them to a slow boil and simmered a while. Drained and rinsed well, rolled them around inside dish towel to remove skins, put in food processor, added lemon juice, tahini, extra virgin olive oil and salt. At the last minute I added some Harissa to taste - delicious!
Halli January 14, 2015
I found a trick online for between soaking and cooking the chickpeas, to basically dissolve the skins, is to stir the soaked and drained chickpeas in a pan with 1 tsp baking soda (per ~1 1/4 cup dry chickpeas) on high/medium-high heat, then add water and cook until soft.
Archena January 14, 2015
I love to spice up my hummus with cloves and a little cayenne my friends also love this
burns W. January 14, 2015
I love the variations too. But when does humous cease to humous, and becomes a great DIP? ITs like pesto. If you take out the basil and garlic, is it still pesto? I really like all the great ideas about you can do with it, but for me, humous is defined in terms of chickpeas, garlic, tahini, salt, lemon, olive oil. I'll call the other inspirations something else.
abbyarnold January 14, 2015
Canned chickpeas just taste like metal to me. I soak and cook them from good dried beans. Makes a huge difference!
Carolyn S. January 14, 2015
I think hummus is best made plain and then topped with something fresh to enhance the flavor. I worked in a Lebanese restaurant all through college where they made the hummus daily using only chickpeas, olive oil, garlic, and lemon salt. Anything else to enhance flavor, like hot sauce, was thrown on top after it was plated. Perfection.
Carolyn S. January 14, 2015
Oh and obviously tahini :)
dietjessg January 14, 2015
Why keep hummus away from dessert?!?! I've been experimenting with cocoa-infused hummus.
Cilantro &. January 12, 2015
No surprise here, but I like adding sriracha, lime zest and cilantro to my hummus.
Dina M. January 12, 2015
parsley+lemon. a little olive oil and coarse sea salt floating on top. or on a toasted bagel.
MRubenzahl January 12, 2015
Love it! I make hummus every week. One important trick, which came from Cook's Illustrated: Microwave the chickpeas for 60-90 seconds before you process them (by themselves). The heat softens the skins, for a much smoother product. I put a can of chickpeas in a microwave-safe container and wave for 90 secs, process and add water and lemon juice, then process for a full two minutes, then add other ingredients. Oil is drizzled in at the end, to keep the emulsion going (not unlike making mayonnaise).