Zahav's Hummus Recipe is Genius—for Even More Reasons Than Everyone Says

March 23, 2016

There's been a whole lot of talk about Zahav's hummus lately—ascribing to it the texture of buttercream, the phrase revelatory heights, and being both the creamiest and the dreamiest. Bon Appétit named it their 2015 dish of the year. In Phyllis Grant's recent Piglet judgement, she wrote that the first chapter alone, with its seven types of hummus, should win a James Beard Award.

But in all of these heaps of accolades, no one has said boo about the craziest and most genius part. Wait till you see it!

The genius of this hummus is credited to all sorts of smart maneuvers in Chef Michael Solomonov's process: soaking the chickpeas in baking soda to raise the pH and soften their skins, his respect for the finest tahini to drive the flavor (he likes Soom Foods), intentionally overcooking the chickpeas until they're just shy of total mush, then whipping them longer than you think you should, till the hummus practically floats.

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All of these details make the hummus what it is: an unearthly cloud, with a haunting, smoky, nutty pulse. "Making Hummus Tehina is one of the hardest things we do at Zahav," Solomonov wrote to me. "Without just the right technique, it just doesn’t work."

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Top Comment:
“When I make my Hummus I was taught 1) soak the chickpeas for 24 hours. 2) cook the for 8 hours, that is how the hummus becomes fluffy. 3) add lemon juice, water, garlic to taste, salt and pepper, and 4) very important only a little tahini - after all if you want Tahini eat tahini. 5)Process 6) olive oil pour over the top if you want blend olive oil with parsley, garlic hot fresh pepper. And I thank the woman who won Israel masterchef and shared her recipe! 4) olive oil is poured over the top. ”
— Beth A.

But there's one more fascinating step that I'm stunned no one has zeroed in on, that has perhaps the biggest effect on the hummus' nuanced flavor. It was so strange that I had to re-read it a few times. Break up the head of garlic with your hands, letting the unpeeled cloves fall into a blender. Come again?

Yes, you drop whole unpeeled cloves of garlic, papery skins and all, into the blender (or food processor), then mulch it all up with lemon juice and salt. It's an unsettling mixture to think about, filled with inedible debris—until you learn that it's just steeping for 10 minutes, then all getting strained away.

What this means, aside from the fact that you don't have to peel anything, is that you're not adding mashed garlic—fiery, unhinged, very perishable garlic—directly into the hummus, which would usually mean that it would taste precipitously worse and less fresh, the longer it sits in the fridge. (I'd give your average hummus 3 days, tops.)

You're instead adding garlic-infused lemon juice, which makes for a much more gently garlicky, and therefore more fridge-stable, hummus. Solomonov would probably want me to point out, as he writes in Zahav, “Please note that great hummus is never refrigerated,” but we can't all be a hummusiya (though if you want to visit one, his New York City outpost of Dizengoff is opening in Chelsea Market next week).

Just eat whatever you can, then let any lingering in the fridge come down to room temp and it will be pretty darn great. (Also creamy, dreamy, revelatory, buttercream-esque, and so forth.)

Got a genius recipe to share—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected]. Thank you to Emily Stephenson and Lukas Volger for this one!

Photos by Bobbi Lin

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Beth Arnstein
    Beth Arnstein
  • Noha Forster
    Noha Forster
  • roxanne karr
    roxanne karr
  • cosmiccook
  • lemons
I'm an ex-economist, lifelong-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007, before returning to the land of Dutch Crunch bread and tri-tip barbecues in 2020. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."


Beth A. June 18, 2017
When I make my Hummus I was taught 1) soak the chickpeas for 24 hours. 2) cook the for 8 hours, that is how the hummus becomes fluffy.
3) add lemon juice, water, garlic to taste, salt and pepper, and
4) very important only a little tahini - after all if you want Tahini eat tahini.
6) olive oil pour over the top if you want blend olive oil with parsley, garlic hot fresh pepper.
And I thank the woman who won Israel masterchef and shared her recipe!
4) olive oil is poured over the top.
Noha F. June 18, 2017
Exactly, Beth! That is the authentic Arab hummus. Any additions take us into the realm of "fusion".
cindy June 11, 2018
Can you possibly give me more information on amounts (Chickpeas) and when you cook them for 8 hours is that on the stove top?
Noha F. June 18, 2017
I have been making and eating hummus for more than 30 years. Unless we are trying to kill its essence off (in which case, we should call it something else), I'd stay away from this recipe, which yielded a lifeless flavor after a lot of extra steps. The hummus made by centuries of Palestinian, Lebanese and Syrian cooks traditionally uses soaked chickpeas (not canned, which is a recent notion), a moderate amount of tahini, fresh lemon juice, salt, and garlic. If you don't taste the garlic, people will comment. Individual tastes can then take it up a notch.
roxanne K. June 15, 2017
Wow! It's just good to know their are other hummus fiends like myself 'out there'. Couldn't live without it. Primary staple.
cosmiccook June 15, 2017
I tried this recipe but didn't use the tahini recommended but still a good one. This recipe was disappointing. Garlic flavor lacking. I do like the lemon flavor. Despite cooking my chickpeas longer I still didn't get the light and fluffy texture promised. Lacking the garlic zing I happen to love.
I suspect the light and fluffy comes from the MACHINE they use to make it in. I use this method cooking my own peas--
Maybe I'll be able to get Alon Shaya to divulge his method/recipe!
lemons January 20, 2017
Re raw garlic being pungent and burning - I've found that removing the green sprout in the center of any garlic where it's started to grow helps a great deal with that.
KB January 20, 2017
I find that RAW garlic in the hummus makes it PUNGENT, burning my throat and tongue. ANY SUGGESTION to avoid that?
Jane R. January 20, 2017
Did you read the recipe? The garlic is handled very differently in this recipe.
KB January 20, 2017
Of course, YES. I just wonder what difference will it make to the potent pungency of garlic. Anyway, I will update after trying it out as written.
Jane R. January 20, 2017
I guess I meant did you read the write up before the menu, they discuss that the flavor of the garlic is tamed in this recipe. The acid in the lemon juice "cooks" the garlic, making the taste softer. But also, the garlic doesn't go into the hummus... it is strained out of the lemon juice.
KB January 21, 2017
That's something new I have not heard of. Can't wait to make the hummus.
thomas C. September 24, 2018
Sauté it a bit first, it's what I do for pesto, works
Rachel January 20, 2017
The blade on the Cuisinart has been recalled (ones with the 4 rivets, even very old ones). Please contact Cuisinart to get a replacement.
KB January 20, 2017
Ha, I was about to add that piece of info on the recall, too. But since you did it, it would be repetitive. Good eyes for detail!
Rachel January 20, 2017
radhaks November 26, 2017
Thank you Rachel!! I've had my cuisinart for close to 25 yrs and use it constantly - heavily during the holidays, but NEVER saw that recall. Just confirmed that my machine requires a new blade, so THANK YOU!!!! Happy Holidays!
GsR January 11, 2017
One can get humans on any street corner anywhere in Israel
KellyBcooks January 11, 2017
I'm a big fan of hummus and usually use Tamimi/Ottolenghi's recipe (which I adore), but thought to try a new recipe for kicks... which was most disappointing. At first I was thinking it was just me, but I see a lot of others share in my disappointment. Love trying a new Tahini and am glad I bought this kind (smooth, not stirring), but it was too overwhelming of a tahini flavor in the recipe, too much lemon, I don't particularly like the cumin flavor and was sad to see the lack of garlic-zing. oh, and the chickpeas cook down waaaay too much. They were all over the lid of my pot, sides, stovetop, and down my drain (not sure my septic tank is happy about that). Not my favorite technique or recipe. I'll stick to my norm.
Julie-Anne November 28, 2016
I have to say, I agree with others that this was overwhelmingly tahini-esque. After all the soaking and cooking of dried chickpeas, it was frustrating to find myself opening a can of chickpeas, peeling a handful, and whirring them in at the end with some extra salt and cumin just to tone down the tahini. Then it was better, but very whipped and very mild. I probably won't make this recipe again (unless I cut the tahini in half and up the garlic) but it had interesting ideas and the texture was intriguing.
Nadine B. November 10, 2016
Cooking the chickpeas with the baking soda until almost falling apart and beating it for a longer period definitely created an interesting texture, but for me I found it almost too light and lacking in flavour. It had no 'zip'. That being said, my 5-year old who is so-so with hummus loved it, probably enjoying the mellower flavour. Because of that, it also makes it the perfect vehicle for toppings. We topped with fried chickpeas dusted in cayenne and smoky paprika, some fresh chopped parsley and a healthy drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil with a big pinch of Maldon sea salt. Delicious.
shiny July 2, 2016
I made this today with red lentils rather than chickpeas (had no chickpeas on hand and lentils cook much faster. I overcooked them as well as per the recipe.) It's fluffy and creamy all right, which makes me suspect all the steps involving soaking and cooking the dried chickpeas are not the secret to the creamy texture of this recipe.

I'm not hummus expert, but this recipe has a few significant differences from others that I've tried: waaaay more tahini, straining out the garlic, way more lemon juice, added water, no olive oil in the recipe itself.

I suspect the creamy/fluffy aspect is from the huge amount of tahini along with all the liquids that are added (1/4c water, 1/3c lemon juice) and the fact that the liquids and heavy paste are whipped for a long time.

This hummus was good, but the tahini flavour is overwhelming. It overpowers the lemon and garlic. Next time I make this I think I'll reduce the tahini and increase the number of garlic cloves and perhaps increase the lemon juice a bit. It will likely change the texture, but we'll see.
Wholefoodie February 10, 2021
I think that added oil is not needed in this recipe because blending sesame seeds releases oils so tahini already has a high oil content. Tahini generally separates in the container with the oil sitting on top and has to be stirred. Though Solomonovs preferred brand, soom, seems to have solved this problem. I love tahini and make my own tahini based salad dressings. I use other nuts and seeds also, but tahini is my favorite. I don't use oil in my dressings.
stan May 26, 2016
If you want to make great hummus....try this....don't use salt...use cured olives....I use green, but dark like cala or greek oil cured work too....use a little lemon zest with the lemon juice.....try a pinch of fresh rosemary......if you don't like the "bite" of the garlic..but still want the flavor....lower the cloves (cut in 1/2), using a slotted spoon, into hot water for 10 to 15 seconds, and cool quickly on ice to stop the cooking process....(same thing works wonders with onions)
Fred R. May 26, 2016

Now, using olives IS genus. I don't add salt, but my daughter works for a company that imports Greek and French oil cured olives, so my olive choices are unlimited. And, rosemary grows around our official geezer community in Tucson like a weed. Thanks.
stan May 23, 2016
This is disgusting....there would be mostly tahini flavor, not chickpeas.....the garlic skins mean nothing, just use a little less garlic.....and there's too much lemon juice....and .too much tahini....."genius"? What a crock of shit....I have cooked at some of the best restaurants in NY and LA...and have never seen this level of crap served anywhere decent.....this is the equivelant to making spaghetti sauce out of ketchup
Dorsey M. May 24, 2016
Here... have a Snickers.
warre May 26, 2016
Jane R. January 20, 2017
I haven't made this, but I ate it at the restaurant in Philly and it was the most delicious hummus I have ever had... and have been eating hummus for 50 plus years.
Fred R. May 19, 2016
Daniel, ordering "special ingredients" is something a good cook looks forward to....poor baby.
Daniel A. May 18, 2016
Not so genius.
It was good but personally, I feel it was more work than it's worth, especially considering I had to order special ingredients.
I_Fortuna May 18, 2016
I am not sure what "special ingredients" you are referring to. These are all ingredients available at the local grocery store and, in fact, they are all ingredients I usually have on hand. We live in a small town and all these ingredients can be found at the local WM. They even have prepackaged hummus if you would rather. : )
James F. May 10, 2016
I like this recipe (and a lot more from the cookbook). Even though I like the Jerusalem cookbook (and the Plenty books), I've never gotten the popularity if their hummus recipe. It always turns out like cement for me!
I_Fortuna May 11, 2016
Then do you dilute it with water or what is your solution for cement hummus?
James F. May 11, 2016
I do but WAY more than the recipe calls for and still gets cement like as it cools. Zahav recipe no prob.
I_Fortuna May 11, 2016
I am confused, do you cook your hummus or just the chickpeas? I never have any problem . I cook the beans let them cool, then add lemon, salt, and some a little water, and tahini. I don't use a recipe though. I top it with sumac. Sometimes, I use canned and it always comes out great. However, I am glad you have found a recipe you like. : )
James F. May 11, 2016
I follow the recipe exactly as it is in the book. It just comes out really thick.
NuMystic May 30, 2019
What you're describing is actually explained in Solomnov's book! A fluffy hummus recipe like this is an emulsion and like all emulsions it can seize, especially after being chilled. If that happens you just have to gently whisk in a few tablespoons of cold water at a time until it becomes a fluffy emulsion again.
Karl R. April 14, 2016
Excited to try this!

Anyone have comments on how this compares to the other genius hummus recipe?

They seem to share at least one key: lot's of tahini, skip the oil.
I_Fortuna April 13, 2016
Too much garlic and where is the sumac and onions. I always serve my hummus with blanched onions marinated in vinegar and slivered beets for color and flavor.
Wholefoodie February 10, 2021
Interesting recipe. I love the idea of adding onions and beets. Where did you learn this recipe?
HDeffenbaugh April 13, 2016
So simple and so creamy. A definite crowd pleaser where everyone is asking for the recipe.