Dreamy-Smooth Hummus From a Kitchen Oops

How Hetty McKinnon turned a kitchen mistake into a Genius recipe.

October 21, 2020

Every week in Genius Recipes—often with your help!—Food52 Creative Director and lifelong Genius-hunter Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that will change the way you cook.

What if every time we fumbled in the kitchen—a teaspoon for a tablespoon, baking powder for soda, a splash of vanilla for a whole tumbling bottle—could not only work, but also make something new and genius?

In a Murphy’s Law kind of way, it can’t. But every so often our bravery and curiosity and, yes, absent-mindedness can pay off, much like it did for cookbook author, podcast host, and journal editor Hetty McKinnon one night while she was off the clock.


“Sometimes I can be a pretty lazy cook, like when I’m cooking for my family,” Hetty told me as I interviewed her for the latest episode of our new podcast, The Genius Recipe Tapes. One night, hustling to make dinner for her family, she said, “I basically opened a can of chickpeas and I thought I had drained them…I hadn’t and I just tipped the whole thing into my Vitamix blender and then I thought: Oh no, what have I done?”

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Top Comment:
“If you use two cans of chickpeas, drain one and use the liquid from the other can, add tahini, garlic, lemon juice, spices of choice, and blend in olive oil as needed. ”
— diana.

But rather than starting over, or fishing out and drying every pea, she decided to press on. She credits this bold move both to that self-professed laziness—and optimism that the extra chickpea liquid could simply replace the other liquids that she’d normally add, like water and olive oil.

“And, as I started whipping this thing, it started getting really big—much bigger than I normally get when I have hummus,” Hetty continued. “Normally you have to really work for that really smooth texture.”

more genius...for your ears

She realized that the chickpea liquid had taken off its stuffy tie and jacket (“drain and rinse the chickpeas,” said every pre-2016 recipe) and put on its sequined aquafaba! costume, as the substance had been formally named that year—from the Latin bean (faba) and water (aqua)—before blooming into hordes of vegan meringues and foamy cocktails across the internet. (1)

The inner workings of aquafaba are still somewhat murky and under investigation, but the starches and proteins released by soaking and cooking chickpeas do a bang-up job of whipping frothily like egg whites, capturing air that hummus recipes ordinarily wouldn’t.

A Vitamix, Ninja, or other high-powered blender seems to be the equipment best suited for inflating aquafaba, and some brands of chickpeas have less concentrated aquafaba than others (2). But I’ve found that if you start with a modest, not-entirely-brave quarter-cup of the liquid, then add more as needed, you can harness the wonders of aquafaba, no matter what beans and tools you’ve got.

Or you can be bold like Hetty, upend the can, and play with whatever happens next.

(1) Especially in one very active Facebook Group, Aquafaba (Vegan Meringue - Hits and Misses!), who we have to thank for stress-testing the powers of this wonder egg replacer that nearly every recipe had until 2016 told us to pour down the sink.

(2) For example, Westbrae Natural is practically water while Whole Foods 365 brand is good and gloopy—do you have a favorite aquafaba source I should know about?

Got a genius recipe to share—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Perhaps something perfect for beginners? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].

This post contains products independently chosen (and loved) by our editors and writers. As an Amazon Associate, Food52 earns an affiliate commission on qualifying purchases of the products we link to.
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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • diana.
  • Lilly
  • Joyce weatherly
    Joyce weatherly
  • Regine
  • claire boudov
    claire boudov
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."


diana. November 24, 2021
This is interesting to me. I'm an old school vegetarian who has been using the aquafaba for forty years or so. We just didn't have a name for it. If you use two cans of chickpeas, drain one and use the liquid from the other can, add tahini, garlic, lemon juice, spices of choice, and blend in olive oil as needed.
Lilly October 25, 2020
October 25, 2020
...just made this today and I added a bit of cumin and a touch of paprika. I’ve been trying to make great hummus for many years. No matter what I did, I could never get it smooth. Today I found my dream hummus recipe. It is light, smooth and so creamy and I can’t stop eating it. Big virtual hugs to all involved for sharing it.
Kristen M. October 29, 2020
Lilly, I'm so happy to hear this.
Joyce W. October 25, 2020
Genius for sure! Delicious and so fast! I added a splash of fish sauce and sir ha ha. It was a hit and not oily.
Kristen M. October 29, 2020
Regine October 22, 2020
The texture was perfect, but I found the aquafaba instead of water affects the taste, making it less "clean". Also, a central ingredient was omitted: cumin powder. And finally, I discovered that for a lemonier taste without too much acidity, lemon zest (from an organic lemon) does a lovely job. Not traditional, but delicious.
Kristen M. October 29, 2020
Thanks for trying it and reporting back, Regine!
Regine October 29, 2020
Thank YOU, Kristen, for the great videos and recipes!
claire B. October 22, 2020
your daughter looks like a leftie, and as all of us lefties know, it's sign of intelligence

Kristen M. October 29, 2020
:) we'll see which hand wins out! Still unclear.
Michelle A. October 22, 2020
The “till death do us part” bit had me LOLing. This recipe looks yummy tho, will defo be giving this a try.
Kristen M. October 29, 2020
Suzanne R. October 22, 2020
How would I mimic this using dried chickpeas?
Michelle A. October 22, 2020
I’d say by saving the cooking liquid.
Suzanne R. October 22, 2020
Hmm except I've added cooking liquid before, and it doesn't make it fluffy. I did a little research on homemade aquafaba, one strategy is to allow the chickpeas + cooking liquid to cool, which will give the chickpeas time to release even more proteins into the water. You can then reduce the remaining liquid further for a more viscous aquafaba.
Michelle A. October 22, 2020
Good point, but don’t you always make hummus with cooled (room temp) chickpeas and aquafaba?
Suzanne R. October 22, 2020
No, I generally throw the chickpeas into the food processor still warm. I've never seen a recipe that requires you to cool them to room temp before processing; some recommend processing them while still hot.
Michelle A. October 22, 2020
Ok. I’ve only ever made them with canned chickpeas, so it’s always room temp. Plus whenever I’ve had hummus in a restaurant it’s always been room temp. They might have it cool down after preparing it, or perhaps some cooks do cool the chickpeas down.

With regards to your comment about having used aquafaba before; in her recipe she specifically mentions a 150ml aquafaba to 260g chickpea ratio - maybe that is key? Perhaps you added to much or too little previously?
seekr October 22, 2020
Isn't that the liquid the gassiest part of the chickpeas?
Michelle A. October 22, 2020
I personally only find that pulses make me gassy when I haven’t soaked them.
Kristen M. October 29, 2020
That I'm not sure about, relative to the beans themselves, but a lot of people have become quite devoted to the stuff (100,000+ in one online group alone), so it can't be causing too much trouble.
orit R. October 21, 2020
Have to say that I use a can ONLY if no time to soak (and sprout if really motivated). Even when I use canned ones, I cook it with half an onion and cumin. Kitchen smells amazing and chickpeas are soft. Try it! I use at least 2 cans as most likely some will be scooped out and eaten as is with some olive oil, salt pepper and cumin
Kristen M. October 29, 2020
Sounds delicious, orit R.
kmkane123 October 21, 2020
Who peels chick peas?
AlwaysLookin October 22, 2020
It takes about 8 minutes for two cans ...
Regine October 22, 2020
I used to. The hommos was much creamier. At the time I just had a food processor. I discovered that instead of peeling, if you have a food processor, you can just cook chickpeas longer until the lose their shape and start turning mushy (with the help of baking soda). With a Vitamix or a similar device, if you give it time, the texture will be very creamy without the trouble of re-cooking your canned chickpeas.
Kristen M. October 29, 2020
Not Hetty! But some people swear by it, and I could see myself getting lost in it, if I still had the time.
erunuevo October 21, 2020
I've been doing this for years! It makes the hummus so creamy. I usually use dry beans and use that cooking liquid, but the canned liquid is usually thicker
Kristen M. October 29, 2020
Great minds!
AlwaysLookin October 21, 2020
I'll give it a try ... BUT, have you ever noticed the rancid fragrance coming from the sink drain as you pour out the liquid in a can of Chickpeas? I mean really, and I'm going to eat that?
Regine October 22, 2020
If the can is BPA coated, this might actually be unhealthy.
Anne J. October 27, 2020
I don’t think all these glutinous, protein packed liquids are meant to go down the sink drain. For example milk should not be poured down the drain. I don’t have the rationale but it wreaks havoc on your drains and the main drains, like those big fat floes which were in the news floating in cities’ sewers, they had to be carved up and removed. Caused by fats, baby wipes etc and other things which do not below in the drains. I’m fortunate because I have a garden and those liquids end up in my shrubs and other areas like lawns. We are meant to wash cars on the lawn to help filter the poisons from the car dust etc from getting into the waterways unprocessed by bacteria etc. That’s why using a car wash is more environmentally sound as they recycle and treat the water used.
Very off topic in its way but flinging all this “stuff” down the drains will come back to bite us.
Kristen M. October 29, 2020
AlwaysLookin, I hear you that aquafaba isn't inherently the most delicious-seeming ingredient, which made the amazing cooking discoveries with it since 2016 all the more exciting. The group I mentioned above has over 100,000 members devoted to experimenting with (and eating) it!
AlwaysLookin October 30, 2020
Ok Kristen, Saturday it is, I'm trying the Aquafaba!!!
Mary Z. October 21, 2020
Your daughter is so beautiful & precious!! Resembles Mommy :)
Kristen M. October 29, 2020
Thank you, Mary :)