Let Them Eat Hummus

July 12, 2012

Gena Hamshaw of the blog Choosing Raw eats a mostly raw, vegan diet without losing time, money, or her sanity. Let her show you how to make "rabbit food" taste delicious and satisfying every other Thursday on Food52.

Today: all about hummus, the perfect food for vegans and the busy alike. Gena's got us covered with pro tips on making the most of your chickpeas, plus a recipe for Sweet Pea Hummus.

When was the last time you made your own hummus?

Shop the Story

Maybe it was yesterday. Maybe it was an hour ago. But I’m asking because, no matter how popular is the marriage of chickpeas and tahini, a great many hummus lovers still resist making their own hummus from scratch. And they shouldn’t. Done right, homemade hummus is so much tastier and more versatile than brand name versions--not to mention cheaper. As a student, I rely on hummus the way some folks rely on coffee: it’s easy to make, rich in protein and healthy fats, satisfying, a perfect vehicle for vegetables, and easy to transport. Today, I’ll show you how you, too, can master the art of homemade hummus.

I’ve been known to whip up hummus in a 20 minute break between classes, as a late night snack, or first thing in the morning. If you have beans at the ready, the blending itself only takes a matter of minutes. Isa Chandra Moskowitz, an esteemed vegan food writer, once said that hummus is a food group for vegans. I agree, but I think it’s also a food group for students, busy working people, and anyone who likes amazing, nutrient rich food that’s ready in minutes. If you are vegan, working in your favor is the fact that hummus is familiar to one and all, which means it’s an easy vegan food to share. Attending a summertime party? Bring hummus as an appetizer. Making lunch for someone who’s skeptical about meatless fare? Try a hummus panini. Last minute guests? Let them eat hummus.

Most hummus recipes call for a base of chickpeas, lemon, cumin, tahini, salt, garlic, and sometimes olive oil as well. The proportions vary: some are very garlicky, while others are more mild; some call only for olive oil, while others call only for tahini (as you’ll see in a second, I think a mix of both works best). Some invite you to add fresh parsley. To start with, you’ll want to pick a basic recipe that sounds good, and then modify it to suit your own tastes. I like my hummus thick, tart, and not-too-garlicky, but you’ll find a version that’s just right for you. No matter what, you’ll want to use a food processor (full size, not mini) or a high speed blender.

It’s really easy to make hummus, but unfortunately it’s also easy to make bad hummus. Tiny factors--how much liquid you use, how much lemon, how much salt--can make or break a hummus recipe. With that in mind, I thought I’d share the things I’ve learned through trial and error.

1. Cook your own chickpeas
. Yes, it’s a little easier to use canned. And it’s OK to use canned; sometimes real life calls for real shortcuts. But if you can set aside a total of five minutes to a) submerge some beans in some water for a soak, b) turn on the stove to boil them, and c) strain them when they’re done, you can cook your own beans. It’s really easy to cook dried beans, and the hummus you make will be so much creamier than it will be with canned beans. Added bonus? Most folks find beans that have been soaked and cooked easier to digest.

2. If you do use canned beans, use canning liquid instead of water in the mixture. You know how some recipes call for using the water you boiled pasta in? Same concept: the starch will help thicken the hummus.

3. Warm up your beans. The absolute best hummus results from beans that have just been cooked and are still warm. If you’re using canned, you can also warm the beans up by blanching them in boiling water for just a minute or two, or even nuking them. If you can’t use warm beans, your hummus will still be delightful, but trust me when I say that the warmer your beans, the better your blend.

4. Drizzle in 1 tablespoon of olive oil at the end.
There are a ton of hummus varieties out there. Some call for olive oil as the fat source, others for tahini. I personally prefer tahini--and lots of it--but drizzling in some oil at the very end will make your hummus take a magical turn; it’ll be as if the whole bowl just got elevated to new heights.

5. Don’t add too much liquid. The #1 reason most homemade hummus goes wrong is that people add way too much water, which results in a kind of chickpea soup--not the thick, creamy stuff we’ve come to expect from store-bought brands. Be conservative with your liquid at first; you can always add more later.

Use real ingredients. This means freshly squeezed lemon juice and garlic cloves: no bottled juice, no garlic powder, no compromises.

The following hummus recipe indicates one final, important point about homemade hummus: you get to pick and choose your flavors. Don’t get into a rut. Sundried tomato hummus, beet hummus, edamame lime hummus, sweet potato hummus--these are just some of the creative, seasonal hummus varieties I’ve tried. Today’s version features spring peas: I know you all just saw them in my quinoa with spring peas, basil, and hemp, but hey, we have to take advantage while they’re in season! And you’ll find that using them along with chickpeas yields a particularly light, delicate, and delicious hummus blend.

Sweet Pea Hummus

Serves 8

2 cups cooked garbanzo beans
1 1/2 cups green peas, lightly steamed
3 tbsp tahini
2-3 tbsp lemon juice (to taste)
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp olive oil (plus extra)
2 tsp lemon zest
Optional: 2 tbsp chopped fresh herbs: parsley, dill, etc.

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Order now

The Food52 Vegan Cookbook is here! With this book from Gena Hamshaw, anyone can learn how to eat more plants (and along the way, how to cook with and love cashew cheese, tofu, and nutritional yeast).

Order now

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Leah
  • kakerz17
  • Stevie Wonder
    Stevie Wonder
  • bunny11
  • jsgjtg
Gena is a registered dietitian, recipe developer, and food blogger. She's the author of three cookbooks, including Power Plates (2017) and Food52 Vegan (2015). She enjoys cooking vegetables, making bread, and challenging herself with vegan baking projects.


Leah November 10, 2013
Can I substitute more garbanzo beans for the green peas? I'd like to make a basic hummus too. :-)
kakerz17 September 1, 2012
For anyone wondering how to soften the chickpeas I have found the perfect and most surefire solution. It may not be ok for people who avoid milk products(in which case I would use lemon juice instead to get close to the tendernes of my preferred method).
And that method is using whey from raw cow's milk. Not much, maybe a half cup settled into the soaking water that the dried chikpeas are put into for an overnight soak at room temp,NOT refrigerated. The next day, simply drain, rinse and add water again to cover chickpeas by an inch, along with one T unrefined sea salt and put on the fire until boiling. Then lower temperature and simmer for about an hour. Then keep tesing every 10 minutes or so till tender. Trust me, they will be so tender after this method, you will never go back to any other method. The chickpeas just taste and feel more digestable . You truly feel nourished this way. I also soak chickpeas like this for making homemade falafel too. You just don't boil chickpeas at all for falafel. But it also makes the texture extremely luxuriant and the taste like nirvana. I've been to Israel and experience the wonderful quality of hummus there but I honeslty feel the way I make mine now, it rivals those experiences and I've even tried my hummus on a few Israeli friends and they agree with my method and results.
Stevie W. July 16, 2012
Try using roasted garlic instead of raw. 6 large cloves in their skins wrapped in foil with a sprinkle of salt and olive oil roasted 40 mins at a moderate temp in the oven. Squeeze the resulting unctuous paste into the chickpea and sweet pea paste. And add a handful of chopped mint to finish. Divine!
Gena H. July 16, 2012
Indeed, roasted garlic is a wonderful addition! I'm often too lazy to do it, but the results are definitely great.
bunny11 July 15, 2012
For those of us that can't find kombu,1/4 tsp of baking soda in the cooking water will also eliminate the gassy effect beans may cause.
jsgjtg July 15, 2012
I have been buying fresh lima beans at my local farmers market. I cook the beans for 15 minutes and then make my hummus without chick peas. I eat it when I make meat for my husband (which is two meals a day) Its really yummy!
Gena H. July 16, 2012
How tasty! Great idea.
eccoyle July 15, 2012
The one and only time that I've cooked garbanzo beans, they took FOR.EV.ER and never got as tender as they should be. Any tips for cooking beans?
Gena H. July 15, 2012

First, they need an overnight soak. Forget the "quick soak" method--I actually don't find it to be very helpful. Just submerge them in a lot of water, and let soak overnight (or even longer).

The next day, you should rinse them, and then submerge them in enough cold water to cover them by a few inches. Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer, cooking for an hour or so--you may need a little more time than that. It's largely inactive cooking time, so it shouldn't be too annoying. You can add a piece of kombu to the pot while it cooks to make the beans less "gassy", by the way--an ancient trick from Japanese cooking!
Great post!!! My homemade hummus is always too dry . Never as good as Whole Foods' original hummus!!!
weshook July 13, 2012
We have found that when using canned chickpeas, it is important to add some liquid whether it be the liquid from the can or some water or the hummus isn't as creamy. The best part about homemade hummus is the infinite variety that is possible.
witloof July 12, 2012
I find most commercial tahini bitter and nasty. Do you have a preferred brand, or do you make your own?
Gena H. July 12, 2012
Hey Witloof!

I really like the Artisana raw tahini. It's amazing. That said, it's also quite expensive. Tree of Life's is also pretty good, though!

Aoife July 12, 2012
I love this post. I do make my own hummus a lot, and I think the main difference is cooking the chickpeas yourself, but I totally didn't know about using the water from tinned chickpeas when time is short! I'll definitely use it in the future. Also olive oil is something I haven't used for a while but I think I'll use it next time again on your advice!
Gena H. July 12, 2012
Hey Aoife!

I think it's a great tip. Some folks find that that liquid isn't ideal for digestion; I've never noticed this, but what I have noticed is that it both enables blending and retains thick texture!

Edible B. July 12, 2012
I personally love the tahini, oil, garlic, but usually ease up on the lemon juice... just not a fan of my hummus being too tart. I've had amazing results from making my own hummus, I will never go back to store bought again! Very interesting tip on warm beans!
jlgoesvegan July 12, 2012
This is such useful information, particularly your advice to take it easy on the liquid! Love the addition of sweet peas to your recipe! Yum!
thirschfeld July 12, 2012
Hummus is a staple at our house. We always have a batch of homemade in the fridge. I like to use the bean cooking liquid instead of water but I am like you I like it tart, easily spreadable and smooth. My favorite veggie for dipping has to be the Magda squash picked directly from the garden, sliced and used as a scoop.