For as long as I have written this website — yes, even longer than it has been since I told you the wee white lie that Paula Wolfert’s hummus was all I’d ever need — I have known how to make the most ethereally smooth, fluffy, dollop-ing of a hummus and never told you. I have some nerve. But, in my defense, I had my reasons, mostly that I knew if I told you how to make it, I’d be able to hear your eye rolls through the screen, they’d be at once so dramatic and in unison. From there, there would be the loud, synchronized clicks of “Unfollow!” “Unfriend!” “Hide these updates, please!” and the under-breath mutters of “Lady, you have got to be kidding me.” Because, you see, the path between the probably acceptable, vaguely grainy but borderline good-enough hummus you probably have been making and the stuff that I dream about sweeping cold, sweet carrots sticks through — the January version of fresh strawberries and whipped cream — has only one extra stop but most of you will argue that it’s at Cuckoo Farm: you see, you must peel the chickpeas.
Chickpeas, when they’re cooked, have a thin skin that sags a bit, kind of like a Sharpei’s, but less cute. It hangs about them like they’re trying hard to shake it, but just couldn’t. I have found that if you help them — put a single chickpea between your thumb and next two fingers and press gently until it pops out with a rather satisfying soft pop, then plink! into a bowl — it makes all of the difference in the texture of your final hummus. But I theorized that no sane person would ever spend their time ejecting chickpeas from their skins, because it would be such an arduous task, even reorganzing bookcases, which we did last night, would be preferable. Yet when I cautiously asked you last week if you’d want to hear about a new hummus technique, so many of you said “Yes, please!” I figured it was time to make peace with this technique once and for all.
… with a timer. The thing is, I’m a slow, slow cook and even slower at prep. I dilly-dally. I daydream. Yet even at this leisurely, lazy pace of freeing chickpeas from their loosely tethered confines, only nine minutes had passed when I was done. And I got to think of all of the silly things I’ve spent nine minutes each doing. I waited nine irritated minutes for a refund for something I hadn’t actually bought at a store this weekend. I’ve definitely waited nine bemused minutes for my little New Yorker to walk a single block. It took me no less than nine minutes yesterday eh, most days, to motivate to refill my own water glass. And yet I was convinced that spending nine extra minutes on food prep was madness. Oh, Deb.
What this nine minutes buys you, however, is a world of difference, hummus that is as far from the grainy, beige beleaguered paste a lot of recipes have led me to as it can be — all pillows and plumes of the softest chickpea-tahini-lemon-garlic puree. I hope it makes a convert out of you, too.
This is probably where you expect me to give you a soapbox speech about why it is so important that you soak your own chickpeas. And you know, think they taste wonderful, especially if you treat yourself to some of the best. But, I also make it with canned chickpeas quite often (Goya is my favorite, for perfectly cooked, intact canned beans, each time) and it’s perfectly excellent. Below, I’ve included instructions for both.
Updated in 2019 to suggest: If you buy dried chana dal (also sold as split chickpeas or bengal grams) at an Indian and many other intentional grocery stores, or online, surprise! They’re already peeled chickpeas. You’ll want to soak and cook them as you would dried chickpeas (it will take less time because they’re smaller), you can have the same effect as you get here from peeling chickpeas without that extra step. It’s glorious.
Makes 1 3/4 cups hummus
1 3/4 cups cooked, drained chickpeas (from a 15-ounce can) or a little shy of 2/3 cup dried chickpeas (for same yield)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda (for dried chickpeas only)
1/2 cup tahini paste
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, or more to taste
2 small cloves garlic, roughly chopped
3/4 teaspoon table salt, or more to taste
Approximately 1/4 cup water or reserved chickpea cooking water
Olive oil, paprika or sumac, pita wedges (brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with za’atar, or a combination of sesame seeds and sea salt), and/or carrot sticks [optional] to serve
If using dried chickpeas: There are multiple methods to cooking them, and you can use whichever is your favorite, or Ottolenghi’s, or mine. Ottolenghi’s is to put the chickpeas in a large bowl and cover them with at least twice their volume of cold water, leaving them to soak overnight. The next day, drain them, and saute them in a medium saucepan with the baking soda (which many find reduces the gassy effects of fresh beans) for about three minutes. Add 3 1/4 cups water and bring it to a boil. Skim any foam that floats to the surface. They’ll need to cook for 20 to 40 minutes, sometimes even longer, depending on freshness, to become tender. When tender, one will break up easily between your thumb and forefinger. My method is similar, but I often put mine in a slow-cooker on high with the baking soda for approximately three hours, so I don’t have to monitor them as much.
Drain the chickpeas (saving the chickpea broth for soups or to thin the hummus, if desired) and cool enough that you can pick one up without burning your fingers.
Whether fresh or canned chickpeas: Peel your chickpeas. I find this is easiest when you take a chickpea between your thumb and next two fingers, arranging the pointy end in towards your palm, and “pop!” the naked chickpea out. Discard the skin. I get into a rhythm and rather enjoy this, but it’s also already established that I’m a weirdo.
In a food processor, blend the chickpeas until powdery clumps form, a full minute, scraping down the sides. Add the tahini, lemon juice, garlic and salt and blend until pureed. With the machine running, drizzle in water or reserved chickpea cooking water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until you get very smooth, light and creamy mixture. I find I need about 4 tablespoons for this volume, but you may need slightly more or less.
Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more salt or lemon if needed. I do recommend that you hold off on adding more garlic just yet, however. I find that it “blooms” as it settles in the fridge overnight, becoming much more garlicky after a rest, so that even if it doesn’t seem like enough at first, it likely will be in the long run.
Transfer the hummus to a bowl and rest it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, longer if you can. To serve, drizzle it with a little olive oil, and sprinkle it with paprika. Serve it with pita wedges or carrot sticks.