Today we’re doing a deep dive on how to make the best hummus at home. You’ve probably eaten your fair share of hummus, but once you try my homemade hummus recipe, you’ll never go back to the cold, flavorless hummus containers that lines grocery store shelves.
Keep reading for every tip and trick I’ve learned over the last 5 years of making hummus from scratch. The result is hummus that is extremely creamy and smooth (never gritty or chunky) and boldly nutty and rich in flavor.
Table of Contents
- What is hummus?
- The problems with store-bought hummus
- Ingredients for making the best hummus
- What kind of chickpeas should you use to make hummus?
- How to cook dried chickpeas
- How to make hummus (step-by-step photos)
- Making incredible hummus (video)
- Using canned chickpeas to make hummus
- What kind of tahini should I use?
- How to serve hummus
- Storing and reheating hummus
What is hummus?
Hummus (alternately spelled “humus”, “houmous” and “hommus”) is the Arabic word for “chickpeas”. It’s a dip or spread made primarily with cooked chickpeas, tahini, garlic, lemon, and salt; some versions also contain cumin. Speaking of chickpeas, if you are looking for more uses for chickpeas, check out my post on “every way to use a can of chickpeas.”
Hummus has been a staple in many Middle Eastern countries for centuries, though there are countless regional and family variations. There’s actually quite a debate about who invented hummus and which countries can claim hummus as their own. If you’re interested in reading more, check out this article and this article. For more cultural and sociopolitical context, I also recommend the books of Palestinian food writer and historian, Reem Kassis (The Palestinian Table (2017) and The Arabesque Table (2021)).
In restaurants across the Middle East, hummus is typically made from scratch and served fresh on the same day. It’s not just served as an appetizer or snack, as is commonly the case in the West. It can be served at breakfast, lunch, and dinner as part of a main dish or as a side dish.
I have been making hummus from scratch for the last 5-6 years, and it’s been life-changing (no joke). I learned how to make hummus primarily from three chefs and their cookbooks–Yotam Ottolenghi, Sami Tamimi, and Michael Solomonov–so my recipe and techniques are largely influenced by these chefs.
Side note: Flavor (Ottolenghi, Belfrage, Wixley), Plenty More (Ottolenghi) and Falastin (Tamimi, Wigley) are some of my favorite cookbooks. They’re not vegan but there are many vegan-friendly options and easy-to-veganize recipes. Plus, you’ll learn so much about cooking!
The problems with store-bought hummus
Store-bought hummus, the kind sold in the refrigerated section of the grocery store, is a commercialized American invention. And it fails to deliver in terms of taste and texture.
Let’s talk texture first. In Middle Eastern countries, hummus is not served cold. Rather, it’s served warm or at room temperature because when it’s cold, the texture is stiff and even gloopy.
That thick texture that clings to the back of a spoon for dear life? That’s NOT what you’re looking for. Hummus should be creamy, yes, but it should also be somewhat loose and pliable.
Flavorwise, when served cold, many of the flavors that make hummus amazing simply lie dormant. Not to mention that store-bought hummus also lacks the nutty richness that freshly made hummus is known for.
And, as chef Michael Solomonov mentions in his cookbook Zahav (the titular name of his restaurant where hummus is the most popular dish on the menu):
“[Even the best store-bought hummus] requires certain additives to make it shelf-stable–most likely citric acid. These additives turn hummus sharp and sour–light years away from the dreamy qualities of fresh hummus.” – Chef Michael Solomonov
There’s also considerable variation across hummus brands. Some are uniformly smooth, others gritty and thick. Some brands do a decent job of tasting like hummus, others bear no recognition. And of course there’s the endless flavored hummus options to choose from – roasted red pepper, beet, sun-dried tomato, etc. And some varieties that don’t use chickpeas at all! (hummus translates to chickpeas in Arabic!)
And if you want my really personal opinion, here’s what I’ll say. I hadn’t purchased hummus in almost a year when I started filming this Youtube video and writing this blog post. For the sake of thoroughness, I bought some hummus to test, and let’s just say I was SHOOK at how bad it was. I even bought a brand of hummus that I used to eat on a semi-regular basis and couldn’t stomach more than a tiny bite.
All that to say, if you want to experience hummus like it’s intended to be experienced, ditch the store-bought stuff!
Ingredients for making the best hummus
The ingredients for hummus are minimal and simple, another reason you should make it at home!
Chickpeas, aka garbanzo beans. Obviously, as hummus quite literally means chickpeas in Arabic. Canned or dried chickpeas? Keep on reading in the next section.
Tahini. The second primary ingredient is tahini, which is simply sesame seed paste. Tahini is widely available commercially, though there is considerable difference across brands. Since it’s a primary ingredient (and you need a generous amount of it), it is essential to use a good-quality tahini when making hummus.
Most traditional hummus recipes (at least the ones I’ve seen) don’t use olive oil in the actual hummus (rather it’s poured on top of the hummus, before serving). So, you need to use a good deal of tahini to bring the hummus together.Skip to the tahini section below to read more on recommended brands and whether making tahini from scratch is worth it.
Lemon. Lemon juice is essential in hummus, though there is a wide range in the amount used across recipes. Personally, I like mine very lemony so I use more lemon than many recipes. Also, in a recipe that has such few ingredients, using the best-quality ingredients is key. Which is why you need freshly squeezed lemon juice (no plastic lemon bottles!).
Garlic. Some people (hi, me!) like their hummus very garlicky. If you don’t love the sharpness of raw garlic, you can (1) use less garlic (start with 1 clove) or (2) quickly marinate the garlic in the lemon juice. This is what Solomonov does in his hummus recipe (in his cookbook Zahav). To do this, add the garlic and lemon juice to a food processor or blender. Blend for a few seconds on high until you have a coarse puree. Rest for 10 minutes to allow the garlic flavor to mellow out.
Or, you can use toum, a Lebanese garlic sauce that’s less pungent than raw garlic. Check out my friend Cosette’s recipe for toum on her website.
Salt. Obviously, we need some flavor! I use Diamond Crystal kosher salt in my cooking, which is about half as salty as sea salt by weight. So if you’re using sea salt, use about half the amount and add more to taste. I don’t recommend using table salt, as it has a tinny metallic taste (at least my tastebuds think so).
My go-to salt for most cooking. I love the large flakes, light texture, and it’s cheaper than using sea salt. It’s about half as salty (by weight) compared to sea salt and table salt.
Ice water. Water is necessary to further bring the hummus together. I use ice water (learned that from chefs Ottolenghi and Tamimi) because it makes the texture even creamier and it gets almost fluffy, pillowy, and whipped in consistency.
What kind of chickpeas should you use to make hummus?
For the best consistency hummus, you’ll want to use dried chickpeas. Cooking chickpeas from scratch enables you to cook down the chickpeas until super soft, which is one of the secrets for getting super smooth, luxurious hummus.
But don’t worry, you can still make great hummus from canned chickpeas that’s 10 times better than store-bought hummus. More on how to do that in the “how to make hummus from canned chickpeas” section.
How to cook dried chickpeas
First, soak the chickpeas. This softens the chickpeas, speeding up the cook time; it also aids in digestion.
To soak chickpeas, simply add to a large bowl and cover them with enough cold water. Cover the bowl and soak for 8 hours (or up to 12 hours). I also add baking soda to the soaking water (½ teaspoon for 8 ounces/227g of chickpeas).
Tip: Adding baking soda to the soaking water AND the cooking water helps to soften chickpeas the most and does so quickly (they get really soft in just 45 minutes). Plus, the baking soda helps remove many of the chickpea skins so you don’t have to peel them individually. And soft chickpeas without skins = creamy, smooth hummus.
Once soaked, drain and rinse the chickpeas.
If you want to soak your chickpeas but forgot to do it overnight, you can try this quick soak method.
- Add the chickpeas to a saucepan and cover with several inches of water. Add the baking soda (½ teaspoon for 8 ounces chickpeas).
- Bring to a boil and boil for 2 to 3 minutes, then take the saucepan off the heat. Cover and allow the beans to soak for 1 hour.
Cooking dried chickpeas in the instant pot
Soak the chickpeas per the above instructions, then drain and rinse. Add the chickpeas to your Instant Pot with 3 ½ to 4 cups of water, along with ½ teaspoon baking soda and 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Pressure cook at high pressure for 15 minutes, followed by a natural pressure release.
Cooking dried chickpeas on the stove
Add 8 ounces/227g of dried and soaked chickpeas + ½ teaspoon of baking soda to a medium saucepan (I used a deep sauté pan since my saucepan was dirty). If doubling the recipe, use a larger saucepan.
Cover the chickpeas with 6 cups (1.45L) of water.
Bring the chickpeas to a boil. As they come to a boil, you’ll notice that a thick white foam starts building on the surface. Use a spoon to skim off as much of it as you can (if thin traces remain, that’s okay).
Once boiling, reduce the heat and cover the pot. Adjust the heat to maintain a rapid simmer or gentle boil for 30 minutes. Then, add in 1 teaspoon of kosher salt. Cook for another 12 to 15 minutes, or until the chickpeas are very soft and smush together when pressed with the back of a spoon or fork.
Tip: You want the chickpeas to be much softer than if you were to eat them whole in a salad or wrap. You should be able to smush the chickpeas easily.
Drain the chickpeas and pick out any loose chickpea skins.
How to make the best homemade hummus (step-by-step photos)
Add your warm cooked chickpeas to a food processor.
Note: I like to make my hummus with chickpeas that have been recently cooked, so it keeps the hummus warm. However, if you’ve pre-cooked and refrigerated your chickpeas, consider warming them up a bit. I find that warm chickpeas blend more smoothly than cold chickpeas.
Blend the chickpeas for 1 to 2 minutes until pureed, scraping down the sides as you go.
Add the tahini, cumin, and garlic (start off with 1 clove if you’re not a huge garlic person).
Add the lemon juice, salt, and pepper to taste.
Blend until the mixture starts to come together, then start streaming in the ice water, a tablespoon at a time until you have your desired texture. Taste for seasonings, adding more salt, garlic, cumin, or lemon juice as desired.
Transfer the amount of hummus you plan to eat/serve to a shallow bowl or plate. Use the back of a spoon to make waves or to make a well in the center. This will enable you to pour the olive oil into the crevices/ridges.
Drizzle the garlic-lemon oil (from the topping) into the ridges or into the well. If you didn’t make the fried garlic-lemon topping, drizzle a good-quality extra virgin olive oil.
Top the hummus with the fried garlic and lemon peel.
If desired, top with chopped parsley and either paprika, sumac (tart, sour), or Aleppo pepper flakes (mildly spicy; shown here).
Making incredible hummus (video)
Using canned chickpeas to make hummus
If you don’t want to cook dried chickpeas from scratch, yes, you can use canned chickpeas to make this recipe.
Note: For 8 ounces (227g) of dried chickpeas, substitute with 2 (15-ounce/425g) cans.
While it’s easiest to just use a can of drained chickpeas to the food processor, the texture can be slightly chunky and not lusciously smooth. This is because, for hummus, you want super soft chickpeas that have fewer skins. And canned chickpeas are not super soft (they’re rather firm and great for salads/bowls and eating whole).
To remedy that, you can cook the canned chickpeas (even though they’re already cooked). Add them to a saucepan, cover with an inch or two of water, and add ½ teaspoon baking soda. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to maintain a rapid simmer for 20 minutes, or until the chickpeas start falling apart.
Here’s a visual representation of why cooking your canned chickpeas (even if they’re already cooked) makes a difference. It helps to remove a lot of the chickpea skins and softens the texture.
What kind of tahini should I use?
Since tahini is a primary ingredient in hummus, picking a good tahini is important. Some tahini brands use unhulled sesame seeds (the outer covering is intact), which usually results in a more bitter tahini. Therefore I always recommend using hummus made from hulled sesame seeds.
My two favorite brands for tahini are Soom Foods and Seed + Mill. Soom Foods is easily available on Amazon. Seed + Mill is a smaller operation local to New York and sold at some Whole Foods; if you can find it, it’s liquid gold.
My favorite tahini brand that’s available on Amazon. Smooth, creamy, nutty, rich, not bitter. Made from roasted and pressed organic Ethiopian sesame seeds.
If you’re wondering, “can I make tahini at home?”, my answer is yes, but IMHO, it’s really not worth making tahini at home if you buy a good-quality tahini.
Commercially made tahini is made with industrial-grade equipment that’s powerful enough to process just sesame seeds into a mostly liquid paste. In contrast, a home food processor or blender simply isn’t strong enough. To compensate, you need to use a fair amount of oil to get the right consistency, and even then it’s a bit gritty. Plus, in all my attempts (half a dozen, at least), the tahini always tastes somewhat bitter (despite using hulled sesame seeds).
For more tahini reviews, check out this article on chef-recommended tahini brands.
How to serve hummus
First things first, serve hummus warm or room temperature! That will yieled you the best texture and taste.
Here are some ideas on how to top hummus.
- For something classic, drizzle a few glugs of good-quality extra virgin olive oil on top of the hummus. Add a handful of chopped flat-leaf parsley and a dusting of paprika (for actual flavor in paprika, I recommend Hungarian paprika).
- Or you can swap the paprika for sumac, which is tart and lemony and commonly used in Middle Eastern cooking. Or for something slightly spicy, try Aleppo pepper flakes (one of my favorite spices; about half as spicy as red chile fakes and with complex sweet-spicy flavors).
- Drizzle with olive oil and a generous amount of za’atar (a Middle Eastern spice blend that’s earthy and herby) or with dukkah (a nut and spice blend from Egypt), or simply toasted white sesame seeds.
- With fried garlic and lemon and lemon-garlic-infused extra virgin olive oil (my favorite way!). You can find this recipe in the recipe card below.
And ideas for using hummus.
Let me start by saying that serving hummus with carrot sticks (and celery sticks) is an American invention that doesn’t do justice to hummus. If you’re thinking, but hey… it’s a healthy snack, then you are right. But you’re also missing out on the best that hummus has to offer!
There is nothing quite like scooping some freshly made hummus with warm pita bread. This is how it’s often served throughout Middle Eastern countries and homes, and honestly it’s the best way to allow the hummus to shine.
PS: If you’re vegan, be sure to read the back of the pita package, as some brands contain milk products.
If you have leftover hummus and are tired of eating it as a dip with pita, try slathering it on bread as a sandwich spread. I like to top mine with massaged kale or salad greens, a little extra virgin olive oil, and za’atar. You can also dollop a scoop of it onto your salad or grain bowl.
In many Middle Eastern countries, hummus is served alongside a main meal. So you could also serve your favorite protein or roasted veggie on top of hummus (grilled or roasted mushrooms are fantastic!).
Note: If you’re looking for more versatile spreads/sauces that you can use in a variety of ways, check out my Cashew Cream blog post (original + 4 flavor variations) or Vegan Pesto blog post (3 variations).
Storing and reheating hummus
To prevent hummus from drying out, store leftover hummus with a light layer of extra virgin olive olive oil on top. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week (but it’s best within 4 days).
To serve leftover hummus, allow it to come to room temperature, or warm it up. I prefer warming it up on the stove, which loosens the texture and makes it smoother. Simply add the amount of hummus you’d like to reheat to a saucepan, add a couple teaspoons of water, and stir constantly for a few minutes until warmed through. You can also heat it in the microwave, in 10-second increments, stirring after each round.
You can also freeze hummus, though you’ll lose some of that irresistible texture. To freeze, transfer hummus to an airtight container but don’t fill it all the way up to allow for expansion. Thaw it in the fridge the day before consuming.
Okay, now that I’ve written a treatise on hummus, go make this hummus recipe! If you enjoy it, please consider rating and reviewing the recipe below :)
- 8 ounces (227g) dried chickpeas*
- 1 teaspoon baking soda, divided
- A generous ¾ cup (175-195g) good-quality tahini
- 6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus more to taste
- 3 garlic cloves, chopped**
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin, plus more to taste
- Kosher salt
- Freshly cracked black pepper to taste
- 6 to 10 tablespoons ice water
Fried Garlic-Lemon Topping (Optional)
- ⅓ cup good-quality extra virgin olive oil
- 5 large garlic cloves thinly sliced
- 4 to 6 strips of lemon zest about 2 inches long
- Flaky sea salt or kosher salt
Other Topping Options***
- 1 handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- Paprika, sumac, or Aleppo pepper flakes
- Soak the chickpeas. Add the chickpeas to a large bowl. Cover with cold water and ½ teaspoon baking soda. Soak for 8 hours or overnight. Drain and rinse.
- Cook the chickpeas. Add the drained chickpeas to a medium saucepan with ½ teaspoon baking soda and 6 cups of water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover the pot, and reduce the heat as needed to maintain a rapid simmer and cook for 30 minutes.Uncover the pot and add 1 teaspoon of kosher salt. Continue cooking for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the chickpeas are very soft and smush when pressed with a spoon/fork or pressed between your fingers. Drain well.
- Drain the chickpeas, then transfer to a food processor. Blend for 1-2 minutes until you have a smooth puree, scraping down the sides as you go.
- To the food processor, add ¾ cup tahini, lemon juice, garlic, cumin, 1 heaping teaspoon kosher salt, and pepper to taste. Blend, and with the motor running, stream in the ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time. After 6 tablespoons of ice water, evaluate the texture. If you want it to be looser, stream in more water, and continue blending until smooth and creamy. Once you reach your desired texture, taste for seasonings, adding more salt, garlic, cumin, or lemon juice as needed.
- Make the topping. Heat the olive oil in a medium frying pan over medium heat. Once the oil is warm (but not too hot), add the garlic and cook, swirling the pan or stirring frequently, for 2 to 2 ½ minutes, until the garlic just turns golden (don't wait until it browns). Add the lemon zest and cook for another 30 seconds. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the garlic and lemon zest to a plate and sprinkle with a bit of flaky sea salt. Reserve the oil.
- Transfer the hummus to a large plate and use the back of a spoon to make waves or to make a well in the center. Spoon the garlic-lemon oil into the ridges or into the well. Top with the fried garlic and lemon zest. Top with chopped parsley and a few shakes of paprika.