Authentic Middle Eastern Hummus


For years I have known tons of crunchies who have loved hummus, it’s like the hippie uber food. It’s seemingly a quintessential part of the vegan-crunchy-veggie-hippie diet but why is something I really could never understand. I get that it is a good source of protein, and beans are the musical fruit just packed with fiber, but really? Although I have dabbled in my fair share of hippie-craft, I have always been an avid hater of hummus. Why eat this garbage that looks and tastes very much like wallpaper paste? Yuck, no thanks.

The Sea of Galilee
Homage To Jerusalem Stabile (Sculpture)

During our trip to Israel one thing that really stood out time and time again was hummus.  I was really pretty baffled by this. The obvious reason it stood out to me would be that the hummus in Jerusalem is especially delicious, arguably the best in the world. The less than obvious reason is this: I really, really, really LOVED getting people to say hummus. There is a unique guttural rev up associated with saying “chummus” that really just splits my sides. Every Israeli young, old, American born or native says hummus in a really hilariously adorable manner.

Rachmo, at Mahane Yehuda Market

Spoken with the accent as “K-ch-Haaaa-uuu-Mmiss !!!!” (Yes with exclamation) The word always begins with an exaggerated hard c or k sound. Accent or no accent, even perfect English speakers with no hint of Hebrew in their speech, they all say Ka-Hoummus in an exaggerated manner. I have seen a variety of spellings: Houmis, Chummus, Hummus, and hoummos. No matter how you spell it, this delicacy is nothing like the garbage sold in stores.

Church of The Holy Sepulchre

A previous Hummus hater, I am now a huge fan. The first thing I made once I hit my dingy little kitchen was hummus. It is really not hard to master, but trust me you need to follow the rules. I am no saint when it comes to proper hummus preparation. I think botching it so badly is part of the reason I hated it so much. After Stephens last trip to Israel he returned with a desire for some of the good stuff. I googled it briefly and came up with the not so stellar final result of garbage. I used stock, too much tahini and it was just dreadful and gloppy. Good hummus is actually really stupid simple to prepare. Unfortunately just a little bit too much of this or that and not enough water and you my friends, will have wallpaper paste.

Zion, Talpiot Jerusalem

Hummus : Is a middle eastern spread or dip made with cooked chickpeas, tahina, olive oil, lemon juice salt, cumin and garlic. It is seen garnished with fava beans, pine nuts, paprika,  or  fairly often cilantro or parsley and sesame sauce. Typically nothing else is accepted as traditional.Hummus is served as an appetizer or lunch with flat breads, hard boiled egg, falafel, meat (kofta meatballs or kebab) or served as a side dish or meze. (meze: salads or small dishes served with a middle eastern meal.) It is ridiculously popular in Israel because it is compatible with Jewish dietary law. It can be prepared before shabbat when cooking is forbidden, it can be served with dairy or with meat (but not both) and it is very hearty and cheap.

  • Hummus in Arabic translates as “chickpea” so white bean hummus is an oxmoron. Forget the faux hummus, and the colored hummus gimmicks. Regular old school hummus is the best. 

A note on meze: My first experience with meze (a collection of side dishes) was at a lovely little authentic Israeli grill place in Talpiot. (Talpiot is a working class, industrial-esque part of Jerusalem.)  In English it’s called “Zion,” or Zion Hagadol. It was here that I ordered chicken heart kebabs and ended up with a ginormous table filled with salads.  Lunch hour, working class eateries compete for the largest selection of these meze salads, and whoever has the most variety of salads gets the bragging rights. Unfortunately for me I did not anticipate this. I was sitting there, just me with my two boys and I about turned purple from embarrassment when the table was filled. The wonderful man said “have a good appetite” and I thought to myself “Good appetite? For me and what army!!!???” A delicious and charming eatery, perfect if you haven’t eaten in a month.

– The Rules –
  • Don’t use Canned beans. Ever. Even if you are not making hummus. Those things are packed with sodium and they taste dreadful.
  • Keep it simple stupid. – Don’t try adding stock, or red peppers, pesto, fairy wings etc… Basic ingredients will keep the flavor pure and good. Maybe a little onion, maybe toss in an extra raw garlic clove at the end… but no craziness.
  • Be sure to reserve some of your cooking liquid to thin the hummus. If you don’t add liquid you have paste, as seen on grocery mart shelves.
  • Don’t eat it cold. It is yucky cold.

Authentic Israeli Hummus

Yields 3-4 pints, Excess Can Be Frozen

  • 8-10 ounces, dried chickpeas (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1-2 teaspoons Aluminum Free Baking Soda or 1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
  • 1 head of garlic, peeled
  • water to cover


  • 1/2 cup reserved cooking liquid
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • salt to taste, more water if necessaryOlive Oil & Paprika Garnish


Place chickpeas in a bowl or jar and cover with cold water and baking soda or lemon juice. Leave at room temperature overnight or at least 10 hours.


Thoroughly rinse the chickpeas under cool running water. This is especially critical if you used baking soda. Place in a medium sized soup pot and cover with a few inches of water. Toss in peeled garlic cloves and simmer over medium heat for 30 to 45 minutes or until softened but not falling apart.

Drain cooked chickpeas. Reserve some of the cooking liquid, some beans if you would like to garnish. Place cooked chickpeas into the bowl of a food processor, blender or mortar and pestle if you are feeling hard core. Add 1/2 cup reserved cooking liquid, olive oil, cumin, tahini, and lemon juice. Puree or blend until smooth. Add more liquid if necessary. You want it to be wet and spreadable, almost pourable but not too wet. If you would like a little more garlic add one clove of raw garlic and pulse to combine.

Place onto a plate or shallow bowl, create a well in the middle. Place chickpeas, tahini sauce, olive oil, parsley or garnish of choice in and around the dip in the middle. Sprinkle with paprika, cumin if desired and serve with bread and/or meats.Tahina Sauce- Sauce can be made for garnish with simply watering down tahini with hot water. I have tried this method and my laziness was rewarded with a less than delicious product. Good tahini sauce is really good with shawarma or Israeli meatbals. This same sauce is often drizzled atop hummus. Sometimes yogurt is used, but olive oil lemon juice and a smidgen of garlic works well.Try This If you would like: Blend Together, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup tahini, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 garlic clove, a pinch of salt and about two tablespoons of hot water to thin.

Extra’s can be frozen however it will become wetter when thawed. 
For the absolute best results eat it warm and fresh.

Why Soak The Beans? Soaking your beans not only softens them but greatly reduces the amount of phytic acid. Phytic acid  is found in whole grains such as wheat, oats, and brown rice but it is also found it nuts, seeds and beans. Phytic acid blocks the absorption of essential minerals but also inhibits digestive enzymes. If you are relying on your beans to act as your main source of iron, magnesium and protein you are doing yourself an injustice by not soaking them. Soaking, sprouting or fermenting beans (grains, seeds, nuts etc.) makes the nutrients available for absorption and makes them easier to digest.