A few months back, my friend was raving about this hummus she found at a local Mediterranean restaurant. She claimed it was, “smooth as silk” and by far, the best hummus she’s ever had.
Frankly, this bothered me. What was their secret? I wanted to make the best hummus we’ve both ever had. (What an ego)
Soon after that conversation I bought an industrial sized can of garbanzo beans because it was unbelievably cheap. The hummus was good, but not great. It’s been a month or two since that gallon of hummus in my fridge, which is far too long to go without it.
I tried making it again last night so I could test out a few theories. I hate to toot my own horn here, but I think I’ve nailed a few techniques to get the smoothest, most delicious hummus ever. Here’s the “recipe” I did last year, if you need something to build from. You can use whatever recipe you want! But these are the tricks you can use with any recipe:
1. Dried chickpeas
I’ll be honest with you. For most of my life, I thought using dried beans were some sort of complicated magic trick. Why use dried when you can just have them ready in a can? Well, for most things, I don’t really care. I’d probably used cans for convenience, but with hummus, it’s different because in order for the beans to have a smooth consistency, they have to be cooked properly.
Here, I’ll break it down for you (because I thought this was so complicated, I actually read the directions on the bag): 1. Put the beans in a pot. 2. Rinse them, if you want. 3. Cover it with water. 4. Let ‘em sit overnight. 5. Cook for a few hours (see #2 first). Done. See, that wasn’t too hard.
Update 1/14/2012: Today I used a can of canned chickpeas and it was fairly close to the dried. Dried is better, but if you’re desperate, canned still works. Just dump the can in a pot of boiling water and cook for about 20 minutes. Continue with tip #2.
2. Baking Soda
THIS, my friends, is the trick. This is it. Don’t breeze through this one. When you’re letting the beans soak overnight AND when you cook them, USE BAKING SODA. This is the difference between decent hummus and silky smooth hummus. Just use a few teaspoons for each can. If you forget half-way through the cooking process like I did last night, just throw it in anyway.
The baking soda breaks down that little outer “shell” of the chickpea and allows the water to penetrate the bean faster. This should mean a shorter cooking time. Chemistry, I tell ya’. It’s magic.
Keep cooking the beans until it falls apart if you just look at it wrong. If they’re solid and semi-firm, they’re not ready. If you use baking soda, they say it should only take about 45 minutes of boiling time. I cooked mine without baking soda for probably 2 hours—then I realized I forgot it—so I put it in, and within no time it was smushy and ready.
4. Blend them Hot
This is my personal theory. It makes sense to me that you should blend them right after being cooked because that’s when they’re going to be the most tender. I feel like if you let them cool and then blended them, they might harden up again. Again, just my theory.
A note about this: I blended the beans when they were hot, but it definitely changed the flavor as I was tasting it. In other words, I knew I put in the right amount of each ingredient, but it didn’t taste that way. Mind you, this morning I tasted it and it was PERFECT. So, just FYI. If you taste it and it just doesn’t taste right, go ahead and blend the beans themselves, but come back to it later after it cools off.
5. Fresh Garlic
Don’t you dare use powdered garlic. Fresh, fresh, fresh. I love the taste of raw garlic, so I didn’t roast mine. However, if you like the flavor, but want it toned down a little, you can add the peeled garlic cloves to the pot of boiling beans about 15 minutes or so before the beans are done. The boiling will cook them just a little bit so the flavors will be toned down. Just toss them right into the food processor with the beans.
6. Fresh Lemon
Come on. Don’t use the concentrated stuff. If you’re making a dish with just a few ingredients like this, especially if it’s fresh & not cooked, each ingredient needs to be great. Does that make sense? Real lemons only.
7. Food Processor
In the recipe I gave you over a year ago, I used a blender because it was all that I had. I do NOT recommend this. Blenders need a more liquid-y consistency to work properly. I definitely recommend using a food processor instead. The blades are larger, they can handle the consistency, and you’ll get a smoother hummus in the end. If you don’t have a food processor, then a blender will technically work.
8. Oil & Water
Speaking of consistency, I have found that I enjoy a lighter, almost fluffy hummus more than the thick, heavy, chunky stuff. If you tip the food processor bucket and the hummus doesn’t move at all, or if you see chunky pieces inside, you may need to add more oil or more water to loosen it up a bit. I think I use at least 2-3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil per can of beans, if not more. So if you think you’ve used enough oil, just supplement it with water. It shouldn’t look like cottage cheese. It needs to flow freely in the processor when it’s going full speed.
9. Sleep on It
Hummus is just one of those things you’ve got to let sit overnight, or even a few days to get the perfect flavor. The flavors need to meld and marry. You can eat it right away, of course, but I don’t recommend.
I’ve had a lot of hummus in my lifetime, and I can tell you that using these few tricks turned my mediocre hummus into “Whoa” hummus. It’s seriously like butta’.