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10 Common Mistakes in Hummus Recipes

So, you tried making hummus and it came out different then you expected? Here’s a list of common mistakes, that will help you improve and make a better hummus.

FOA: Have you checked our Hummus Recipe already?
It is not just a hummus recipe, but the recipe for real hummus.

I’m making hummus for many years, and since this blog came to life I go over many hummus recipes every week, in search for new revelations.

But most hummus recipes I came across in blogs – even good and respectable blogs like the ones I’d list in this post – are simply wrong. True, there are variations and improvements anywhere you look, but many people seem to use improvised hummus recipes, which has nothing to do with the traditional basics.

If you tried making hummus yourself and were disappointed with the outcome, try going trough this checklist of common mistakes in hummus making.

1. Using canned chickpeas instead of dried ones.

(example: Eco Child’s Play).
That’s the most common mistake of all, and it is devastating to both flavor and nutritional value. I devoted a special post for that canned chickpeas thing.

2. Using oil instead of tahini, and/or using too little tahini.
(example: Cooking with Vegs)
Some people actually confuse tahini with sesame oil with tahini. Some so-called respectable restaurants, use oil because it’s cheaper. For these reasons, many people do not know how real hummus should taste like.

3. Using too much tahini.
(example: Eco Child’s Play)
I’m very fond of tahini and use it as much as I can in many dishes. But in the case of hummus, too much tahini in not a good idea.

4. Using WAY too much garlic.
(example: RecipeZaar)
Too much garlic in your hummus will make it taste like… well, garlic. I do like garlic very much, but I also like my hummus to taste like hummus, not like garlic.

5. Not using garlic at all.
(example: BestRecipes)
There’s simply no such thing as hummus without garlic.

6. Using various spices, but not the basic traditional ones, such as cumin.
(example: Teresa Cooks )
Garlic, lemon, cumin, salt – and preferably parsley and olive oil on top; that’s the basic combination which give the traditional flavor.

7. Using Garbanzo beans (large Mexican chickpeas) instead of smallest chickpeas you can find.
(example: The Comfort)
Actually, I used the term “Garbanzo beans” a few times myself when referring chickpeas, but the truth is that Mexican chickpeas are only one variety of chickpeas, and not the best choice. Always prefer small-grained chickpea when possible.

8. Using canned lemon juice.
(example: Playing with my food)
Not only is canned lemon juice less healthy, but it also leaves an aftertaste that is pretty annoying. If you have no other choice, use citric salt. Also, not ideal in terms of health but it tastes much better.

9. Using coriander instead of parsley.
(example: VIOLI)
Sure, they look very similar, but they taste differently.

10. Not using baking soda (and adding salt to the cooking water).
(example: Wednsday Chef)
In order to get to the right texture, the chickpeas must be really really soft. I once cooked a pot of chickpeas for eight long hours (without salt, which keeps the chickpeas from softening) until I realized it will NEVER be soft enough without the use of baking soda.

After checking this matter carefully I can tell you this:
a. Baking soda does not effect the taste nor the the nutritional value, as long as you use it right.
b. All the professionals (meaning, the chefs of Arab hummus places) use baking soda.

59 Comments on 10 Common Mistakes in Hummus Recipes

  1. Can you post a correct hummous recipe?

    I haven’t tried to make hummous in ages because my husband has never liked what I made better than the store bought stuff. (He said don’t make hummous ever again!)
    Please give a good recipe to work with, and I will try again and incorporate your suggestions. I learned about the baking soda thing a while back, but I don’t think I ever did all those things together. To get it right I need a good recipe!

  2. Yael – there’s a link at the beginning of the post. Also, look for “The Recipes” category on the upper left corner of the page.

  3. My 16yo son prefers my tehina to storebought, but not the chumus. I do everything you mentioned except add the baking powder to the chickpeas; guess I’ll have to try it. What is the proper amount?

  4. Mother – try our complete recipe
    and try to specify the problem – is it with the texture? does it have an aftertaste? Be as specific as you can and I’ll try to answer. Sometimes there only a minor change to be done, that elevates the hummus to new hights.

  5. Hi! I am the author of the blog Playing With My Food.

    I understand that using canned lemon juice is rather lazy, it just was what I had on hand at the moment when I came home and decided I needed hummus immediately. :0) I also thought that if I posted the recipe using ingredients people had on-hand, my readers would be more likely to give homemade hummus a try.

    I would like to ask that you find another blog to use for your example in #5, however. Because the first ingredient in the recipe I posted is “2 cloves garlic – roughly chopped.” And if you look again you will see the head of garlic in the picture of the ingredients… right next to the canned chickpeas and bottled lemon juice. ;0)

    I’ve been enjoying your blog, by the way… and will have to give your recipes a try.

    • Nothing wrong with the juice you used. I’d like the author of this blog to explain what palpable “health benefit” you’d get from a fresh lemon. People sling around “fresh” and “healthy” like they know what they’re talking about lol.

  6. Hi Mer,

    I respect laziness, but when it comes to hummus I think it’s worth to use proper ingredients and give it a little more effort, because the outcome can really be 10 times better, as already said.

    I too liked your blog (as well as your fine looking profile picture). I checked over 40 recipes before I made this list, and chose the ones coming from what looked to me like the nicest blogs and bloggers.

    Please come again.

  7. I am glad that you like my blog, but…

    Please revise this post and remove me from #5. It isn’t accurate. The recipe I posted calls for garlic cloves.

    Thank you.

  8. Mer – oops… corrected, sorry.

  9. Thank you. :0)

  10. Ok i might be guilty of the too much garlic thing lol. The baking soda is not a bad idea and it works with all beans (ie they cook softer). BTW a pressure cooker would also do the trick without the baking soda or the salt. Americans eat too much salt it is in everything here even things you wouldn’t think should have it so I and most vegetarians here do not cook with it unless absolutely necessary.

  11. Starhawk –

    Certain chickpea varieties are a bit fragile and do not survive a pleasure cooker well. Beside that you’re right.

    Too much salt is a truly bad thing, and I too belong to the too-much-garlic school myself. Anyhow, it’s better to add very little garlic – if any – to the hummus itself and add it only on top of it when you serve it. Try that.

  12. I followed a new recipe that didn’t call for cumin and for too much salt. How do I correct that?

  13. Candice – I’m not sure there’s much you CAN do. If you didn’t add too much raw tahini you can make some thick tahini sauce (with no salt) and add from the salty hummus until it is eatable. It may work or it may just waste all the tahini you have left…

  14. Thanks for the recipe and all the info. After a summer in Israel I needed to learn how to make the real stuff. I can agree with you more about the need to use dried chickpeas over canned ones.

  15. I think the secret to finding your own perfect hummus is to go slowly on ingredients, tasting as you go. I’ve eaten so much hummus with too little lemon and tahini (not to mention garlic); it’s just bland chick-pea mush. Start with the tahini, when it’s good for you then add lemon juice. Same for salt. Cumin is great but it’s also a spice that can ruin a dish if you use too much.

    So much of cooking is about taking the time to get good ingredients, tasting yourself and being aware of how ingredients affect flavor rather than just following a forumula!

    By the way, the “salt in the cooking water keeps beans from softening” idea is actually a myth; it doesn’t affect them even though logically it might seem that it should; it can actually help them absorb water. It also makes for better tasting beans in recipes where the beans stay whole (like msabbha). What does inhibit water uptake is acid – not an issue for hummus but for other dried bean recipes. That’s why many traditional bean recipes that have tomatoes or tomato paste add them late in the cooking. But

  16. I know you don’t like canned chickpeas, but I don’t have a choice here in Germany. I bought a can, brought tahini from England, and just mixed away. A bit of fresh garlic (so fresh, the skins were still soft), a bit of lemon and almost no salt (because there seems to be salt in the canned chickpeas).
    Anyway. It is absolutely devine.
    I shall now retire to my favourite armchair, watch an episode of “Starsky & Hutch” and nibble on some carrots dipped in my hummus.

    My idea of heaven! ๐Ÿ™‚

  17. I find that if one uses canned chick peas, one should rinse them three times after discarding the original liquid. Not doing so is a big mistake of some recipes, as is using the original canned chickpea liquid in any way.

    You are correct about the lessened nutritional value.

  18. I appreciate your information, but I simply detest garlic. I tried hummus one time at an authentic Mediterranean restaurant in our area and all I could taste was garlic. I would prefer a recipe without it, regardless of authenticity, because I do like chickpeas.

  19. Noรซl Sumstine // December 28, 2010 at 12:55 am // Reply

    Some people are allergic to garlic. My daughter loves hummus, we all do actually, but she absolutely cannot have the garlic. We are going to try asafoetida today. Asafoetida is considered a garlic substitute in some cultures but you have to use a very light hand with it. Even a little bit can be too much, depending on what it is being mixed into. When there is too much, it stinks like cat urine and tastes.. possibly the same.
    I really miss cooking with garlic.

  20. felipe carbonell // May 7, 2011 at 5:36 pm // Reply

    I just made hummus, but it is very salty. Any sugestions on how I can mend the problem and taste?

    Thank you


  21. I once learned that vinegar can help balance salt. I would try it with a spoonful first, and also see if lemon juice will have the same effect, since the taste goes better with hummus. Obviously adding more chickpeas, olive oil, and other ingrediants will help. I like adding roasted red peppers. My guess is that adding roasted garlic or mushrooms will not help with the salt problem, though they are also good with hummus.

  22. Kind of funny to read. Just made hummus and I didn’t fall into too many pitfalls – and didn’t use a recipe. Pure luck or maybe just instincts.

    1. I have never heard of boiling with baking soda – will try it next time (but my inner food scientist (also on paper), tells me that the soda only helps soften the outer layer of the chikpeas).

    2. I put in lemon zest as well (it’s my thing at the moment – I put it in everything)

    3. I boiled the chickpeas in water with SALT, but also garlic, cumin and koriander. I find it makes the chikpeas taste much more authentic, and I usually snack them this way.

    You may yell at me for my mistakes, or consider using them and see the result ๐Ÿ˜€

  23. I would love to make hummus but I am allergic to lemon. Any suggestions?

    • aghedo – this, indeed, is very sad. You should check with your doctor what specific substance you are allergic to and/or what alternatives you can use.

      There’s citric acid of course, which is used by many hummus places when lemon is absent or too pricey. There are many herbs that contain citral, and can be used as lemon alternatives. A partial substitute which is used in Arab cuisine is Sumac.

  24. I added baking soda to my cooking chickpeas and they turned green! What do you think caused this? There was nothing else in the water.

    • Bobbi – the green color is a sign of over cooking. Use less baking soda and/or cook less. Note that different chickpeas behave differently and that’s a serious issue even for respectable hummus places, that have to look hard for the right variety and supplier. The first batch with new chickpeas is always unpredictable.

  25. i would like to try dried chickpeas but i use the can of actual hummus and tahini dip and then add more tahini, lemon, water olive oil a bit of salt (sometimes a garlic clove) and use an immersion/stick blender on it. it comes out so light and fluffy its awesome. also i strongly recommend sumac in place of lemon its awesome. ๐Ÿ™‚ i like to sprinkle a bit on the hummus for garnish. I had a thought the other day i dont know how i went so many years without hummus and tahini LOL i love it i cant live without it now ๐Ÿ™‚

  26. Hi,
    For your info, I just read that the U.S. Dry Bean Council does not recommend adding baking soda at any time, as it supposedly strips all the vitamin B1 (thiamin) out of the beans. I guess there’s a choice to make, tenderness vs. vitamin B1. It’s quite an easy choice, I’ll have to find my vitamins somewhere else… ๐Ÿ™‚

    I really love your hummus recipe, it’s great!

    • Greg – Vitamin B1 is also lost during long cooking, which is mandatory if you don’t use baking soda. Baking soda also break the oligosacharides, complex carbohydrates that humans do not digest.

  27. Outstanding tips. I live in Jerusalem most of the year, and eat Hummus every week in the Old City. They do it exactly as you say. Most people in America have no idea what Hummus should taste like!

  28. I prepare hummus regularly, and Iยดve never have used baking soda, how much do I have to use for 1lb of dry chickpeas?
    thank you for this blog ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Monica – that depends on many factors, such as the chemistry of your tap water, the age and genre of chickpeas, etc. Do a little trial & error – add one “flat” teaspoon of baking soda, wait 20 minutes and if there isn’t a noticeable change add another 1/2 teaspoon, and repeat after 30 minutes if necessary.

      The effect of the baking soda usually becomes noticeable pretty quickly. The smell becomes sweeter, the color of the water changes, etc. With time, you’d learn to recognize the signs and get the right touch. Good luck!

  29. Do you grid up the parsley and add it to the mix, or only as a garnish on top of the finished product? Do you ever add mint leaves to the mix?

    • Steven – I do not add the parsley to the mix, but in old Jerusalem there are some hummus places in which they do that. There are actually hundreds of different recipes for hummus, and it’s OK to experiment as long as you don’t add ingredients that has nothing to do with hummus, such as sun dried tomato’s.

      Mint leaves – well, not very common and not a very good choice IMHO. Lebanese do serve hummus with some vegetables and leaves, including some nanah (wild middle-eastern mint, which has milder flavor), but as garnish – I don’t think so. In the galilee some use Rashad (Garden cress).

  30. Shooky,
    I both soak the beans in baking soda over night, as well as add baking soda again when boiling the beans to get that awesome texture that I am accustomed to eating/seeing at my favorite Humus places in Jerusalem. Does any of this take away from the protein content/digestion? I can live with the loss of some of the vitamin content, but I don’t want to totally “nuke” the other nutritional value, particularly, the protein.

  31. Shooky,
    I forgot to add this question my last entry a second ago…i do notice that when I add the baking soda to the cooking process, sometimes it adds a bitter aftertaste. Is that because I am adding too much baking soda, or not properly skimming off the scummy residue that boils up to the brim of the pot during the process? Thanks.

  32. V. V. Williams // March 31, 2013 at 11:09 am // Reply


    I live in Oman and spend a lot of time in the UAE as well. Here in the Gulf, at least, most varieties of hummus I come across nowadays use garlic, to be sure, but it’s done with a VERY light touch — the taste is just barely there in the background. As for cumin, well, you see it, but sumac is much, much more common. When I first came to the Gulf in the 80s, cumin was much more prevalent. Another thing that seems to be happening: yogurt is being substituted for at least part of the tahini, and sometimes replaces it completely. I’m not sure why; possibly it’s because yogurt is considered lighter and maybe less fattening (Obesity is becoming a problem here in the region, after all.). As for lemon juice, here in Oman, anyway, they generally use the very small, not-quite-pingpong-ball sized local limes instead. Needless to say, no one but no one uses bottled lemon or lime juice. And still one more thing: you often hear cooks here argue about whether “real” hummus should be as smooth as possible OR a bit on the lumpy side. It’s never really thick like in North America (I’ve yet to find decent Arab food over there), just slightly lumpy rather like small curd cottage cheese looks.

  33. I don’t have a hummus recipe in my blog so can you take out the teresacooks link? I use the smitten kitchen recipe which is excellent.

  34. Middle easterns DO NOT put cumin in hummus.

  35. Are you sure baking soda doesn’t affect the nutritional value? A teaspoon has upwards of 1200 mg of sodium. Would it reduce after rinsing?

    I’m on a low-sodium diet. Is pressure cooking with desired salt an option?

  36. for the first time used baking soda…the texture and flavor I got was very upsetting.
    I believe is better to give time to the old fashion way of cooking it instead risking to loose flavor and nutrients…

  37. Regarding the use of Baking Soda there is a misconception: It is not a flavoring agent. Its job is to counter the effects of acidity and water hardness on the chickpea cell walls.Cell walls have pectin which hardens (just like jam) in the presence of acid and Calcium ions.

    If you live in an are where water is hard or acidic – you will most likely be unable to ever soften the chickpeas enough. You can adjust the water by adding bicarobonate of soda (baking soda) or find another source of water (e.g. bottled, reverse osmosis water, etc.), or a stream or a lake. Just verify the water is alkaline and soft.

  38. My son “thinks he used too much baking soda & didn’t rinse the hummus when he drianed them….he’s already added tehina, lemon, garlic, etc…and processed. I think he’s ruined it. Is there a way to fix this? Adding more hummus maybe adding more tehina? I “think” he’s ruined it ๐Ÿ™‚

    Josh’s mom

    • Shooky Galili // August 17, 2014 at 10:14 am // Reply

      Ruthie – too much baking soda may effect the taste but usually doesn’t make the hummus uneatable. When it does, it’s better to start over.

  39. Whereas fresh peas and canned peas taste completely different, there’s hardly any difference between the taste and texture of canned chick peas and boiled dries ones.

  40. I made hummus last night and totally forgot to add garlic that i had peeled and kept aside. And the hummus tastes very bland. I do not want to waste it. Is there a way to fix it?

    • Shooky Galili // December 24, 2014 at 5:50 pm // Reply

      Of course. Spice it when you serve it. You can add a gravy made of garlic and/or fresh or pickled hot peppers (the green ones are better), lemon juice, salt and a maybe little bit of water (use a food processor to give it the right texture, which does not have to be very smooth). You don’t need more then a few spoons and it goes well with good olive oil and some cumin.

  41. I suppose a grammarian would critique your writing in a way similar to your critique of the many variations in personal taste. Tradition? Whose tradition? Both Israel and Iran claim to have invented hummus. It is also made in Italy. One trick ponies who can’t stand innovation in ancient recipes have no business advising anyone about cooking. Some of the best and the worst hummus I’ve ever had has been in Arab restaurants.

    • Shooky Galili // December 25, 2014 at 9:20 am // Reply

      My English grammar is not very good because English isn’t my mother tongue. Hummus, on the other hand, I speak fluently.

      There’s no Iranian claim to the invention of hummus that I know of and Israel, as a state, does not claim things about foods. Most Israelis I know couldn’t care less. The more important questions are who makes the best hummus and what’s the best recipe.

      Innovation is nice, but in order to be able to innovate you should start with the basics IMHO. It’s like playing an instrument – once you master the musical notes and scales improvising gets easy.

  42. wow, that sounds brilliant ๐Ÿ™‚ thanks!

  43. Actually, there is such a thing as hummus without garlic. Lebanon, the country most popular for its hummus, traditionally does not use garlic in hummus recipes. Some regions do but not all. Also, it is possible to make perfect hummus with the canned variety (just boil them more) and without baking soda. You just have to know what you’re doing to get the desired consistency.
    Some countries decorate with cumin, others with parsley, others with paprika powder and olive oil… some add more chickpeas (Palestine and Syria) and others add more tahini (Lebanon)… there is not one way to make it. It just has to taste good!

  44. Recently talking to a demonstrator for a high powered Blendtec blender, he mentioned that he told others how well it worked for making hummus smoothly. They told him to add ice cube(s) when blending it, that it would somehow lighten the color and brighten the taste. Would this work on the order of adding water if needed? Has anyone ever heard of this? Curious. BTW, bought the blender and will see how it works. The bet thing about it is the powerful engine and ease of cleaning, no parts to take apart. Might be similar but stronger than my ancient food processor.

  45. I have recently taken to cooking hummus in Australia. I believe I have a good traditional recipe (chickpeas, garlic, sea salt, tahini, lemon juice, fresh virgin olive oil, a little water if necessary) and it is so delicious we eat it every single day. I like it very smooth as it gets light and almost fluffy this way. I will keep experimenting with this for a while to learn what makes the flavour and texture change with each batch before adding cumin etc. So far I have found out that the taste can be affected a lot by the freshness of the garlic and the type of olive oil. We have lovely fresh green virgin olive oils grown here and we prefer these to European oils, probably because they are not as fresh by the time they arrive and are stored in tins, not dark bottles. My next step is to cook the chick peas from scratch – we have rain water so I will try without baking soda. We have topped our hummus with parsley, feta etc, but our favourite is paprika, coriander (sorry but we LOVE this topping) and a drizzle of olive oil. We have also used garlic and lemon infused olive oil on top for a change. My question is about tahini – here we have hulled and unhulled tahini. I’ve been using unhulled on the assumption its healther. What is the type of tahini traditionally used? Also, when I add cumin, do I add the powder, or grind some seeds? Thanks

  46. Hi Jo,
    In my expierience unhulled tahini could be much bitter than the hulled one. Norma;;y in middle east they use hulled one with the bright colors, not this ones with dark ones. But i do not think that they think about healthy factor at all. ;- )

    When you want to use cumin you should have it grinded.
    have a great taste!

  47. I’m doing Weight Watchers to lose baby weight. Hummus is high in points, probably in part due to the tahini. Do you have a recipe for tahini-free hummus?

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