Tuesday, July 29, 2014


I've made hummus many a time, just winging it without looking at a recipe, and I have always been dissatisfied with the results. Frustrated and determined to make GOOD hummus, I was intrigued by a recipe that claims the secret is peeling the chickpeas. Every single one of them. If this was the key to good hummus, I was willing to try it. However, being an experimentalist, I was also keen to know: how much of a difference does peeling the chickpeas make? Would anyone notice the difference between peeled and unpeeled? Fortunately for you, I did the experiment so you don't have to, including blind taste tests with my friends. Here are the results.

The best hummus I've ever made.

My favorite recipe blog/site is Smitten Kitchen, but sometimes the recipes there are an insane amount of work. For her "Ethereally smooth hummus," the recipe calls for hand-peeling each and every chickpea. To test the difference it makes and to determine whether it is worth the effort, I prepared the hummus recipe twice at the same time, identically, except for peeling/not peeling the canned chickpeas. First off, I should state that when I tasted both batches, my immediate reaction is that both were far and above the best hummus I had ever made. I could not tell a difference (in taste) between the two; and indeed, the peeling of the chickpeas is all about texture. My reaction? Peeling is not worth it. Let's see what my friends thought...

Peeling the chickpeas one by one. The discarded
chickpea skins go to the chickens.

Two batches, one peeled and one not, for the blind taste
tests. Can you tell which is which?
I piled the hummus into two marked containers and took them out on a camping trip with friends, and served them up with vegetables and chips. I did not tell the subjects what the difference was between the two hummuses. Most people did not express a preference for one over the other. Two people expressed a preference for the peeled hummus, dangit. When asked what they thought the difference was, two people independently thought that the peeled one tasted "peanutty" compared to the other one.

My take? OK, so the blind taste tests did identify a *slight* preference for the peeled version, where only 2 out of about 11 people claimed to have a preference at all. I am lazy, and I will probably not peel the chickpeas again. Rest assured that the unpeeled version is still delicious. I've now made it several times, and am never dissatisfied with my homemade hummus anymore.

From Smitten Kitchen, but without the chickpea peeling
Makes about 2 cups of hummus

1 can chickpeas
1/2 cup tahini
2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice (lime is fine too)
2 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp salt (add more to taste. Original recipe called for 3/4 tsp, which was borderline too salty for me)
1/4 cup water

Blend the chickpeas in the food processor for 1 minute, scraping down the sides as needed. Add the tahini, lemon juice, garlic, and salt and blend until fully mixed. With the food processor running, drizzle in the water, stopping when the desired consistency is achieved.

Serve drizzled with olive oil and/or topped with kalamata olives. For dipping, try toasted and buttered pita bread, vegetables, corn chips, pretzels, or funky hippie vegetable chips (as pictured).