Learning the Art of Hummus Making in Jerusalem

Don’t mess with the Zohan — Sony Pictures

In movie “Don’t Mess with the Zohan” the Zohan riffed on Israelis’ love of hummus by showing it used as toothpaste, for hair care, and even to extinguish a fire. The truth is, Israelis love hummus. When we went to Israel, we expected hummus to be everywhere, and it was. While we didn’t see it being used like the Zohan did, we did have it at almost every meal we ate, and had no objections.

The recipe below is a basic hummus recipe but if you are looking to get jiggy with it then head on over to Pinterest and prepare to have your mind blown. There are hundreds of variations on how you can make hummus and all of them look mighty tasty! Start with this board of over 100 recipes and go from there.

Making hummus with friends is the best!

Photo: Abraham Hostels

One of the sponsors of this year’s TBEX (Travel Blogger’s Exchange) was Abraham Hostels, which has properties in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Nazareth. We’ve always shied away from hostels because we thought they were for twenty-something backpackers, not us over-fifty-something travelers. Were we ever wrong! At the Abraham Hostels, there were people of all ages and they had accommodations to suit everyone. One of the most fun features of the Abraham Hostels was they offered all kinds of fun activities. Every day and night something was going on. Activities like Hebrew lessons, open mike night, tapas night, Shabbat dinners, and hummus making classes are on the schedule for all three properties. While we were in Jerusalem, we decided to take the hummus making class, and it was a lot of fun.

Here’s the recipe

There are different ways to make hummus, but this class was old school (no food processors allowed). It’s very easy to make hummus from scratch, and for the Abraham Hostel recipe all you need is:


1 cup chickpeas (dried and then soaked over night)
 1 cup Tahini
 1 large garlic clove
 1/2 chopped parsley
 1/2 cup Olive oil, more if desired
 1/2 cup lemon juice
 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
 1/3 cup water (plus more if needed)
 Paprika for garnish

You’ll also need a bowl and a whisk if you decide to go old school and mash them up manually. In the class, we used a metal bowl and a whisk to mash the chickpeas, but I like my hummus extra creamy, at home, I use a blender to get that consistency. Before you get started with mashing you’ll need to do the following:

  1. In a bowl, cover chickpeas with at least 2 inches of cold water. Add 1 teaspoon baking soda and let soak at room temperature overnight. Drain and rinse.
  2. In a medium pot, cover soaked chickpeas by at least 4 inches of water. Add another teaspoon of baking soda and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-high and let cook at a vigorous simmer until chickpeas are quite soft, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. (Overcooked chickpeas are the secret to creamy hummus, so don’t worry if they start to break down a little.) Drain.


Do you have an Instant Pot? Here is the method I used at home to cook the chickpeas from Instant Pot Eats (this is a great site for getting yummy Instant Pot recipes by the way):

Cooking from dried — Add chickpeas to the Instant Pot and cover with 3 cups of water. Break and add a cube of vegetable stock. Place and lock the lid, make sure the steam releasing handle is pointing to Sealing. Press Manual (High Pressure) and adjust to 35 minutes. After three beeps the pressure cooker will start going. Once the timer goes off, allow the pressure to release naturally for 5 minutes and then use the quick-release method before you open the lid.

Cooking from soaked — repeat as above but set the timer to 25 minutes.

Time to make the Tahini Sauce

While chickpeas are cooking, make the tahini sauce. In a blender, combine the lemon juice, garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Let mixture sit 10 minutes. Add tahini, remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and the cumin, and blend until it forms a thick paste. Add 1/3 to 2/3 cup ice water while blender is running, a little at a time, until sauce is smooth. You’re looking for a perfectly smooth, creamy sauce.

Now add the cooked chickpeas

Hummus making class

4. Once cooked, strain the chickpeas through a sieve, but make sure to reserve the cooking liquid. Add the cooked chickpeas to a blender, food processor, or to a bowl for manual mashing. If you are using a blender, blend until perfectly smooth and not at all grainy, stopping to scrape down sides of bowl occasionally. This blending may take upward of about 2 minutes; just keep going until the mixture is ultra-creamy and fluffy, adding a little of the water from the chickpeas if you need it to make the contents of the blender move. Taste for seasonings, adding more salt, lemon juice and/or cumin as needed. — From Zahav’s recipe in the New York Times (this is the recipe I use along with the Instant Pot instructions).

Let’s eat!

Now you are ready to serve, spread the hummus on a plate, dust with paprika, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with parsley. This recipe makes four cups of hummus.

Have some left over?

If you are going to save the hummus for later, put it in an airtight container for up to 5 or 6 days. You may want to make the hummus a little thinner because it tends to get thicker with time.

Of course, making homemade hummus is great, but making homemade hummus with friends is even better. We had a lot of fun chatting with our classmates and sharing our travel stories. Oh, and trying that great Middle Eastern spirit called Arak! This is a clear liquor that tastes like anise. If you are in Jerusalem, Nazareth, or Tel Aviv check out the hummus making class at Abraham Hostels and learn how to make hummus from scratch.

Good hummus is all about the tahini

One more thing we learned about in Israel was tahini, they use it on EVERYTHING! When you go to a restaurant, it’s right there on the table, just like catsup. We are used to buying tahini in a can, and it’s like a hard paste with oil floating on the top. That is not what you get in Israel. The really good stuff is very smooth and creamy. While we were in Jerusalem, we went to Mahane Yehuda market and visited Tahini King, where they have a tahini mill with ancient millstones on site (though most of their products are produced off-site), and you can have a taste as it comes out of the mill. You can buy buckets of tahini from them and they have flavored tahini too.

You can also venture into the Muslim Quarter of the Old City, and go down a small alley to Al Jebrini tahini factory, near the Damascus Gate. Started 142 years ago, this hidden treasure is a living museum that showcases the now-dying traditional way of making tahini. When you first walk into to this little shop it looks like any other convenience store. But a door in the corner leads you to another room where a 200-year-old round stone about five feet in diameter goes around and around, grinding sesame seeds into a paste. Al Jebrini makes white tahini; hard-to-find red tahini, which has a more intense, richer smoky flavor than the more familiar white, and black tahini, made from ground nigella seeds. If you are in Israel you can tour the Al Jebrini tahini factory with a guide.

Al Jebrini tahini factory
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Zahi Shaked, an Israeli tour guide, produced this video on the Al Jebrini Tahini Factory so you can see for yourself how tahini is produced.

Zahi is one of the great tour guides with Bein Harim Israel Tourism Services LTD. We took their tour to Mt. Masada and The Dead Sea and it was very informative and fun tour.

We had a great time making hummus at Abraham Hostel in Jerusalem. It’s always fun to learn something new and even more fun when there’s a bunch of travel bloggers at the table.

We don’t buy hummus at the store anymore because it’s so easy to make it and the taste is so much better than store bought. Now if we could just get the freshly made fluffy pita bread that we got in Israel we would be all set! And, of course, don’t forget the Fizzy Bubblech.

Do you have your own hummus recipe you would like to share? Please leave it in the comments!

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