Musabbaha Whole Chickpea Hummus Recipe

Hummus, a creamy paste of chickpeas and tahini scented with lemon and garlic, is rightly one of the most beloved Middle Eastern dishes. Similar chickpea pastes flavored with cinnamon, ginger, parsley and olive oil are mentioned in medieval Arab cookbooks as early as the 13th century. In recent years, hummus and baba ghanoush have become the emblematic dishes for pan-Middle Eastern cuisine. Yet, despite its ubiquity, when properly made, hummus offers one of the most comforting and satisfying dishes with its complex interplay of flavors and rich contrasts between spice, tartness and creaminess. In addition to the commonly encountered creamy hummus, Middle Eastern cuisine offers a number of interesting regional variations, out of which the Syrian-style hummus, musabbaha, is one of my absolute favorites.

In contrast to the classical creamy hummus bi tahina (hummus with sesame paste,) musabbaha is made with chickpeas left whole. Chickpeas are first marinated while still warm in plenty of lemon juice, olive oil and garlic before being blanketed in tangy parsley tahini sauce. The textural contrasts of whole tender chickpeas and creamy, enveloping sauce is very special, while the depth of flavors is almost surprising. Each one comes like a wave: first, the brightness of lemon and garlic, then the chestnut aroma of beans and the nutty aroma of sesame paste, and finally, the gentle warmth of chilies. Once the chickpeas are cooked, the whole dish can be put on a table within 15 minutes. It makes a great appetizer, salad or even a side dish for grilled fish or chicken. Following the example of my Syrian friend who shared this recipe with me, I like to have it for breakfast with some toasted flatbread and tomato-cucumber salad.

Musabbaha Whole Chickpea Hummus with Cumin and Parsley مسبّحة

Ingredients: Serves 6 as part of an appetizer spread, or 4 as a main item.

1 cup whole dried chickpeas (soaked in water overnight)
2-4 cloves of garlic (or to taste, depending on your love for garlic), crushed to paste with some salt
1/4 t cumin
1/3 cup tahini
Juice of 1 large lemon (about 1/4 cup)
1/3-1/2cup parsley, very finely minced
black pepper, hot chili powder, salt, olive oil

Cook chickpeas in salted water for 2 hours or till tender. Allow to cool till lukewarm. Mix lemon juice with garlic to tame its bite and leave for a couple of minutes. Mix chickpeas with half of the lemon-garlic mixture, add cumin, black pepper, chili powder, salt to taste and enough olive oil to coat.

Mix the rest of the lemon-garlic mixture into tahini, add salt to taste and add more lemon juice, if needed. The sauce should have a pleasant tang. Fold almost all of the parsley into the sauce, saving a bit for garnish. The parsley is an important ingredient in musabbaha, so do not skimp on it.

Arrange chickpeas on a deep serving plate and spread the sauce on top. The idea is to layer the dish, so do not mix the sauce, but instead let it coat the chickpeas like a blanket. Drizzle some more olive oil and sprinkle the top with minced parsley. Enjoy!

Photo © Bois de Jasmin.

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27 Comments

  • rosarita: This sounds delicious and I actually have all the ingredients on hand. Thanks so much! July 20, 2009 at 3:35am Reply

  • Tania: That sounds perfect, and I’ve gotten bored with the same old supermarket hummus. Thanks! July 20, 2009 at 8:54am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Rosarita, it is very simple. These days whenever I boil chickpeas for hummus, I end up making musabbaha instead of the classical creamy version (and it is not only because I am too lazy to assemble the blender :) July 20, 2009 at 9:20am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: T, I find that most hummus versions from the supermarkets (unless it is a Middle Eastern store) are never quite satisfying. For one thing, they often lack the correct quantity of tahini. Or worse, they are made so far in advance that garlic gets stale.

    So, I boil chickpeas and use one half for your salad recipe (tomato, herbs, garlic, oil) and the other for hummus.

    Have you ever tried hummus with ground lamb and pinenuts? It is another wonderful variation. July 20, 2009 at 9:23am Reply

  • sweetlife: What? No photo credit for the feline star? :-)

    We are lucky to have several excellent Lebanese grocery stores who distribute their wares throughout town–the baba ganhoush is particularly good because they grill the eggplants over an open flame and you can taste the smoke. But this version sounds too good to pass up, as does the one you mentioned to Tania — ground lamb? pine nuts? Where? (On the side? Mixed together? And prepared how?)

    Thanks for the culinary inspiration, V! July 20, 2009 at 10:20am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: A, the feline star’s name is Stretch, and unfortunately he is not mine. He was just visiting us for a few days, while my friend from work was traveling. We still laugh remembering his antics, which were numerous. His favorite activity was to stick his paws inside a watering jug and then to dig in the jasmine pots. :)

    As for hummus with meat: it is very simple. Mix some ground lamb or beef with allspice, cinnamon, hot chili pepper. Sauté 1 small minced onion, pinenuts, add your meat and sauté for 5 minutes or so, till well browned. Pile it atop the classical creamy hummus and serve. Spicy, savory meat and tangy hummus make for a luscious combination. … July 20, 2009 at 11:51am Reply

  • sweetlife: Stretch! Love it!

    And thanks so much for the extra recipe–I know what we’ll be having this weekend.. July 20, 2009 at 12:37pm Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: A, my pleasure to share. Enjoy it! July 20, 2009 at 1:06pm Reply

  • Lavanya: Looks and sounds delicious, V. Which brand do you recommend for the tahini paste (as I’ve heard some can be bitter)- or do you recommend making the paste as well? July 20, 2009 at 8:56pm Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Lavanya, I buy imported sesame paste from my local Middle Eastern store. It is called Dalia. The quality is decent, and it is quite inexpensive. Tahini from hulled sesame seeds (typical Middle Eastern variety) is less bitter than the paste from unhulled seeds (what I tend to see at my local health food stores.) Moreover, tahini is often used in conjunction with some acidic condiments like lemon, bitter orange, verjuice, etc., which help to cut down on its slight natural bitterness and richness.

    One of my friends makes her own tahini paste, but it is difficult to get it perfectly smooth. Things like that are the ones I am happy to leave to others. :) July 20, 2009 at 10:15pm Reply

  • scentaddict: Dear V,
    Love to read your flavor articles – they can actually spur new ideas on fragrance creation .

    Have thought of reviewing fragrances and Dishes together i.e like something that chanlder blurr i think that’s his name (The NY Times perfume critic did sometime ago).
    maybe Gourmand fragrances and dishes that come to mind when you smell them? would make interesting read.
    Cheers and Good work July 21, 2009 at 8:44am Reply

  • columbine: i always make my own hummus but this recipe sounds delicious too, i will definitely try it (i still have your cookie recipe to try). i personnally like to use coriander (also called arab parsley actually) leaves instead of parsley.
    with minced meat, what you can also do after mixing in the spices is to shape them in flat sausages, insert a bamboo skewer through them and grill them on a grill plan. works out nicely for eastern mediterranean dishes…it’s a good idea to add meat to the Humus to turn into a main rather than into a dip…

    i love your oriental recipe series :- ) July 21, 2009 at 10:29am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Scentaddict, it sounds like an interesting idea. I did do something like this, but usually speaking about several fragrances rather than one specific perfume. You can see some of these other flavor/fragrance articles. July 22, 2009 at 11:00am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Columbine, thank you, I am glad to hear it!
    Love your idea for the presentation. It is not even lunch time, but I am already hungry reading your description. July 22, 2009 at 11:01am Reply

  • Mimi: Thank you for this recipe, BdJ. I love hummus and welcome a change from the usual kind – and I love reading your scent / cookery articles. Your blog is a true sensual pleasure. July 22, 2009 at 12:03pm Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Mimi, I hope that you will like it. I enjoy writing these articles very much, as they are a nice break from fragrance reviews for me. July 22, 2009 at 2:24pm Reply

  • Sveta: MMM, sounds so delicious! And that photo is adorable. Was he trying to steal the food? July 22, 2009 at 2:35pm Reply

  • Sveta: I also want to ask how long it takes you to boil chickpeas. I tried to boil some last week, but the water evaporated and they burned a little and then they never softened. July 22, 2009 at 2:40pm Reply

  • Eric: I was just cleaning out the kitchen cabinets and found a can of chickpeas. Seems like fate is pushing me to make this dish. I have no doubt it will be as tasty as you say. July 22, 2009 at 11:43pm Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Sveta, he was just trying to sniff it. But yes, one needed to watch him, because he liked to steal food. July 23, 2009 at 9:46am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Eric, it is fate, for sure! :) Please let me know how it turns out. It is such an easy dish. If you have some patience, rub your cooked chickpeas a bit to remove some skins. The more delicate the chickpeas, the more delicious is the resulting dish. July 23, 2009 at 9:47am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Sveta, oops, I forgot to answer your questions. Chickpeas take about 2-3h, but it depends on the freshness of your beans. I have beautiful chickpeas from Rancho Gordo (a farm that grows heirloom beans in CA) that take only 1.5h, while the ones from Whole foods take longer.

    As with most beans, if you let the water evaporate and allow the beans to burn, they will never soften properly (their proteins coagulate.) It is best just to start over, unless you are in late stage of cooking. Believe me, I made this mistake a number times. :) July 23, 2009 at 12:01pm Reply

  • Sveta: Vika, thank you. I will try not to let them burn in the future. July 24, 2009 at 12:18pm Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Sveta, you are welcome! July 27, 2009 at 9:46am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: AAS, cats always look innocent, especially when they are being especially naughty. ;) July 27, 2009 at 9:47am Reply

  • Azriel Lider: I love Mussabaha, and look at it as some kind of an upgrated Hummus. However, the black pepper looks like an interesting ingredient,so I’ll have to try it. July 28, 2009 at 4:26am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Azriel, upgraded hummus is a great way to put it!
    I was just browsing your site, and I am taken with your pickled okra recipe, which I will try soon. July 28, 2009 at 8:30am Reply

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