This traditional balila is a Lebanese staple at breakfast, brunch, or as an appetizer. It is a simple dish that comes together very quickly to make a delicious, filling meal that is nutritious and naturally vegan. You only need 6 common pantry ingredients and less than 30 minutes to make the best hummus balila at home!
If you've read my homemade hummus post, then you already got a little Arabic lesson from me where I explained that the word "hummus" in Arabic means chickpeas. The word "balila" refers to boiled chickpeas.
In Lebanon, balila also refers to this dish I'm sharing with you today, which is tender cooked chickpeas that are dressed in a lemony garlicky sauce. Sometimes it's called hummus balila, but that's kind of redundant. (This recipe is not to be confused with Egyptian balila, which is a wheat porridge.)
Again, this recipe is part of my chickpea series. My husband is ready for me to move on to recipes without chickpeas (he's a meat eater) but I'm not quite done yet. At least he got a break when I shared my recipe for hummus with spiced meat. It's insanely delicious. Now on to the Lebanese balila!
- Cooked chickpeas: The chickpeas need to be suuuper tender and creamy for this recipe. It's best to cook dried chickpeas from scratch, but I have tips for using canned as well!
- Fresh garlic: Please don't use pre-minced garlic from the store. It's not the same.
- Fresh lemon juice: Again, avoid the bottled lemon juice if possible. Since we're only using a few ingredients, they really stand out.
- Extra virgin olive oil: A good quality olive oil is best because we use a generous amount of it, so a good olive oil takes it to the next level.
- Seasoning: Ground cumin and chickpeas go hand in hand in Lebanese recipes, so no surprise here. And salt of course to bring out the flavors of everything.
- Fresh parsley: It's not just for a pop of color. It adds a delicious, fresh flavor so I like to garnish with lots of parsley.
Step By Step Instructions
Step 1: Cook some chickpeas. You can either use my guide on how to cook chickpeas from scratch, or you could use canned chickpeas. If using canned, transfer the chickpeas with their liquid into a small pot and simmer on the stove for 20 minutes or until they are super tender and creamy.
Step 2: Crush some fresh garlic with a pinch of salt in a mortar and pestle or using a garlic press. Place the garlic in a bowl with the ground cumin and salt.
Step 3: Add one cup of the hot chickpeas to the bowl along with ¼ cup of the chickpea liquid (aka aquafaba).
Step 4: Use a pestle or a masher to mash the chickpeas with the other ingredients in the bowl. You want to achieve a semi-chunky texture, not a smooth puree.
Step 5: Add the fresh lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, and the rest of the chickpeas (drained) into the bowl and mix together very well until the chickpeas are well combined with the dressing.
Step 6: Transfer the balila to a shallow bowl and drizzle a generous amount of extra virgin olive oil all over the top. Sprinkle some ground cumin and aleppo pepper if desired, and garnish with lots of fresh chopped parsley.
Balila is traditionally served warm for breakfast or brunch with fresh pita bread and lots of fresh veggies like tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes, green onions, fresh mint and parsley, and of course olives.
If you go to a traditional Lebanese breakfast or brunch restaurant, balila is just one of the staple menu items. Other brunch options include classic hummus and its fancier sibling, hummus with spiced meat and nuts.
Now tear a piece of pita bread, scoop up some balila, and stuff it in your mouth along with some fresh herbs and veggies.
Substitutions and Variations
Lebanese hummus balila is naturally gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan. I have not tested this recipe with other variations since this is the authentic way to make it. But here are some ideas if you don't have the right ingredients at the moment!
- White beans: If you can't have chickpeas, you could try this recipe using cannellini beans or other creamy and tender white beans.
- Spices: If you don't like the taste of cumin, you may try substituting with another spice you enjoy. I can't recommend a specific one since I haven't tested it. You could also just omit the cumin.
Tips To Make The Best Balila
- Overcook the chickpeas. Like most, if not all, Lebanese recipes, the chickpeas need to be super tender and creamy. Canned chickpeas are usually too firm, so if using canned, make sure to simmer them for 20 minutes.
- Thicken the dressing by mashing some of the chickpeas. Some people skip this step, but TRUST ME and don't skip it. Mashing some chickpeas with the garlic, spices, lemon juice, and olive oil makes for a flavorful sauce that coats the chickpeas in every bite.
- Use the highest quality ingredients you can afford. Since balila only requires 5 ingredients plus salt, you should try to use fresh, high quality ingredients to let the flavors shine through.
Frequently Asked Questions
I have a complete guide with several methods on how to cook chickpeas, so be sure to check it out!
Yes, but you will need to simmer them on the stove for about 20 minutes until they get tender and creamy.
I recommend simmering the chickpeas in their own liquid, which is called aquafaba, because it will make them more flavorful than simmering them in water. If you are concerned about the sodium content, I recommend buying low sodium canned chickpeas. Otherwise, feel free to rinse them. But this is another reason I prefer cooking them from scratch, as that allows me to control the amount of sodium.
This dish is best enjoyed fresh while it is warm, but you can refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Reheat on the stovetop until warmed through.
More Brunch Recipes
- 3 cups cooked chickpeas, or two 15 oz cans
- 4 garlic cloves
- 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt, more to taste
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin, more for garnish
- ¼ cup chickpea liquid (aquafaba), or water
- ¼ cup fresh lemon juice, about two lemons
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, more for drizzling on top
- Fresh parsley, chopped, for garnish
- Aleppo pepper, optional, for garnish
- Pita bread, for serving
- Warm up the cooked chickpeas in a small sauce pan. If using canned chickpeas, transfer them with their liquid into a saucepan and simmer for 20 minutes or until very tender and creamy.
- Crush the garlic cloves in a mortar and pestle with a pinch of salt, or use a garlic press. Place in a medium bowl with the remaining salt, ground cumin, and aquafaba.
- Add one cup of the warm chickpeas, drained, into the bowl and mash with a pestle or masher until you have a chunky paste consistency.
- Stir in the lemon juice, olive oil, and the remaining drained chickpeas and mix well until fully combined. Taste and adjust to your preference.
- Transfer the balila to a shallow bowl and top with lots of olive oil and fresh, chopped parsley. You can also sprinkle more ground cumin and some aleppo pepper if desired. Serve warm with pita bread and fresh veggies.
Nutrition information provided is an estimate and may vary.