Msabaha – Lebanese Chickpeas

Better than hummus!? Msabaha is an awesome, quick and easy dish that has the potential for a great summer feast.


I ate this mainly for breakfast on a recent trip to Beirut. Warm, with crisp tomatoes and pepper, plus fresh, thin pitta bread, it set me up for days traveling around the fascinating country of Lebanon. It’s a simple dish and can be ready in minutes.

Msabaha (some spell it Mussabaha, Msabbacha, Mschabeca, Messabbeha but in Lebanon, I saw Msabaha. I hope that makes some sense) is a great twist on hummus, containing most of the same ingredients. This is a really creamy, more-ish way of serving chickpeas, perfect as a picnic mezza.

I was sharing a table with a friendly American one morning and I recommended the Msabaha, he exclaimed “THIS IS THE NEW HUMMUS MAN!!” I’m not sure about that, but I don’t think it really matters. It’s just Msabaha. And it’s just amazing.


The Lebanese love, I mean love, their chickpeas. I excitedly ordered a dish in a bar/restaurant (there are loads of excellent bars and restaurants in Beirut, especially in and around Gemmayzeh). What showed up was basically a bowl of chickpeas, dusted with cumin and a splash of olive oil. It was delicious, but still, just a bowl of chickpeas straight up.

The main challenge with traveling for me is re-creating the dishes that I loved once I arrive back home. It can be a thankless task, we cannot recreate the chickpeas here, for some reason, they taste so much better in the Med/Middle East. Also, the veg, the cucumbers and tomatoes in Lebanon were a constant sensation. We can’t replicate their fertile soil and sun. But we can try and we can get close.


The funny-ish thing about traveling is we go away and sample all of these delicious delicacies and local people are unfazed by the adulation. It’s like a tourist wandering into a Gregg’s and getting worked up about a pasty. These kinds of dishes are what everyone eats, they’re the working persons’ food: cheap, delicious, plentiful and ever present. In Britain, I think things like good chips and mushy peas, or a cheese and pickle sandwich (now back on the menu with vegan cheddar), or maybe even the perfect shepherd-less or apple pie are our equivalent of hummus, falafels, baklava and the like. Simple food that everyone loves! My best souvenirs are always recipes like these and delicious memories.


Basically, don’t go there!! In Lebanon, hummus recipes are precise and it can be a point for debate. I’ve encountered this in other countries, many little variations, some say add ice and blend, others say only use a hand masher and some say painstakingly remove the jacket from each individual chickpea.

Most people I spoke to in Beirut said to keep it simple. No garlic, no spices. Just lemon, salt and a little olive oil. The hummus we eat in the UK, especially those pale imitations in the supermarkets, is nothing like the one in Lebanon and Egypt. Their hummus is super creamy and perfectly balanced, also, the olive oil is normally very fruity.

In Lebanon, the folk I spoke to would never put cumin in hummus and many would not dream of garlic. No, no, no, nooooo! “Garlic!! Are you crazy Britishman!!” Direct quotes from a falafel stand in Beirut.

I love the simplicity of Msabaha, so easy to get very wrong and incredible when mastered. I’m no master, but this is a decent effort I reckon. If you’re from Lebanon, please try it and send me your kind and not-too-harsh feedback. Chokran!!

Msabaha – Lebanese Chickpeas (A tasty twist on hummus)

Recipe by Leroy WatsonCourse: AppetizersCuisine: LebaneseDifficulty: Easy


Prep time


Cooking time




Total time



Better than hummus!? Msabaha is an awesome, quick and easy dish that has the potential for a great summer feast.


  • 550g chickpeas (cooked) – 2 tins

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 6 tbs light tahini

  • 1/2 lemon – juice

  • 5 tbs water (more if needed)

  • 1 small clove of garlic – crushed

  • Salt

  • Toppings
  • sprinkle of paprika

  • 2 cloves crushed garlic (optional but nice)

  • 1/2 handful chopped parsley (use the soft stems also)

  • big glug of extra virgin olive oil

  • Salad
  • 1 green pepper

  • 1/2 cucumber

  • 2 tomatoes – sliced

  • fresh mint leaves (I used basil)


  • Cook your chickpeas, as you like, and drain.
  • When still warm. Stir the tahini, water, garlic, lemon juice, cumin and salt together, adding the water gradually to make a thin sauce. If you didn’t cook your chickpeas with bicarbonate of soda, use the chickpea cooking broth instead of water. You can make the sauce in advance if you like.
  • Gently stir the sauce into the warm chickpeas. Top with parsley, paprika and crushed garlic and serve with warm flatbreads and crisp, chopped salad.


  • If you like a thicker sauce, stir in a few spoonfuls of hummus. This is perfectly acceptable behaviour.
  • I ate this with hummus, so I didn’t make it really saucy. Feel free to add more sauce.
  • Cook the chickpeas until they’re nice and soft!
  • I prefer soaked and cooked chickpeas as they offer a much better flavour, but tinned ones are fine too.
  • I like cumin, so I add a bit of it too.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *