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What Is Tahini?

What Is Tahini?

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Find out what makes this Middle Eastern paste so delicious

Tahini is a sesame seed paste common in the Middle East and used in many Middle Eastern foods. It can be used as a side dish or garnish (usually with citrus juices, garlic, and salt), as a topping for meat or vegetables, or combined with sweet syrups and rubbed on bread. Tahini is also a major component in a number of other dips, dishes, and desserts like hummus, baba ghanoush, and halva.

Tahini is made by grinding hulled sesame seeds into a paste. Though it’s readily available in stores, you can make your own tahini by toasting sesame seeds on a parchment-lined sheet pan for a few minutes in a 350-degree oven (be careful not to burn them). Once they’ve cooled, grind them in a food processor. When the seeds have started to break down, drizzle in some olive oil (with the food processor still running) until a smooth paste is formed.

Store your homemade tahini in the refrigerator in a sealed glass jar and reach for it the next time you want to jazz up a salad dressing or make an unusual dessert — or even if you have hummus on your mind and are looking for quick dinner dishes you can make entirely out of cans.

15 Tasty Tahini Recipes

Do you use tahini? You might have bought a jar of tahini if you’ve ever made homemade hummus. But it’s not just for hummus! This sesame paste is common in Middle Eastern or Mediterranean dishes, and you can use it in dressings, dipping sauces, and even desserts! Tahini is one of our favorite ingredients to use in foods of all kinds, Here are all our top tahini recipes that make healthy eating undeniably delicious.

There’s nothing better than dipping a freshly baked apple cider doughnut head first into a warm glaze of tahini and maple syrup. Seriously, nothing. You haven’t lived until you’ve tried it. That’s why you need these Cider Doughnuts with Maple-Tahini Glaze in your life ASAP.

You know the slightly nutty, yet sweet flavor you love about sesame chicken? Try a tahini-infused marinade over chicken for a Mediterranean twist you’ll love. Start with this Tahini Chicken with Bok Choy and Mango Salad or this Tahini-Marinated Chicken Thighs with Cucumber-and-Tomato Salad. If you’re looking for a more Asian-inspired flavor, try the same idea using Chinese sesame paste.

Tahini adds a rich and toasty undertone to cakes like other nut butters do, but with a slight bitterness to balance the sweet. Pair tahini with powdered sugar and pour over a pumpkin-infused cake in this Pumpkin Bundt Cake with Tahini Glaze for the ultimate autumnal combination. If you want to give tahini in the cake batter a go, try this Tahini-Blueberry Sheet Cake with Strawberry Buttercream. Just be sure not to make these common cake frosting mistakes.

How Does Sesame Grow?

Sesame, or Sesamum indicum, is a tall, slender annual with stems reaching up to six feet in height. Its fragrant white/lavender flowers mature to form capsules full of seeds. Ripening takes from three to four months, and then the plants drop their leaves. The warmth of the sun bakes the capsules, turning them a golden brown. The seeds burst forth, falling on the waiting clean cloths spread below. Winnowing sticks separate the seeds from the chaff.

Tahini is versatile, flavorful, and packed with nutrition

How to Pick Quality Tahini

So, you know what it should taste like now, and if you’ve been duped by the bitter stuff, don’t worry. It happens to the best of us.

I reached out to Adeena Sussman, author of Sababa: Fresh, Sunny Flavor’s from my Israeli Kitchen for some advice on picking the best tahini.

“I highly recommend Soom Tahini. It’s imported from Israel by three American sisters. They guarantee freshness and have high standards and practices,” Adeena said during a recent interview from her home in Tel Aviv.

While some oil separation is natural, there shouldn’t be a thick layer of oil on top.

“Good tahini should pour like a thick pancake batter,” Adeena says. “It should be unified. There shouldn’t be a layer of oil on top and sludge on the bottom.”

If you see thick, distinct layers, chances are the tahini isn’t fresh. If you can, try to look for jars with packaged by dates stamped on them.

What you’ll need to make Tahini Sauce

Tahini paste is the main ingredient in tahini sauce. It is made from sesame seeds and has an earthy, nutty taste. You can find it in the Middle Eastern section of the grocery store, or near the nut butters. When you open a jar of tahini, you’ll notice that the solids are settled in the bottom of the jar, similar to natural peanut butter. Be sure to give it a good stir before using. (If your tahini is difficult to stir in the jar, scrape the contents of the jar into a bowl, then use a whisk or hand-held electric mixer to blend.)

Because it’s high in oil, tahini should be refrigerated once opened. It will last several months in the fridge. For longer storage, you can freeze portions in an ice cube tray and pop out individual cubes to use when needed.

The seasonings here are important (as always!), as without the addition of salt and cumin the sauce will be bland. The cumin adds a nice depth of flavor and a hint of smokiness. If you want to play around with other spices, try a pinch of chili powder and/or smoked paprika.

Tahini Might Be the Most Versatile Condiment in My Kitchen

Tahini was always one of those ingredients that I'd buy specifically to make a big batch of hummus and then would stash away in the back of my cabinet until I got the hankering for a taste of homemade hummus again. Tahini, the OG seed butter, is a staple ingredient in the Middle East made from ground sesame seeds. I knew that this creamy condiment had a sweeter side because my mom loves halva, the classic Middle Eastern sesame dessert, but after tasting the tahini milkshakes at Goldie in Philly, I had to eat all of the things investigate further uses.


Obvious choice? Yes. But it never hurts to have a recipe for homemade hummus handy. Especially Ina's version that calls for canned chickpeas, because no one ever remembers to presoak the dried variety.

Over the summer I get regular deliveries of way too much fresh eggplant from my dad's garden. Babaganoush, a Middle Eastern dip, is by far the best way to use up the excess eggplant. And who doesn't love a lighter snack option that still tastes indulgent?

While tahini is most well known for being used in hummus, it can be used in an array of recipes!

Cauliflower Hummus: Like mentioned above, tahini is a major ingredient in hummus recipes, including cauliflower hummus! If you’re avoiding legumes, this is a recipe that tastes nearly identical to traditional hummus! Think hummus, without the fear of an upset gut.

Chopped Salad Recipe with Tangy Tahini Vinaigrette: Vinaigrettes can be a great light option for adding a burst of flavor to your salad. This Tangy Tahini Vinaigrette with tahini and honey is one you won’t want to pass up!

The BEST Hummus Recipe: If you’re looking for a healthy, traditional hummus recipe, we may just have exactly what you’re searching for! Declaring to have the best hummus recipe is one thing, but you truly must deliver on your claim. Don’t worry, I’m about too! You’ll keep coming back for more!

Paleo Tahini Blondies: These Paleo Tahini Blondies from Choosing Chia are a great example of how tahini can be used in a dessert recipe. Completely grain-free and using only a few ingredients, this is a recipe you have to try!

Salted Tahini Caramel Millionaire Bars: These Salted Tahini Caramel Millionaire Bars from Ambitious Kitchen are not only paleo, but vegan as well! One glance at the picture, and you won’t be able to turn these down. Try out another sweet tahini recipe by experimenting with these!

So, let’s start at the beginning. What actually is tahini?

Tahini is a smooth paste made from toasted ground sesame seeds (think peanut butter… but made from sesame seeds instead of peanuts)—naturally vegan, gluten-free, and protein-packed. It is traditionally used in Middle Eastern dishes like hummus, baba ghanouj, or dips for falafel, but in recent years it has become popularized, particularly in the vegan community, for its luxuriously creamy quality that is somehow dairy-free. Now, you can find tahini in everything from salad dressings, to noodle dishes, to smoothies, to chocolate chip cookies

Tahini has transformed my cooking game, and with a little help it can transform yours too.

Tahini sauce is a great way to get started: it’s simple, delicious, and will take your favorite salad, protein, or roasted veggie bowl to the next level.

Laila Adarkar

Desserts with Tahini

72. Best Vegan Chocolate Fudge Recipe by Happy Kitchen.Rocks

Wonderfully sweet, delightfully gooey, this is without question the best chocolate fudge recipe made without condensed milk (and sugar!) you&rsquore ever going to have! Feel free to indulge yourself with this vegan fudge without any guilt or second guessing.

73. Chocolate Chunk Tahini Oatmeal Cookies by Choosing Chia

These chocolate chunk tahini oatmeal cookies are made with only a handful of ingredients and are naturally vegan, and refined sugar-free. They&rsquore finished off with some 70% dark chocolate chunks and sprinkled with sea salt for a delicious snack or treat.

74. Chocolate Mashed Potato Cake with Tahini Drizzle by Veggie Desserts

This rich chocolate mashed potato cake with tahini drizzle is a perfect for any celebration. The mashed potato brings bulk to the cake with less fat and sugar.

75. Peanut Butter and Blueberry &lsquoNo-Churn&rsquo Ice Cream with French Toast Sourdough by Rainbow Nourishments

Who would like a no-churn ice cream bursting with the nuttiness from peanut butter, fruitiness from blueberries and the crunch and chewiness of sourdough french toast? It&rsquos vegan, dairy free, kid-friendly and could be made nut-free if you use sunflower seed butter!

76. Tahini Orange Blossom Cheesecake by Unconventional Baker

A simple, raw nut-free cheesecake combining the exotic Mediterranean tastes of orange blossom and tahini. Vegan and gluten-free.

77. No-Bake Cashew Tahini Bars by Running on Real Food

These delicious No-Bake Cashew Tahini Bars come straight from vegan dessert heaven but are still suitable for a healthy snack. All you need to make them are cashews, dates, tahini, sea salt and dairy-free chocolate.

78. Light and Fluffy Vegan Cupcakes by Be Plant Well

This easy vegan vanilla cupcake recipe is light, moist and not overly sweet! Made with maple syrup and topped with homemade coconut whipped cream frosting!

79. Vegan Lemon Bars with Spiced Tahini Caramel by The Vegan 8

Just 8 ingredients needed total for these amazingly, rich lemon bars that are unique, thanks to the spicy tahini caramel swirl effect. These are not only beautiful to look at, but incredibly creamy and will blow everybody&rsquos mind that they are not full of butter and sugar.

80. Sriracha Tahini Fudge by Veggies Don&rsquot Bite

Smooth deep dark chocolate taste with a spicy finish. This light and airy tahini fudge is for true fudge lovers only and you won&rsquot believe how easy it is to make!

81. Sweet Potato Brownies with Halva Glaze by May I Have That Recipe

Sweet potato brownies are the perfect chocolatey, rich and flavorful vegan, gluten-free and Passover-friendly dessert. And when you top these babies with nutty-sweet halva glaze, they&rsquore are hands-down delicious!

82. Blueberry Tahini Pops by Unconventional Baker

Light, creamy vegan pops that combine the beautiful, unusual flavors of tahini and blueberry. Gorgeous purple color. Naturally gluten-free and refined sugar-free.