What is Tahini (Sesame Paste)?

The next topic for my What’s That? series is Tahini. I always keep a jar of tahini on hand, as I use it weekly to make hummus and salad dressings. Once you buy tahini, you’ll never have to (over) pay for store-bought hummus ever again. Also, one of my upcoming recipes will feature tahini, so I thought that I’d offer a bit of background on it now for those of you who may be unfamiliar with it.

What is Tahini?

Facts

  • It is a paste made of ground sesame seeds, and has a nutty and slightly bitter taste
  • If the sesame seed husks are removed, it is referred to as “hulled”, otherwise as unhulled
  • Some tahini contains lightly roasted sesame seeds, other types use raw sesame seeds
  • It originated in ancient Persia (Iran), and has been around since at least the 13th century
  • It is used in Middle Eastern foods, as well as Chinese, Korean and Japanese dishes
  • It is sold fresh or dehydrated – normally in a glass or plastic jar, and is available at most grocery stores in the Middle Eastern or Kosher sections
  • Like any natural nut or seed butter, the natural oils may separate after a certain period of time – simply use a spoon to mix it back together before using
Source: Wikipedia

Uses

  • It is the main ingredient in many Middle Eastern recipes including:
    • Hummus – along with chickpeas, lemon juice, and olive oil (the more tahini, the creamier the hummus)
    • Baba ganoush – roasted eggplant dip
  • If you’ve ever eaten a falafel or shawarma wrap, then it may have been served with a thin white sauce of watered-down tahini
  • It is the main ingredient in halva, a sweet dessert made with tahini and sugar
  • It tastes great in salad dressings and makes them thicker/creamier
  • Add a tablespoon to smoothies for an extra protein boost
  • My jar says to store it in the pantry, but I’ve always stored it in the fridge
  • Here’s a list of my tahini recipes

Q: What are your favorite uses for Tahini?

17 Comments

  1. Hannah says:

    I love it on a toasted english muffin with carob molasses :)

    Reply
    • vegangela says:

      Hi Hannah, thanks for your comment. I’ll have to try that, thanks!!

      Reply
  2. Lexie says:

    I like to use Tahini as a butter or margarine substitute, or a tablespoon with a curry or stew.

    Of course in hummus and salad dressings too. Also, hummus is great with daal! I use it like you would a chutney.

    Reply
    • vegangela says:

      Hi Lexie, thanks for your comments. Those are great ideas, especially for the Daal… what a great way to temper the spices a little bit. Thanks for that!

      Reply
  3. Linda says:

    Favorite use of tahini: taking a spoon of it and sticking it into my mouth! However, some does manage to find itself into homemade hummus (plain, grilled eggplant and roasted red pepper varieties)… oh and tahini sauce (made with lemon juice, garlic, salt, pepper and a little water).

    Reply
    • vegangela says:

      Haha, thanks for that Linda! You know, I’ve never made roasted red pepper hummus, I really need to do that…

      Reply
      • Linda says:

        Angela you must try roasted red pepper hummus soon! I’ve got another one (sun-dried tomato “hummus”) you should try – it’s simply to live for. It’s raw, bean-free, and absolutely scrummy. Check it out when you get the chance: http://honeyandspice.wordpress.com/2010/05/16/sun-dried-tomato-hummus/

        Reply
        • vegangela says:

          I’ve had it, but I’ve never made that variety myself… even though I’ve roasted my own red peppers often to make coulis. I love your recipe for bean-less hummus. Revolutionary! Bookmarked and will try soon…. thank you!

          Reply
  4. Jem says:

    On toast, every morning. It is AWESOME.

    Also, blend with oil (flaxseed) and mix into soba-noodles. Also awesome.

    Reply
    • vegangela says:

      Hi Jem, I’m hearing a lot about this tahini-on-toast thing so I’m definitely going to have to check it out. I love soba noodles so will have to try that too!

      Reply
  5. Jem says:

    I always get unhulled tahini. Closer to its natural form and, so I’m told, better for you. The stronger taste takes only a few tries to get used to.

    Reply
    • vegangela says:

      Oh that’s good to hear – it’s not available that way at the grocery stores here, so I will look for it at the health food stores instead. Thanks for your comments!

      Reply
  6. Avril says:

    I’m curious to try making my own tahini! If I make my own hummus, why not make my own tahini (food for thought!) I found some instructions here: (http://www.cinnamonspiceandeverythingnice.com/2011/01/how-to-make-tahini-paste.html) – it seems that a ratio of 1 cup sesame seeds to 1/3 – 1/2 cup of olive oil. Lightly toast the sesame seeds for about ten minutes (low heat) and then blend them in a food processor with the olive oil until the tahini paste forms. Worth a try? I think so!

    Reply
    • vegangela says:

      Hi Avril – Thanks for this info, I’m curious to try to make my own tahini as well. Let me know if you try it and how it works for you!

      Reply
  7. Asia says:

    Thought you might enjoy the read about hulled vs unhulled sesame seeds:
    http://www.mynewroots.org/site/2012/05/orange-blossom-sesame-cake-2/

    Reply
    • vegangela says:

      Great info! Thanks so much for sharing!

      Reply
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