Culinary Arts

What Is Tahini? Learn How to Use Tahini in Cooking

Written by MasterClass

Jun 13, 2019 • 2 min read

Falafel isn’t complete without a drizzle of tahini, and a gyro just isn’t the same without a dollop of tahini sauce. This savory condiment is a staple across the globe, originating in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine. It’s also found in Asian dishes and Greek fare. Tahini can be used as a spread, a dip, a dressing, and serves as a key ingredient in many dishes, including hummus and baba ghanoush.

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What Is Tahini?

Tahini is simply a paste made from ground sesame seeds. It can be mixed with other ingredients like garlic and olive oil to make savory sauces, or even added to sweet dishes to balance flavor and add nutrients.

Tahini is made from toasted hulled sesame seeds, which are grounded to make tahini paste. The paste is then mixed with a neutral-flavored oil to create a creamier texture.

Is Tahini Healthy?

The plant-based condiment is full of nutrients like copper, iron, magnesium, and zinc. Tahini is also a great source of protein and fiber: two tablespoons of tahini contain 5 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber. It’s low in sodium and saturated fat. Tahini is dairy free, gluten free, and is an alternative to nut butters.

What Does Tahini Taste Like?

Tahini tastes like its source ingredient—sesame seeds. Tahini has a savory, bitter, and nutty flavor profile. It is high in fat content and has an oily consistency. Tahini is typically made from hulled white sesame seeds and is light in color. It can also be made from unhulled black sesame seeds, which produces darker tahini.

6 Ways to Use Tahini in Cooking

Tahini can be used in a number of different dishes, both savory and sweet.

  1. Hummus. Add tahini to blended chickpeas, lemon juice, garlic, and cumin to make hummus—a dipping sauce for crudités. Traditional hummus recipes are made with tahini, but sesame oil can substitute the seeds in a pinch.
  2. Tahini sauce. Tahini is paired with Greek yogurt, garlic, parsley, cilantro, and lemon juice to make tahini sauce—a tart addition to gyros.
  3. Salad dressing. Combine tahini with extra virgin olive oil, apple cider vinegar, and lemon for salad dressing.
  4. Halvah. This is a popular Israeli and Turkish confection. It is made with honey, pistachios, and, of course, tahini.
  5. Brownies. Swirl tahini into brownie batter for an added boost of nutrients.
  6. Ice-cream. Tahini-flavored soft serve and sesame ice cream are popular in different cuisines across the world. Tahini can add a nutty flavor to dairy-based ice cream, or be a creamy substitute for vegan recipes.

How to Store Tahini

Organic tahini has a short shelf life: it can be stored in a refrigerator for up to a month. Like natural peanut butter, tahini will separate over time.

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