What is Tahini?

Open-Face Cucumber Tahini Sandwiches

Remember the days when nut butter was just good ole peanut butter and nothing else? I sure do. It seems that nobody back then thought about making any other sort of nut butter. Well somewhere along the line, something changed. Radically! Maybe because peanuts became a greater allergen than I ever remember as a child, and something had to replace it. Enter the modern age of nut butters — cashew, macadamia, pistachio, almond, sunflower, hazelnut, sesame seed butter and the star of this post: tahini.

What is Tahini?

If you’re familiar with Middle Eastern, Asian and African cuisine, then you’re no stranger to tahini. Tahini is a delicious, versatile spread made from sesame seeds that people have been making for hundreds of years. (Some trace its use back to a 13th century Arabic cookbook.) While sesame seed butter and tahini are both made from sesame seeds, the butter is a thicker, darker spread made from ground whole sesame seeds while tahini is made from ground hulled sesame seeds.


Tahini is milder in flavor; you can buy it raw or try it roasted, depending on your mood and what you want to use it for. The possibilities are endless! Just remember raw tahini is slightly sweet and nutty while roasted tahini has a richer, deeper flavor.


Although sesame butter made from the whole sesame seed has a stronger nutritional profile, tahini is more commonly used and still provides some good stuff: it is naturally low in sodium, has no cholesterol and is a good source of thiamin, phosphorus, copper and manganese. And according to FDA daily value guidance, just one tablespoon provides 6% of our calcium and 7% of our iron needs.

Photo of cookies made with tahini.

How to Use Tahini

Did you know that tahini is way more versatile than most people realize? Here’s what I mean:

How to Store Tahini

Once opened, be sure to store your tahini in the refrigerator. The oil may separate and rise to the top; just stir it in before using. Some people like to store the jar upside down and give it a good shake before opening. Whatever works!

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