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.
How to Use Tahini
Did you know that tahini is way more versatile than most people realize? Here’s what I mean:
Spread it on toast, bagels, crackers, pita bread, waffles and pancakes.
Add a spoonful to smoothies.
Thin it out with honey or maple syrup and use as a spread or drizzle over fruit salad.
Add it to bean dips and vegetable pates. We turned it into Black Bean Hummus.
Make a simple tahini yogurt sauce for lamb or grilled meat. Try these Lamb Skewers with Tahini Yogurt Sauce.
Stir a spoonful into hot oatmeal or any hot cooked cereal.
Turn it into a salad dressing like we did in this recipe for Asian Greens Salad with Ginger Miso Dressing.
Great with Tempeh and Tofu! Here’s a summery idea for Tempeh and Vegetable Salad with Miso Tahini Dressing.
Try it with greens, like in these Creamy Sesame Greens.
Turn it into “milk” – blend a tablespoon with a cup of water and a dab of a natural sweetener; use just as you would milk – in cooking baking or just as a beverage.
Stir it into hot cooked Asian noodles – perfect with tamari, garlic, ginger and green onions. Or try our recipe for Sesame Noodles.
Make “candy” from chopped dates, figs, raisins and tahini all combined in a food processor. Roll it into balls and then into coconut flakes or cocoa or carob powder.
Blend a tablespoon or so with frozen fruit (think: bananas, peaches, mangoes) a dash of vanilla and a little water for an ice-cream-like treat.
Spread it on a banana drizzled with melted dark chocolate and sing hallelujah as you take your first bite!
Make a tahini sandwich: use it in place of mayonnaise with avocado and veggies. Or try this recipe for an Open-Face Apple Tahini Sandwich.
Falafel! Need I say more? I will anyway: Falafel with Tahini Yogurt Sauce. Yum!
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!