ArrowDownFill 1arrow-small-lineFill 1GroupStaff FaveGroupClose IconEmailLike Cooking Light on FacebookShapePage 1 Copy 3Page 1 Copy 2Grid IconFollow Cooking Light on InstagramList IconMenu IconPrintSearch IconSpeech BubbleFollow Cooking Light on SnapchatFollow Cooking Light on TwitterWatch Cooking Light on YouTubeplay-iconWatch Cooking Light on Youtube

Tahini 101

AlexPro9500 / Getty

Decadently rich, with a nutty and slightly bitter taste, tahini is a flavor force to be reckoned with. A classic hummus component, the thick sesame seed paste is now being utilized in everything from ice cream to marinades, and it definitely deserves as spot in your kitchen. 

Move over, Sriracha. Tahini, the thick ground sesame paste, is finally having its moment. Chefs like Michael Solomonov (Zahav, in Philadelphia) and Alon Shaya (Shaya, in New Orleans) use it across their menus. Seed and Mill in New York's Chelsea Market makes tahini in-house and serves it warm over goat cheese ice cream (trust us, it's fantastic). While tahini has been a staple in the Middle East for centuries, we are finally discovering the awesome power of this condiment beyond a base for hummus.

Great tahini is creamy, unctuous, nutty, faintly sweet, and ever so slightly bitter. It crosses over easily from dinner to dessert, adding depth to soups and marinades or balance and richness to sweets. If you have a nut allergy, tahini is a great alternative to nut butters. If you're vegan or keep kosher, tahini adds creaminess to sauces and dressings without dairy and is an excellent binder for patties and pasta salads without eggs.

Why the Seize?

Whenever liquid is added to tahini, it immediately turns into a thick, gluey paste. This isn't operator error. Sesame is made of carbohydrate molecules, which stick to any water based liquid. Keep adding the liquid in small amounts while stirring constantly. Eventually the molecules will over saturate and the mixture will loosen.

Tahini: Well Stirred, Not Shaken

Tahini will separate as natural oil floats to the surface. Give your jar a good stir before measuring so that all the oil is incorporated and the tahini is pourable. If you only have the hard paste at the bottom of the jar, loosen with a little canola oil or water before measuring.

Ways to Use

Great tahini is fantastic on its own. Try any of these sweet or savory applications:

  • Spread over toast; top with a little honey and a dash of cinnamon.
  • Drizzle over roasted vegetables
  • Stir into oatmeal; top with chopped dates and almonds
  • Drizzle over seared flaky fish, like cod or snapper
  • Add to cream cheese frosting for cookies or carrot cake
  • Drizzle over shakshuka

Our Favorite Tahini Recipes

Whether you go sweet or savory, with a twist or keeping it classic, you're sure to find a way to love tahini.