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Tahini (Recipe: traditional hummus) {vegan, gluten-free}


What's as thick as wallpaper paste, looks like tile grout, smells like a nut factory, and rhymes with teeny weeny yellow-polka-dot bikini?

Tahini, an essential component of both hummus and baba ghanoush, is an essential item in The Perfect Pantry. A paste made from sesame seeds, it's so much like homemade peanut butter that recipes often indicate you can substitute one for the other.

In commercial tahini production, sesame seeds are soaked in water for a day, then crushed to separate the bran from the kernels. The crushed seeds are put into salted water, where the bran sinks, but the kernels float and are skimmed off the surface. They are toasted, then ground to produce an oily paste. You can make tahini at home, using a much simpler method.

When you open the can or jar, you will see that the oil has separated and risen to the top. You must stir vigorously before using, just as though you were mixing the paint in a can, to even out the consistency.

Tahini sauce is a popular topping for falafel, and it's great on grilled chicken, on pizza, or in place of peanut butter in a PB-and-cucumber-filled pita or spread on a tomato sandwich. To turn tahini paste into tahini sauce, place a bit in a food processor, and slowly add additional olive oil until you achieve a pourable consistency. You can add a bit of lemon juice or yogurt, too. And some chopped parsley. And cayenne. And smoked paprika....

Traditional hummus

As traditional as it gets. Makes 4 cups.


3 cloves garlic, minced
4 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2/3 cup tahini
2/3 cup water
4 cups canned chick peas, drained (reserve 1/4 cup liquid)
1 Tbsp ground cumin
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (optional)
Paprika (optional, for garnish)


In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, process the garlic, lemon juice and tahini until a smooth paste. Add the water and chick peas, and continue to process until mixture is almost fluffy. Add some of the reserved chick pea liquid, if necessary. Season with the cumin. Transfer to a bowl. If desired, drizzle the oil over the top and swirl with a knife. Sprinkle with paprika.

More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:

Shish taouk

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Hi Lydia,
I like the picture of the man on the tin. Thanks for the ideas with what to do with tahini. I bought a jar a few months ago to make hummus and that's all that I've made with it. I'll try some on my sandwich. Or make a salad dressing with it I think.

I love tahini! I think I used them several times to go with tofu. Very nice :)

I love all three hummus, tahini and baba ghanoush! I find the comfort of using canned chickpeas for the hummus just perfect, however, die hard Arabs will telly you (like they told me) that one should never used canned chickpeas.

I have lived in the Mid East for most of my life and I will be honest the hummus I make with the canned variety does not taste much different to the dried and soaked variety and method!

"looks like tile grout" hahahahaha! It's true though!

We get ours in glass jars here.

Lydia I was never more surprised when I made baba ghanoush and loved it! It was as good an any I'd ever had.
That is just the best first paragraph!

Yep, always have tahini in the pantry. The hubby is the hummus maker in the household. I just love all that garlicky taste. Just toast some pita bread and i'm all set!

I just love tahini. You are such a good writer! Love the description.

This has me wondering if the same trick I use for natural peanut butter would work for tahini. I read somewhere to store the peanut butter upside down in the refrigerator and the oil will stay mixed in. I have no idea why, but it works! Maybe I'll put my tahini into a glass jar and try it.

BTW, thanks to Meeta for confirming that the hummus made from canned chickpeas is just as good! No chance I was going to cook them from scratch.

Nora, tahini is a great base for salad dressings, especially for roasted or grilled vegetables.

Anh, tahini and tofu sounds great!

Meeta, I'm glad to hear that about canned chickpeas -- I never bother to use anything else for my hummus, and I'm happy with the result.

Kelly-Jane, I've seen tahini here in the tins and in plastic jars (you can't see through them), but not in the glass jars.

Tanna, thanks! But now that you think about it, tahini really does look like tile grout... thanks goodness it doesn't taste like it!

Veron, many years ago we had a downstairs neighbor who made the most garlicky hummus I'd ever had (before or since!). We could smell it out in the hallway whenever she made a batch of it!

Kalyn, now you've made me curious, too. I've never heard that about peanut butter, but I'll turn all of the jars upside down and see what happens. Guess I should do the mixing first, because whenever I open a new jar of PB or tahini, the oil is already separated. Thanks for the tip.

I love tahini! I like it better than hummus because it's often thinner when served. Thanks for posting this.

I have only one source for tahini and she's often out so thanks for the link to make my own. I often use peanut butter when I can't get tahini... BTW when I first asked this very French woman if she had it she didn't understand me...the word is the same in French as English but the French stress the First syllable rather than the Second... sometimes they just don't seem to try...;-(

I'm with Ahn. I love all three!


Hillary, tahini does make great sauces and salad dressings.

Katie, my command of French is nonexistent, so whenever I am in France, people react to my attempts to speak the language in just that way! Peanut butter is often a great substitute.

Paz, me too!

mmm. love it. and in bacon sandwiches, even better.

Love the other ideas with tahini...I usually end up using it only in tahini sauce.
I did try making hummus last month and was not at all happy with the results. For some reason, it tasted "raw" (I used canned chickpeas). But I am going to try again, with your recipe.

Lobster, tahini and bacon sounds fantastic! I've never tried it.

Nupur, I find that not all canned chickpeas are created equal. Try a different brand to see if that makes a difference in your hummus. I hope you find one you like!

I laughed my head of when I read the first paragraph of this post!

I use this brand of tahini too.

Yum, I am a big sesame tahini fan! You remind me that I have not eaten some in way too long. I even love it on a piece of toast with honey.

oooh i love tahini. there was this felafel stand in prov, childhood memories, where i would drizzle extra extra tahini on it, mmmmmmm!

Meg, thanks -- I love to make my readers laugh!

Bea, tahini with honey sounds wonderful, like those great sesame-honey pastries you find in middle eastern markets.

Aria, someone else told me about the falafel stand, but it's not here anymore. Boo hoo...

I love your teeny weeny yellow-polka-dot bikini, it made me laugh. For some reason, I 've never used tahini before, but will be more confident now that I have all the informations. Thanks Lydia.

Lydia, I have only used tahini to make hummus - I should enjoy what I have left in the jar other ways!

Rose, I'm glad you are laughing -- I love that! Do try tahini -- it's remarkably versatile.

Patricia, mostly I use it for hummus, too, but it turns out that tahini makes great salad dressing and tahini sauce (kicked up with extra lemon and olive oil) is wonderful on garlic chicken skewers cooked on the grill. Hope this post gives you some other ideas.

If memory serves correctly, lemon juice considerably thickens tahini. Another use for it that we love is as a sauce for whole baked or even better, barbequed fish. Plenty of garlic and lemon with a touch of chile, heaven.

How about tahini in Chinese cooking? Some recipes -- cold noodle sauce is best known here -- say PB can sub...My current bottle comes from a Middle Eastern market (Cosmos) in Hartford CT, great big jar. And, I have found that using cider vinegar instead of lemon juice is a nice twist, and keeps better. Another thing: in Israel, the word t'china refers to the sauce (with lemon j, garlic, water), not what we call tahini.

Neil, I've never tried tahini sauce with fish, but I do eat it on chicken (with garlic) all the time. Fish, garlic, lemon, chile, tahini...what could be bad about that?!

Susan, yes, sesame noodles! We often make them with peanut butter, but tahini is the best thing to use. I've never substituted cider vinegar for the lemon, so it's good to know about that. And t'china... I'll remember that. Thanks for such good information.

Tahini can also be used to make a very tasty greek tahini cake called 'tahinopita'. I first read about it a while back on the Vegan Lunch Box blog http://veganlunchbox.blogspot.com/search?q=tahinopita, and a google search pulls up lots of hits. Delicious!

Sheila, tahini cake -- what fun! I've never heard of this, but now I'm going to learn more about it. Thank you!

This is too funny, Lydia. This is the brand of tahini I buy (the best there is, period), and--egads!-- both markets that carried it have discontinued it. I even spoke to the manager who claimed they weren't selling enough. Fortunately, I just found one yesterday at a new market, and my fingers are crossed that they'll keep selling it. Otherwise, I may be asking a favor of you in a couple of months.;)

Susan, I'm always available to help a pantry in need! Wonder why your markets discontinued it?

I've made hummus once but didn't have any tahini so I had to use the whole sesame seeds. =)

I'm so not into tahini on its own, but man do I love everything it's in! there's a takeout joint around the corner from us that makes the best beet salad made creamy by the addition of tahini. It is to. die. for.

Valentina, how did that work out? If you grind the seeds, and add some oil, you will eventually get tahini. Did it taste the same?

Ann, beet salad with tahini dressing sounds divine.

Great recipe and simple to make. Yummy

I have had a can of this tahini paste in my pantry for years. I guess I stopped making hummus for a bit but want to try it again. I don't see an expiration date on can? Should I still use it? Could be 3 years old!!

i love tahin halva ,

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