What is tahini and what can you do with it?


Tahini is best known in this part of the world as simply an ingredient in hummus. But it is so much more! A staple in Middle Eastern cuisine, tahini is a paste made out of sesame seeds. In regular tahini, the seeds are hulled and toasted first, but tahini can be made with any kind of sesame seeds, including unhulled, sprouted, white or black!

Where do you buy tahini?

Tahini is often found in the international section of your local grocery store. Trader Joe’s sells it, or if you find yourself near a health food store, you can buy a variety of organic tahini options there. Some brands are more viscous than others. Historically, I’ve purchased Joyva Tahini in an aluminum container, which is pretty thick even after stirring. Lately, though, I’ve been stocking up on the Trader Joe’s variety, which is thinner and better for drizzling. You can also try your hand at making tahini. Throw some sesame seeds in a food processor with a bit of oil and see what happens!

What do you do with tahini?

I grew up with a nut allergy in an era before soynut butter and sunflower seed butter were in every grocery store, so tahini was my spread of choice as an alternative to peanut butter. As a result, I now eat tahini and banana sandwiches, tahini and jelly sandwiches, and celery sticks dipped in tahini. But I readily admit that’s a little weird. So here are a few not-so-weird ways to use tahini to spice up your cooking.


Store-bought hummus is easy and tasty, but why not try making your own? I posted a general recipe for hummus here. Try adding a bit more tahini than normal to boost that sesame flavor.


Mix tahini with yogurt and you’ve got yourself a nice spread that may rival your go-to mayonnaise or mustard. One of my favorite sandwiches is still-warm sautéed eggplant and red onion with sliced fresh cucumbers on toasted bread with a tahini/yogurt spread. Delicious.


Mix tahini with some lemon juice, garlic and oil, and you’ve got yourself a delicious salad dressing. Drizzle it over lettuce, kale, or spinach, or over a quick pasta salad for something a little different.

Outside the boxShutterstock

You can use tahini in soup, like this Carrot and Tahini Soup recipe from the New York Times, or this Miso-Tahini Squash Soup.

Or how about something a little sweeter, like these Salted Chocolate Chip Tahini Cookies, or Honey Tahini Cookies? Or maybe this Tahini-Date Salted Caramels recipe might be right up your alley.

Next time you’re out at the grocery store, pick up a jar of tahini and see what inspires you!

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