🚚 Delivering nationwide to England, Scotland & Wales

😍 Refer Friends & Get £10 Off

The ultimate guide to Tahini

7 minute read

The ultimate guide to Tahini

The ultimate guide to Tahini

If you’re a fan of Middle Eastern cuisine, you’ve most likely encountered tahini. This creamy, nutty paste is a staple in Arabic, Turkish, and Israeli cuisine, and it’s often used as a dip, spread, or condiment in a variety of dishes. But what exactly is tahini, where does it come from, and what makes it such a popular ingredient? In this ultimate guide to tahini, we’ll explore everything you need to know about this versatile paste, including its history, nutritional benefits, and how to use it in your own cooking.

What is Tahini?

At its most basic, tahini is a paste made of ground sesame seeds. It’s typically made by slowly roasting sesame seeds, then grinding them into a smooth, oily paste. Tahini has a creamy, almost peanut butter-like consistency and a rich, nutty flavor that's a bit more subdued compared to nut butters. Historically, it has been a staple ingredient in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines, and it’s known for its versatility and nutritional benefits.

Origins and history of Tahini

Tahini has been around for centuries, and its origins can be traced back to the Middle East and Mediterranean regions. It’s said to have originated in ancient Persia, where it was known as “ardeh,” and over time, it became a key ingredient in many regional cuisines.

Throughout history, tahini has been used in a variety of ways. In the Middle East, it was often used as a dip or spread for bread, and it was also used as a base for sauces and dressings. In Greece, tahini was used to make a sweet confection known as halva, which is made by mixing tahini with sugar and other flavorings.

Tahini’s popularity has also spread beyond the Middle East, thanks to the rise of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine in the West. Today, it’s considered a pantry staple in many households and a favorite ingredient among chefs and home cooks alike.

The main ingredients in Tahini

The only ingredient in tahini is sesame seeds, which makes it naturally vegan, gluten-free, and paleo-friendly. Sesame is an excellent source of healthy fats, fiber, and protein, and it’s also packed with nutrients like copper, manganese, and calcium.

Sesame seeds are also rich in antioxidants, which help protect the body from free radical damage. Free radicals are unstable molecules that can damage cells and contribute to aging and disease. By consuming foods that are high in antioxidants, like sesame seeds, you can help protect your body from these harmful molecules.

Nutritional benefits of Tahini

Tahini is a nutrition powerhouse, and it’s an excellent source of healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals. One tablespoon of tahini provides around 3 grams of protein and 9 grams of fat, most of which are healthy unsaturated fats like omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

In addition to its healthy fat and protein content, tahini is also a good source of essential minerals like copper, magnesium, and calcium, which are essential for maintaining healthy bones, muscles, and nerve function. Additionally, tahini contains vitamin B6 and vitamin E, both of which are antioxidants that help protect the body from oxidative damage.

Research has also shown that consuming sesame seeds, and by extension, tahini, may have a number of health benefits. For example, studies have found that consuming sesame seeds may help lower cholesterol levels, reduce inflammation, and improve heart health. Additionally, some research suggests that sesame seeds may have anticancer properties and may help protect against certain types of cancer.

Different types of Tahini

Just like olive oil, tahini can come in different varieties depending on the types of seeds used, the level of roasting, and any added flavors or ingredients. Here are some of the most common types of tahini:

Traditional Tahini

This is the most common type of tahini and is typically made with hulled sesame seeds that have been roasted and ground into a paste. It’s creamy, nutty, and slightly bitter, and it’s a staple in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine.

Traditional tahini is incredibly versatile and can be used in a variety of dishes. It’s a key ingredient in hummus, baba ganoush, and halva. It can also be used as a spread on sandwiches or a dip for vegetables. In addition to its delicious flavor, traditional tahini is also packed with nutrients. It’s a great source of protein, healthy fats, and minerals like calcium, iron, and magnesium.

Black Tahini

Black tahini is made from black sesame seeds, which have a deeper, smokier flavor than traditional tahini. It’s less sweet than its beige-colored counterpart and is often used as a garnish or flavoring in dishes like hummus or salad dressings.

Black tahini is becoming increasingly popular in the culinary world, thanks to its unique flavor and stunning appearance. It’s often used as a decorative element in dishes, adding a pop of dark color and a bold flavor. Black tahini is also a great source of nutrients, containing high levels of antioxidants, healthy fats, and fiber.

Flavored Tahini

Many producers are now making flavored tahini by blending different nuts and seeds, such as pumpkin seeds or almonds, into the paste or by adding sun-dried tomatoes, spices, garlic or herbs to it. Flavored tahinis can be used to add a punch of flavor to dishes or to stand on their own as a dip.

Flavored tahini is a great way to add variety and excitement to your meals. Whether you’re looking for a sweet, nutty flavor or a spicy kick, there’s a flavored tahini out there for you. Some popular flavors include chocolate, honey, and za’atar. Flavored tahinis can be used in a variety of dishes, from salad dressings to desserts. They’re also a great way to introduce new flavors and ingredients to your cooking.

How to make Tahini at home

Making tahini at home is not only a great way to save money, but it also allows you to customize the flavor to your liking. Tahini is a staple in many Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines and is commonly used in dishes such as hummus, baba ganoush, and falafel. Here's how to go about making your own tahini:

Choosing the right sesame seeds

When it comes to making tahini, the quality of the sesame seeds is crucial. It's best to choose fresh, good-quality sesame seeds to ensure that your tahini has a rich, nutty flavor. You can find sesame seeds in most grocery stores, but if you want to ensure that they are fresh, try buying them from a specialty store or online.

Stick with hulled sesame seeds unless you want to make black tahini. Hulled sesame seeds have had the outer layer removed, which gives the tahini a smoother texture. Toast the sesame seeds in a dry pan over medium-high heat for a few minutes, shaking the pan frequently to avoid scorching. Once the seeds are fragrant and golden brown, remove them from the pan and set them aside to cool.

Roasting and grinding techniques

Once the sesame seeds have cooled, transfer them to a food processor or high-speed blender. Grind them for a few minutes until the seeds turn into a smooth, creamy paste. Be patient, as it might take several minutes to get a smooth consistency. You can add some cold-pressed oil, such as olive oil or rapeseed oil, to help reach the right consistency and creaminess.

For a more complex flavor, you can try roasting the sesame seeds before grinding them. To do this, spread the sesame seeds out on a baking sheet and roast them in the oven at 350°F for 10-15 minutes, or until they are golden brown. Allow the seeds to cool before grinding them into a paste.

Add salt and lemon juice to taste, keeping in mind that tahini is often just one part of a dish and usually needs added salt to bring the flavors together. You can also experiment with adding other flavors, such as garlic or cumin, to give your tahini a unique twist.

Storing homemade Tahini

Once you've made your tahini, transfer it to a jar or airtight container and store it in the fridge. It can last for several weeks, especially if you covered it with some additional oil to avoid contact with air. If you notice any separation, simply give the tahini a stir before using it.

Homemade tahini is a delicious and versatile ingredient that can be used in a variety of dishes. Whether you're making hummus, salad dressing, or a marinade, homemade tahini is sure to add a rich and nutty flavor to your creations.

Incorporating Tahini into your meals

While tahini is commonly associated with Middle Eastern cuisine, it’s actually a versatile ingredient that can be used in a variety of dishes. Here are some easy ways to incorporate it into your meals:

Tahini-based sauces and dressings

One of the easiest ways to use tahini is as the base for a flavorful sauce or dressing. Try mixing 1-2 tablespoons of tahini with lemon juice, garlic, and olive oil for a tasty dressing to liven up your salads, roasted vegetables or chicken dishes. Or use tahini as a dip for carrot and celery sticks, crackers, or crusty bread.

Tahini in baking and desserts

Tahini can be used in baked goods like muffins, cookies, or cakes as a nutty and rich flavor enhancer. It’s also great in dessert recipes such as halva and Middle Eastern sweetmeats (Aseeda; Kunafa).

Creative ways to use Tahini in everyday cooking

Tahini can be substitute peanut butter or nut spread, and spread on toast, rice waffles or crackers for a savory snack. You can stir it into soup or hummus for added creaminess and nutty flavor, or use it to thicken and enrich a stir-fry sauce or stew.

The Verdict

Tahini is one of the most beloved ingredients around the world, and for good reason. From its rich, nutty flavor to its outstanding nutritional profile, Tahini can be a versatile addition to any healthy diet. Whether you choose to make it from scratch at home or opt for a store-bought variety, this ultimate guide on tahini provides you with everything you need to start cooking with it today.

Previous Next