Tahini: More Than Just a Condiment

by Veronique Wojcik

We all know tahini as the main ingredient for our hummus dip during lunchtime, but what really is tahini? Tahini is a savory sesame paste that is traditionally used in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cooking. Though traditionally used in hummus and as a topping for falafel, it can be incorporated into many daily dishes. It has a complex  umami taste with earthy and nutty undertones that allows it to be expansive and versatile. Though it may have a savory flavor, don’t let it stop you from using it in your desserts! Not only is tahini a great way to add a flavor boost, but it is also nutritionally dense, being high in protein, fiber, and various vitamins and minerals.  

Tahini originated in the Middle East, in the 13th century, coming to Israel from Persia, and quickly becoming widespread across nations throughout Africa and Asia. It grew in popularity so much so that there are old stories that tell of sesame seeds being seen as a precious commodity, coming close to even gold and silver. Tahini had been around a long time before it was even introduced in the US in the 1940s. 

Tahini is such a flexible ingredient; it can be used in both sweet and savory dishes. A well-known dessert that contains tahini is halwa, a sweet nutty fudge. It can also be used as a sauce, dressing, or even as your main ingredient. Even in desserts such as cookies, puddings, even granola, there’s no limit. 

There are tons of recipes out there that utilize tahini in an exceptional manner, creating the perfect balance between rich and mellow. When you incorporate tahini into your meals, you’ll also be improving your nutrition. Tahini is nutritionally dense, with high protein, vitamin E &B, magnesium, iron, and calcium. It also contains “good fats” (monounsaturated fats), which will also keep your heart healthy.  

And if you ever run out of tahini, no worries, it is easy to make your own. All you’ll need are three ingredients: hulled sesame seeds, oil, and salt. Roast the seeds for a couple minutes in a pan until they start to exude that toasty aroma, and then simply pop them in the blender with a drizzle of oil, a dash of salt and mix until you reach a smooth paste.

Try out the two recipes below to get a taste of tahini both in sweet and savory dishes.

Sweet – Salted Tahini Chocolate Pudding

You’ll need: 

  • 1 small avocado 
  • 1/3 cup tahini 
  • 2 tablespoons cacao powder 
  • 3 tablespoons honey (sub agave nectar or coconut nectar) 
  • 1 tablespoon coconut sugar 
  • 2 tablespoons non dairy milk 
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract 
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

This recipe from Brewing Happiness puts a creative spin on the classic chocolate pudding, and it just so happens to be vegan. You’ll get everything you ever wanted from a dessert from this recipe, richness from the tahini, creaminess from the avocado, and the coconut sugar adds just the right amount of sweetness. It’s the perfect dessert to make for when you’re craving something sweet. Plus, with its easy prep time of just throwing everything in the blender, it’ll become one of your new favorites in no time.

Savory – Spiced chickpea Grain Bowl with Tahini Dressing

For the bowl: 

  • 1 cup Quinoa 
  • 5 oz arugula 

For the roasted chickpeas: 

  • 1 Tbsp shallot-infused olive oil (or: 1 Tbsp neutral oil +1 tsp onion powder) 
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika 
  • 1 tsp cumin 
  • ¼ tsp coriander 
  • ¼-1/2 tsp crushed red pepper (optional) 
  • 2 (15 oz) cans chickpeas (drained and rinsed) 
  • salt and pepper to taste 

For the Creamy Tahini Dressing: 

  • ¼ cup tahini 
  • 1 Tbsp garlic-infused olive oil (or: 1 Tbsp neutral oil + 1 tsp garlic powder) 
  • juice of 1 lemon 
  • 3-5 Tbsp cold water 
  • salt and pepper to taste 

This recipe from Easy Chickpeasy is is the perfect recipe for those just starting to dabble with tahini. This recipe will give you a protein packed, flavorful lunch in less than half an hour. The assembly of this dish allows you to add your own creative twist as well; feel free to swap the spices or add some red peppers to your bowl instead. The balance between the bitterness of the tahini with the freshness of the greens and the spice of the chickpeas will leave you surprised and eager to take the next bite.

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