The humble sesame seed is having a moment thanks to tahini, the delicious sesame paste that’s essential to Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cooking. A few years ago, tahini sales started booming in the U.K. and the trend has hopped across the pond as these cuisines are showcased in best-selling cookbooks and buzzy restaurants.
What is tahini?
Tahini is basically sesame butter. Most high-quality brands contain just one ingredient: roasted sesame seeds. It’s not as sweet as most nut butters and can be used like peanut butter (or eaten straight off a spoon). You’ve likely encountered it in hummus, baba ghanoush or in halva—a sweet Middle Eastern confection with the most wonderful crumbly texture.
It’s easy to find tahini at major grocery stores. Look for Arz Fine Foods tahina at Loblaws or brands like Nuts For You at Walmart and other supermarkets. Toronto restaurant Parallel presses its own in house ($5 per jar) using premium sesame seeds from Ethiopia. Along with plain tahini butter, Parallel
also sells a smoked version and a beautiful pink, earthy-tasting beet flavour. Philadelphia-based Soom sells a creamy tahini spread ( Soom ships to Canada via Amazon).
How to cook and bake with tahini
Besides eating it straight out of the jar, spreading it on a sandwich or mixing it with chickpeas, garlic and lemon juice to make hummus, there’s a laundry list of ways to use tahini. Here are my favourites.
Tahini salad dressing
A good vinaigrette needs an emulsifier to hold it together. Dijon mustard is my go-to, but lately, I’ve been swapping in tahini to make a nuttier dressing that’s super tasty with greens. Try Chatelaine’s easy lemon, tahini and garlic dressing to transform your next salad.
Take a cue from the internet’s most popular tahini brownie recipe, and make a topping for your favourite brownies by mixing a few tablespoons of tahini with maple syrup or agave nectar. After you pour your brownie batter into a pan, spoon globs of the sweet paste on top and swirl it around before baking.
Roasted vegetables, like cauliflower and eggplant, are fine on their own. But they’re even better when drizzled with tahini sauce. Follow this roasted cauliflower with tahini recipe and feel free to change up whatever vegetables you’re in the mood for come dinnertime. Or, try a spiced tahini sauce on chicken.
Tahini is a decent source of protein, iron and fibre, so jumpstart your morning by blending it into your regular smoothie. My favourite combo is tahini with frozen bananas, pitted dates and almond or soy milk.
Tahini ice cream
The Chatelaine Kitchen created a three-ingredient tahini ice cream that couldn’t be easier to make. Here’s the recipe:
- 1 cup 35% cream
- 1/2 300-mL can sweetened condensed milk
- 2-4 tbsp tahini
- Beat cream in a medium bowl, using an electric mixer on medium, until soft peaks form, 2 to 4 min. Reduce speed to low and beat in sweetened condensed milk and tahini until just combined. Mixture should be smooth and fluffy.
- Scrape mixture into a resealable container. Freeze until firm, 6 hours.
Originally published April 2018; Updated May 2019.