This easy homemade tahini recipe is so quick to make, takes just TWO ingredients, is less expensive than store-bought, and tastes WAY better! Make a double batch while you’re at it and store it in your fridge for several months to have on hand whenever you need it!
The scenario you may be familiar with: You’re really in the mood for some homemade hummus. Garbanzo beans? Check. Olive oil? Check. Lemons? Check. Garlic? Check. Tahini paste? Aw, dang it. Well don’t let that stop you again. Tahini is not only super simple to make, but homemade is cheaper than store-bought and it tastes better!
What is Tahini?
Tahini is a Middle Eastern condiment that is made from hulled sesame seeds that are toasted and then ground into a paste. It’s a popular staple in Middle Eastern, Greek, and East Asian cooking. It is served by itself as a condiment but also incorporated into a very wide variety of dishes, most famously a central ingredient in hummus.
Is tahini healthy? Tahini is relatively high in calcium and protein and is an excellent source of copper, zinc, iron, manganese, amino acids, and omega 3 and omega 6 oils. Those nutrients help fight inflammation and are provide great cardiovascular support. They also contribute to immune support. Just one tablespoon of tahini has roughly 26 percent of the recommended daily intake of copper and 9 to 12 percent of zinc, iron and selenium.
How To Use Tahini
There are a number of delicious ways you can put your homemade to use. Here are just a few ideas:
- Hummus – its most popular use, check out our phenomenal Hummus Recipe.
- Baba Ganoush – like hummus, it’s wonderfully creamy and the tahini is a central star of the show.
- Tahin Pekmez – a popular dip in Turkey. It has the reputation as being the Turkish PBJ because it’s made with tahini (which has kind of a peanut-buttery taste) and grape molasses. Sound like a winning combination? It is!
- In Greece it’s a popular condiment in which to dip pita and souvlaki (grilled meat kabobs).
- In Israel it’s a staple topping for Falafel and shawarma. It’s also used to make halva-like treats.
- In East Asia it’s commonly used in noodle dishes.
- Throughout the Middle East it is used in sauces for meats and vegetables to enhance the flavor.
- It makes a really nice tahini salad dressing combined with lemon juice, olive oil, honey or maple syrup, garlic and salt.
- Drizzle it over your sandwiches, wraps, and lettuce wraps.
- Drizzle it over grilled meats and vegetables. It’s amazing on our Grilled Eggplant!
- Add it to your baked goods like cookies for a delicious twist!
To make tahini you only need two ingredients:
- Sesame seeds
- Olive Oil
You may be asking, “why do you need olive oil for tahini?” and that’s a good question because if you look at the ingredients of most commercially-sold tahini, it does not include olive oil. But there’s a good reason why homemade tahini needs the addition of olive oil and that’s because the oil from the sesame seeds cannot be fully extracted without specialized commercial equipment. If you put a bunch of sesame seeds in a regular blender you will get a heap dry ground sesame seeds. Another factor has to do with the freshness of the sesame seeds (the fresher the more oil) and unfortunately most of the sesame seeds available at the store have been sitting there, and in warehouses before that, for a long time. And so we add olive oil.
Shopping Tip: Buy sesame seeds in bulk. Buying the in tiny bags or cans with just a few ounces is expensive and they’re a better deal in bulk. You can buy sesame seeds in the bulk sections of some grocery stores or you can buy them online such as here.
Tips for Making Tahini
- Use hulled sesame seeds. Hulled sesame seeds have had their hard outer shell removed which 1) makes the tahini smoother and 2) less bitter tasting.
- Be careful toasting the sesame seeds. As soon as the sesame seeds start changing color watch very closely because they can scorch quickly which will make them bitter. Toast just until they’re golden.
- Use a high quality olive oil.
- Use a high-powered food processor or blender. A food processor like my mini-prep Cuisinart food processor (we’ve had ours for 17 years and it’s still going strong) does a good job and is ideal for smaller quantities like this but for a smoother tahini paste you can use a high-powered blender such as my Vitamix 5200 (we’ve been using it on average twice a day, every day, for the last 15 years and it’s a total workhorse).
How to Store Tahini
Stored in the fridge in an airtight jar, tahini will keep for 1-2 months; potentially longer but for optimal freshness use it within that time frame. The oil will separate during storage, which is completely normal. Just give it a good stir before using.
Tahini can also be frozen for up to 3-4 months. You can freeze it in its jar, leaving some headspace because it may expand a little. For convenient smaller portions you can also divide it up in ice cube trays, freeze it, then put the frozen cubes in a freezer bag or container, and just take out what you need. Either way, let the tahini thaw slowly, ideally in the fridge overnight.
This tahini recipe uses one cup of sesame seeds which will make about 3/4 cup tahini paste, depending on how much olive oil you use. How much olive oil you use will depend on how thick you want the paste. You’ll need at least 3 tablespoons of olive oil and possibly up to 1/3 cup. Note: If you’re using a high-powered blender like a Vitamix, you may need less oil than if you’re using a food processor.
Let’s get started!
Heat a clean, dry cast iron or heavy duty skillet over medium high heat and add the sesame seeds. Stir frequently until they begin to turn golden brown and then stir constantly. Be careful, sesame seeds burn very easily.
You definitely don’t want burnt sesame seeds (they taste awful!), but you do want them generously golden brown for optimal flavor.
Once they’re toasted, let them cool a few minutes then add them to a food processor. I use and love Cuisinart’s mini prep food processor. With a 3-cup capacity it’s perfect for smaller jobs like this. We’ve had ours for over 15 years and it’s still going strong!
Start by adding 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Process the mixture into a paste, scraping down the sides. Add more olive oil until you reach the desired consistency. If you’re using it to make hummus, the paste should be fairly thickly “pourable” (like in the main recipe picture above).
Store the tahini paste in the refrigerator in an airtight jar.
For more delicious homemade condiments be sure to try our:
- Tartar Sauce
- Yum Yum Sauce
- Jerk Sauce
- Bearnaise Sauce
- Black Bean Sauce
- Hoisin Sauce
- Big Mac Sauce
- Jerk Sauce
- Ponzu Sauce
- Char Siu Sauce
- Romesco Sauce
- Eel Sauce
- Sweet Chili Sauce
- Hollandaise Sauce
- Teriyaki Sauce
- Sweet and Sour Sauce
- 1 cup hulled sesame seeds
- 3 tablespoons or more extra virgin olive oil ,see Note (see also blog post about why olive oil is added)
- Heat a clean, dry cast iron or heavy duty skillet over medium high heat and add the sesame seeds. Stir frequently until they begin to turn golden brown and then stir constantly. Be careful, sesame seeds burn very easily.
- Once they're toasted, let them cool a few minutes then add them to a food processor. Start by adding 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Process the mixture into a paste, scraping down the sides. Add more olive oil until you reach the desired consistency (*see Note)
- Store the tahini in an airtight jar in the fridge and it will last for several months. Stir it throughly before you put it in the fridge because once it's chilled it's difficult to stir. This makes a little less than 3/4 cup tahini paste, depending on how much olive oil you use.
Originally published on The Daring Gourmet May 2017