August 22, 2011  •  Category:


What is it about the sesame seeds that has captured the imagination and taste buds of peoples alongside the Eastern Mediterranean  (remember “Open sesame!”  from the 1001 nights tales)? and its glorious paste, tahini, used in myriads of dishes, both savory and sweet.

All I know is that were it not for tahini, there would not be a so-called Middle-Eastern cuisine.

In Lebanese kitchens alone, hundreds of dishes have tahini as a component. Nary a vegetable dish does not contain a hefty portion of our tarator sauce.

The tarator sauce alone is presented in several versions, tahini with lemon juice, tahini with bitter orange, with minced parsley, with walnuts, etc.

Things to know about tahini:

  • It is a natural food, a paste made from crushing hulled sesame seeds.
  • It is a very healthy food; Omega-3, Omega-6, minerals, good fats, are contained in tahini.
  • The lighter tahini is the kind favored in Middle-Eastern cooking. Don’t buy tahini if its color is dark.  Light beige is good.
  • It is used as mayonnaise is used in Western-style cooking, by diluting it in citrus juice and some water and flavoring it with a touch of garlic and sometimes fresh herbs.
  • It is also used in sweets, when combined with molasses, like a Middle-Eastern P&J.

Feel free to add more observations on tahini, as this list is by no means exhaustive!

A basic tarator sauce:

  • 1/2 cup of tahini
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup of fresh citrus juice (lemon, bitter orange or a combination of citrus)
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup of water
  • 2 cloves of garlic, mashed in a mortar with 1/2 teaspoon of salt till pasty

Pour the tahini into a bowl; add the citrus juice, stirring; it will curdle at first. Keep stirring and add enough water to get the texture of a loose mayonnaise. Add the garlic, mix and taste and finally adjust seasoning if you wish to.

The next posts will explore all the various hummus recipes using this sauce.


19 Comments  •  Comments Feed

  1. Deb says:

    Very informative post, concise and intriguing. Looking forward to the hummus recipes!

  2. weirdcombos says:

    We at wc adore tahini and hummus! The other day we didn’t have chick peas and end up using edamame for a”hummus” with with tahini and that was lovely! We can’t wait to read more about your future hummus recipes. We are with you on the tahini type the lighter colored ones somehow appease more to our tastes!

  3. Rosa says:

    Tahini is one of my favorite pastes. I use it all the time and make tarrator on a weekly basis!



  4. sare says:

    I love tahini. I mix tahini with grape molasses on cold winter days.

  5. Banana Wonder says:

    Mmmm very cool. I always wondered about tahini. I loved the idea of a middle eastern pb & j!

  6. meredith says:

    I love tahini and I’m looking forward to you future hummus recipes with that tarator sauce.

  7. Priya says:

    Great looking tahini..

  8. Nadji says:

    J’aimais déjà le tahine. Avec toutes les précisions que tu rajoutes : je ne lâcherai plus.
    A très bientôt

  9. Pamela says:

    No doubt it’s versatile as it is, tahini is just great, I have adopted it a long time ago.Big hugs for you my dear

  10. Meister@Nervous Cook says:

    How apropos: I woke up this morning thinking about tahini, as I want to make falafel for dinner tonight (my first time!) and was trying to think of where I could buy a small amount of it. It seems to only come in gigantic packages, and I don’t think I could ever go through a whole tub of the stuff.

    Then it hit me: My local Lebanese restaurant sells sides of it for $0.75! Perfect.

    Thanks for the information!

  11. Jamie says:

    I am so intrigued by tahini. I love hummus and eat it often, but have only ever been served straight tahini once in a kosher Jewish restaurant in Basle. Odd and intriguing but I must try this recipe for a dip… lovely.

  12. Joanne says:

    It always upsets me to see how expensive tahini is because i love it so much. thanks so much for sharing this recipe with us!

  13. Morgan says:

    I am looking forward to reading about more uses for tahini. I have already found several delicious looking recipes on your site.

    The problem i have with my tahini is that it always separates and i can’t seem to mix it back together just by stirring. I usually have to scoop out the whole jar and put it in my food processor which is a total pain. Is there a way to keep it from separating. Also, does it need to be stored in the fridge or is room temp okay? I thought i could leave it in the cabinet like peanut butter, but since it separates so readily i was afraid of the oil going rancid and stuck it in the fridge.

    • Joumana says:

      @Morgan: I have no trouble keeping my tahini in the pantry; it will keep fine for a few months; as far as the oil separating, I just stir it. Have you tried different brands?

  14. Katherine Martinelli says:

    I absolutely love tahini and definitely have a new found appreciation for it living in the Middle East!

  15. Susan says:

    My local store only sells two brands and they are both more dark beige in color that the tahini you have pictured. I think I will look for another place to purchase it!

  16. Adelina says:

    Thanks for educating us on tahini. I have used it just because it’s pretty iconic for mutabal, hummus or shawerma, but did not know the benefits to tahini.

  17. Stamatia says:

    You forgot one major category of tahini-derived food: halva!

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