Sesame's Secret Weapon: Tahini

Ingredient Intelligence

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If you’ve ever tasted hummus or had a spoonful of baba ghanoush, you’ve almost certainly encountered tahini. This thick paste of ground sesame seeds is one of the staples of the Middle Eastern kitchen, and there’s really no substitute.

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How Tahini Is Made

Tahini is similar to the sesame paste used in Asian cuisine, but more refined. For tahini, the raw or toasted sesame seeds are blanched and lightly crushed to separate the tough outer bran from the actual seed kernel. The seeds are then ground into a pale-colored creamy paste, sometimes with the addition of a little olive oil or salt (tahini made from just sesame seeds is sometimes labeled raw tahini). It's actually quite easy to make at home.

→ Learn how: How To Make Tahini

What Does Tahini Taste Like?

Tahini has an earthy, nutty flavor that we think is a little more subtle and understated than other nut butters. It doesn’t necessarily announce its presence in a dish, but you’d definitely notice if it were missing.

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How to Store Tahini

Since it’s very high in oil, keep tahini refrigerated once you’ve opened it to prevent it from going rancid too quickly. It gets difficult to stir once it’s chilled, so be sure to thoroughly mix it before putting it in the refrigerator. If it separates again, let it warm for a few minutes on the counter before mixing and using.

How to Use Tahini

There are also plenty of things to do with tahini beyond adding a spoonful to hummus! Try experimenting with tahini-based salad dressings and marinades, mixing it into falafel, and just eating it as a snack with raw veggies.

What do you like to do with tahini?

Updated from a post originally published in August 2010.

(Image credits: Nataliya Arzamasova/Shutterstock; Emily Ho; Amazon; Andrea Bemis)