Tahini is like the peanut butter of Middle East and Mediterranean cooking. Made from just sesame seeds and a few drops of oil, it’s a savory spread that has a myriad of uses. It surely wasn’t part of my bohemian-american home growing up, but now it’s something my kitchen can’t live without.
It may sound unfamiliar, but if you’ve noshed on hummus, there’s a 98% chance you’ve eaten tahini, as it plays an essential role in this dip’s flavor and texture. But I use tahini for a lot of things beyond hummus! And I’m not ashamed to say even straight from the jar.
Like many ingredients, I’ve noticed a difference in the flavor and texture depending on what brand you buy. Some are too thick, some too grainy, and most commonly, too bitter. So I decided to start playing around with homemade tahini, until I got it just right. And in my eyes, that means super silky smooth, in-between drippy and nut butter thick, with a toasted, nutty flavor.
The process is very simple: toast the seeds, grind with 1 teaspoon oil (using high speed blender or food processor, done and done. But there’s a few important things I learned before landing on the best way to make homemade tahini:
- The velvety smooth texture is achieved by using raw, HULLED white sesame seeds. You can also buy them unhulled, which means the thin outer shell is left on, but you will end up with a grittier end result.
- LIGHTLY toasting the sesame seeds is critical for two reasons:.
- imparting the subtle toasted, flavor
- coaxing out some of the natural oils, which will also help it grind down smoother
- Both the type of sesame seed (hulled) and the toasting takes away the bitterness that might otherwise linger.
- Use a neutral oil, like sunflower, to keep the flavor pure.
If you’ve had trouble grinding nut butters because they are so rough and tough, you are going to love making tahini the sesame seeds are tiny and thin! Here’s an inside look at how the consistency will change as you grind. Just keep scraping down the sides, and blending. You’ll get to the end pretty quickly.
Then pour into a glass jar and store in your pantry, at room temperature. One of the magical things about sesame is that is contains relatively stable oils with a high concentration of antioxidants, so it can last for a long time. However, if you think it will take you longer than 6 months to use up, store in the refrigerator, and let come to room temperature so you can stir before using.
Now how to use it right? Well, I love how mild it is, a neutral slate when compared to nut butters. Perhaps what I love most is the rich, smooth, creaminess it adds to whatever your stirring it into or drizzling it on top of. It contributes some subtle flavor, but not overwhelming. And because of that, it’s extremely versatile, naturally working it’s way into both sweet and savory recipes.
My favorite way will always be avocado toast, with a sprinkle of za’atar and a little extra olive oil. It doesn’t get old, ever. Other savory ideas:
- this fluffy Omelette, Filled with Sweet Potato Noodles and Tahini Drizzle
- these crispy Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Lemon Tahini Sauce are my all time favorite
- out with italian meatballs, in with these mediteranean inspired Lemon Cardamom Meatballs, swimming in Garlic Tahini Sauce
- this veggie lovin’ Beet & Chickpea Pasta
- a vibrant broccoli soup, with tahini cream
- these Chocolate Tahini Caramel Bars look like healthy Snickers. need.
- my freezer is calling for this Ice Cream (with chocolate Chip Cookie bits!)
- brownie buddies, can i get yes for these and that swoonworthy Tahini Frosting?
- all about this butternut squash pie with tahini in the graham crust
If you make a batch of homemade tahini, tag me on Instagram, @heartbeetkitchen with hashtag #heartbeetkitchen!
How to Make Homemade Tahini
Store tahini in your pantry, at room temperature. If you think you aren't going to use it all within 6 months, store in refrigerator but let sit out to come to room temperature. Either way, stir very well before using, as some of the oil can rise to the top and you need to keep that within the mixture.
- Lightly toast sesame seeds on top of the stove over medium high heat, until just barely brown. You don't want to overdo it. Remove seeds from pan and let cool in a bowl for 10 minutes.
- Add to high speed blender or food processor (I use the smaller, dry container of my Blendtec), and process for 20 seconds. Then add oil and salt. Process in increments of 20 seconds, scraping down sides and blending until completely smooth. You can see the stages above of how it will look above. Jus keep going, it will get there! This will take about 1½ minutes. Store in glass jar.
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