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 my white bean hummus, 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, including 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 raw sesame seeds, then grind with 1 teaspoon oil (using high speed blender or food processor, scraping down the sides as you go. It will start crumbly, but continue to evolve into the smoothest, creamiest tahini.
Then pour into a jar and refrigerate. The great thing about sesame is that is contains relatively stable oils with a high concentration of antioxidants, so it can last for a long time when stored properly.
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.
I love how mild tahini 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, made with my sourdough bread, a sprinkle of za’atar and a little extra olive oil. It doesn’t get old, ever. Other savory ideas: