Tahini is a paste made from ground, hulled sesame seeds
used in North African, Greek, Turkish, and Middle Eastern cuisine. Tahini is served as a dip on its own or as a major component of hummus
, baba ghanoush
, and halva.
Preparation and storage
Tahini is made from sesame seeds that are soaked in water and then crushed to separate the bran from the kernels. The crushed seeds are soaked in salt water, causing the bran to sink. The floating kernels are skimmed off the surface, toasted, and ground to produce an oily paste.
Because of tahini's high oil content, many manufacturers recommend refrigeration to prevent spoilage. This is particularly true among makers of raw, organic tahini, who will often prepare their tahini at low temperatures and ship and store it in refrigerated cases to maximize quality and shelf life.
1. Tahini-based sauces are common in Middle Eastern restaurants as a side dish or as a garnish, usually including lemon juice, salt
, and thinned with water. Tahini sauce is also a popular topping for meat and vegetables in Middle Eastern cuisine.
2. In Armenia, tahini can be used as a sauce to put in the lahmajoun.
3. In Turkey, tahini (Turkish: tahin) is mixed with pekmez to form a dish called tahin-pekmez. Due to its high-caloric nature, it is served as a breakfast item or after meals as a dessert to dip pieces of bread in, especially during the wintertime.
4. In Iraq and some Persian Gulf countries, tahini is mixed with date syrup (rub) to make a sweet dessert usually eaten with bread. Tahini is called ardeh in Persian and harda in Kuwait. In Iran it is used to make halvarde, a kind of halva.
5. In Cyprus, tahini, locally known as tashi, is used as dipping for bread and in pitta souvlaki rather than tzatziki, which is customary in Greece.
6. In Greece, tahini is used as a spread on bread either alone or topped with honey or jam. Jars of tahini ready-mixed with honey or cocoa are available in the breakfast food aisles of Greek supermarkets.
7. In Israel, tahini is a staple foodstuff. It is served as a dip with pita, a topping for falafel, sabich, Jerusalem mixed grill and shwarma, and as an ingredient in various spreads. It is also used as a cooking sauce for meat and fish and in sweet desserts like halva parfait.
8. In the Gaza Strip, a rust color variety known as "red tahina" is served in addition to ordinary tahina. It is achieved by a different and lengthier process of roasting the sesame seeds, and has a more intense taste. Red tahina is used in sumagiyya (lamb with chard and sumac) and salads native to the falaheen from the surrounding villages, as well as southern Gaza.
9. In the Levant, tahini is a staple foodstuff prepared with mashed garlic and lemon juice. It is served as a dip with pita, a topping for falafel and shwarma, and as an ingredient in various spreads. It is also used as a cooking sauce for meat and always served as a side with fish. It is also a main ingredient in a seafood dish called Siyadiyeh. Tahini is in sweet desserts like halva and halva with pistachios.
10. In East Asia, sesame paste is a major condiment used in dry noodles (hot or cold). Sesame paste can also be eaten as a snack
Tahini is an excellent source of copper, manganese
and the amino acid methionine. Tahini is a source of the healthy fatty acids omega-3 and omega-6.
Tahini in a jar with natural oil
separation visible at the top
Tahini made from raw sesame seeds is lower in fat
than tahini made from roasted seeds.
Tahini's relatively high levels of calcium
make it a useful addition to vegetarian and vegan diets, as well as to raw food diets when eaten in its unroasted form. Compared to peanut butter, tahini has higher levels of fiber and calcium and lower levels of sugar and saturated fats.