So You Made Hummus ... What to Do With the Rest of the Tahini?
Get to know your new favorite condiment and its pantheon of applications. You’ll be surprised at all the things you can snack, dunk, and drink.
Homemade hummus is much yummier (and cheaper) than the store-bought stuff, and making your own is suprisingly easy: No cooking, you just put everything in the blender or food processor. But then what do you do with the rest of the jar of tahini? How many of you have pushed the jar to the back shelf until you wanted to make hummus again? Well it's time for fish that jar back out: It can do so much more than hummus! Yummly has over 14,000 tahini recipe ideas to check out; here’s everything you need to know before you dig in.
What Is Tahini?
Tahini comes from the Arabic word “to grind;” its sole ingredient is pulverized sesame seeds. Many modern manufacturers add oils and preservatives to increase shelf life and improve texture, but the purest stuff is nothing but toasted seeds. Similar to wine, the seeds used in making tahini can impart a range of flavors due differences in the soil and climate where the sesame is grown. These days, sesame grows in the wilds of Africa and India; many hamburger chains source theirs from Mexico. Whether the seeds are toasted or not can also change the color and texture of your tahini. (If you’re feeling keen, black tahini is a more intense variety that can make your dishes a bit more goth.)
Tahini is both slick and sticky, but can sometimes be bitter — which isn’t necessarily a bad thing when you want to tone down sweetness in a dish. In addition to its ancient past, tahini boasts more calcium, fiber, and protein — and less sugar — than peanut butter. There's no wonder it’s blowing up: It’s vegan, nut-free, and high in unsaturated fats (aka the good kind!). However, double-check the ingredients if you're on a gluten-free diet; sometimes gluten is added as a thickener.
Sesame seeds have a high, stable oil content that resists oxidation when pressed and filtered, giving sesame oil and tahini a long shelf life. But because tahini contains seed solids, it’s best to refrigerate it. Just like natural peanut butter, the oil will separate and float to the top. Store the jar upside down or on its side when not in use, so it’ll be easier to stir the oil back into the sesame paste.
Traditional Dishes To Try
From the Mediterranean to the Middle East, Africa, and China, tahini is well traveled. To accompany the hummus you’ve already made, complete your Middle Eastern mezze spread with tashi (a garlicky tahini dipping sauce), baba ganoush (mashed eggplant), and ful medames — tahini-stewed fava beans. Don’t forget the olives! If you’ve got a sweet tooth, try your hand at making halva, a traditional crumbly sesame confection found in Israeli households and throughout the Middle East.
Tahini is equally at home in Asian cuisine. In Sichuan Dan Dan Noodles, tahini serves as the base of its opaque sauce. I love stirring it into Chinese hot pot, too. Its purpose here is threefold: not only does it add a nutty flavor, but it also thickens the soup and balances out the spiciness.
But tahini's versatility doesn’t stop there:
Lay It On Thick
Tahini can be a straight substitution for peanut butter if you enjoy a little bitterness. From here, you can choose your own flavor adventure. For a delectable spread on toast, stir in a dash of vanilla and one tsp. of sugar per Tbsp. of tahini. A savory alternative is to mix one Tbsp. of light miso with two Tbsp. of tahini. Simply thin it out to the consistency you need with a bit of water. I really like this umami-packed combo on a crusty baguette with a sprinkle of fresh thyme.
Dip It, Drizzle it
Punch up a cup of plain yogurt, your morning oatmeal, or a bowl of summer fruit with dribbles of tahini and honey or maple syrup. When you order a falafel sandwich, you’ll habitually see a crisscrossing of red hot sauce and white tahini sauce. This magical stuff is made with tahini, lemon juice, salt, and a crushed clove of garlic. Besides topping shawarma, use it as a healthy dip for crudites, pita, or pretzels. Adapt the sauce into a tahini dressing by adding just enough water to thin it out. Then add it to stir fry or drizzle over roasted veggies. Put a new spin on Japanese goma-ae (greens with a sesame dressing) by mixing tahini with rice wine vinegar and sake.
A note on thinning out tahini: You’ll notice that tahini seems to absorb non-oily liquids like a sponge — it seems to get thicker somehow. This is because it contains a lot of carbohydrates which are attracted to water. But as you keep adding more liquid, it will eventually hit a threshold and thin out. Think of Adele holding multiple Grammy Awards: There will be a point where she cannot hold more and will start to drop them.
Marinate On It For A While
Don't stop with just a drizzle. For a traditional Lebanese fish preparation, lacquer a whole fish with a lemon-tahini paste to get similar results as baking en papillote (in a parchment pouch) or in a salt bed. This method keeps the flesh of the fish moist while infusing flavor in the oven.
Toss hearty vegetables like eggplant, cauliflower, squash, carrot, and sweet potatoes in tahini sauce before spreading them on a baking sheet and roasting them to give them a nutty crust.
You can also mellow out protein marinades with tahini like you would with peanut butter on Thai chicken satay skewers. Soak pieces of chicken in a zip-top plastic bag with tahini, halved lemons, cumin, and olive oil. Massage it a few times over the course of an hour, then grill and done! Bonus: It’s paleo-friendly.
To Bake (Or Not To Bake)
Swirl tahini into brownie (or blondie) batter where you would use peanut butter. Or try it in your next batch of fudge. It also whips up well in buttercream frosting for cakes and cupcakes, and marries well with cookie dough. Swoon on a spoon!
Need a binder to hold your treats together? Tahini can hold granola and no-bake balls together with nuts, dried fruit, and oats. Now you can take it with you on a hike.
Drink It Up
Make your own vegan tahini milk by blitzing a half cup of tahini in a blender with a couple pitted dates and three cups of water — now you've got non-dairy milk for lattes. Add a dash of cinnamon to make it taste like horchata, or throw a banana into the blender and you’ve got a smoothie!
After all of this experimentation, you deserve an adult drink. Dip the rim of a glass into tahini and coat it in sesame seeds for a crunchy addition to a cocktail.
Welcome to the wonderful world of tahini. And if you run out of your first jar, it’s easy to make your own tahini: Blend a half cup of sesame seeds in a high-powered food processor with a tablespoon or two of neutral oil. It won’t be as smooth as the stuff from the store, but be proud because you’re participating in a food tradition that goes back to the beginning of time.
Let us know what you end up making! Tag @Yummly on Instagram to show off your latest tahini masterpiece.