16 Delicious Ways to Cook With Tahini

Tahini, or sesame paste, should be a pantry staple in your kitchen

Tahini
The Spruce.

It may be an ancient food, but tahini, also known as sesame paste, is enjoying a major renaissance right now. Fans of Middle Eastern food may know it best as the stuff they drizzle on falafel. But thanks to chefs like Yotam Ottolenghi and Einat Admony (not to mention countless food writers and bloggers) making creative use of tahini, it's clear that the possibilities are virtually endless.

What is Tahini? Tahini is sesame paste, made by grinding up sesame seeds until a smooth, peanut butter-like consistency forms. It's nutty, creamy, and oily, and is commonly used in Middle Eastern cooking. Lately it's become popular the world over in salad dressings, baking, sauces, and more.

Where to Get Top Notch Tahini: Middle Eastern Markets, specialty grocers, and health food stores are good sources for tahini, but most supermarkets offer the ingredient now. You can typically find it with other Middle Eastern products, next to the peanut butter, or sometimes refrigerated. A little oil separation is fine, and proof that your tahini is all natural and free of emulsifiers. Simply stir it up when you're ready to use it to combine the oil and paste.

How to Cook With Tahini: When baking, tahini is typically used in the same way as peanut butter, adding a nutty but milder taste. It can easily be whisked into sauces and dressings, but keep in mind that adding acid, such as lemon juice, will cause tahini to thicken rapidly. Adding a little warm water will thin it to the proper consistency.

You can also make your own tahini with sesame seeds, oil, and a good blender. For ideas on how to use sesame paste, we've got a wide range of recipes that are sure to make you a tahini fan.

  • 01 of 16

    Hummus with Tahini

    Hummus With Tahini
    The Spruce.

    One of the most popular ways to use tahini is to make hummus. The smooth and creamy dip is popular all over the world, and perfect for dipping veggies, chips, or pita. Chickpeas, garlic, lemon, tahini, olive oil, and a food processor or blender are all you need, and you can add extras like spicy peppers or herbs to customize your hummus.

  • 02 of 16

    Crunchy Middle Eastern Chicken Salad

    Crunchy Middle Eastern Chicken Salad
    Anita Schecter.

    Instead of tossing your chicken salad in mayonnaise, try a yogurt-tahini dressing instead. It's still creamy and flavorful without so much fat and the guilt that goes with it. For an extra fast and easy salad, use a store-bought rotisserie chicken. Carrots and almonds add crunch and za'atar, a spice blend, adds savory spice.

  • 03 of 16

    Tahini Cheesecake

    Tahini Cheesecake
    Anita Schecter.

    Tahini's nuttiness and fat content make it a perfect ingredient in sweets, including cheesecake. Simple but decadent, this dessert has a light sesame flavor. Top with a drizzle of chocolate or caramel sauce if you have it, along with sprinkle of crushed halvah candy, a dessert also make with sesame paste.

  • 04 of 16

    Tahini Caper Salad Dressing

    Tahini Caper Salad Dressing
    A Tahini Caper Dressing turns a simple salad savory. © Miri Rotkovitz

    Tahini works as both a flavor booster and a natural emulsifier in this dressing. Served over greens, it makes a satisfyingly savory vegan alternative to Caesar dressing. It also works as a dip for crudites, a sauce for grilled fish or chicken, or a drizzle on sandwiches and wraps. 

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  • 05 of 16

    Tahini Roasted Cauliflower with Pepitas and Herbs

    Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Tahini, Pepitas, and Herbs
    Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Tahini, Pepitas, and Herbs. Credit: Brett Stevens/Getty Images

    If you're looking for an easy way to impress guests, serve a whole roasted cauliflower as a side dish. Accenting it with a nutty tahini sauce, pumpkin seeds, and a shower of chopped fresh herbs makes it especially delicious. The recipe may be dinner party-worthy, but that doesn't mean you can't make this easy recipe on a weeknight.

  • 06 of 16

    Chickpea and Brussels Sprout Salad with Tahini Dressing

    Chickpea and Brussels Sprout Salad with Tahini Dressing
    Chickpea and Brussels Sprout Salad with Tahini Dressing. Credit: Anita Schecter

    A little za'atar and a creamy (yet dairy free) lemon-tahini dressing ties this Chickpea and Brussels Sprout Salad together. Fresh but hearty, crunchy, and creamy, it's a satisfying main dish for lunch or a side dish for dinner.

  • 07 of 16

    Falafel, Tahini, and Cumin Roasted Butternut Squash Sandwich

    Falafel, Tahini, and Cumin Roasted Butternut Squash Sandwich
    Anita Schecter.

    Crispy baked falafel and tender, sweet butternut squash are a match made in heaven in this pita sandwich. A savory tahini sauce pulls the whole dish together—serve it on the side or drizzled on top. It also makes a great salad with pita on the side or left out altogether.

  • 08 of 16

    Pumpkin and Tahini Bread

    Pumpkin and Tahini Bread
    Anita Schecter.

    Lightly sweet and pillowy pumpkin bread is somehow made even better with the addition of tahini. The sesame paste adds a light nuttiness that marries well with the pumpkin and spices, and it helps keep the bread moist. A sprinkle of pumpkin seeds on top adds a bit of crunch.

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  • 09 of 16

    Fish with Tahini (Samak bi Tahini)

    Fish with Tahini
    Fish with Tahini. Credit: Annabelle Breakey / Getty Images

    For a super simple but flavorful fish preparation, bake your fish fillet and then cover it in a lemon tahini sauce. It can be served warm or cold, and feel free to use your favorite fish, adjusting the cook time as needed. 

  • 10 of 16

    Tahini Noodles

    Tahini Noodles
    Anita Schecter.

    Tahini on pasta might sound weird, but this recipe uses the sesame paste in a way that's strikingly similar to peanut sauce. Soy sauce, lemon, and honey add lots of flavor, and toss in whatever protein or veggies you like.

  • 11 of 16

    Kale and Golden Beet Salad With Tahini-Lemon Dressing

    Kale and Golden Beet Salad With Tahini-Lemon Dressing
    The Picture Pantry / Alanna Taylor Tobin / Getty Images.

    If you haven't figured out by now, tahini and lemon go together like, well, tahini and lemon. Really, really well. They make a dynamite dressing for this fresh kale salad studded with roasted beets, golden raisins, and walnuts. Add a sprinkle of pomegranate seeds if you have them for fruity crunch.

  • 12 of 16

    Farro with Cumin Roasted Carrots and Cumin Tahini

    Farro with Cumin Roasted Carrots and Cumin Tahini
    Farro with Cumin Roasted Carrots and Cumin Tahini. Credit: Anita Schecter

    Roasting carrots brings out their sweetness but leaves them crisp-tender, pairing perfectly with chewy farro. This recipe is not only nutritious and delicious, it's a great example of how you can use a little spice to enhance tahini-based sauces. 

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  • 13 of 16

    Salted Chocolate Chip Tahini Cookies

    Salted Chocolate Chip Tahini Cookies
    Anita Schecter.

     Just like peanut butter, tahini pairs really well with chocolate. Add a little sugar and salt, and you've got a treat to remember. The sesame seed paste helps keep these cookies on the chewy side while adding just the right amount of nuttiness. Make a double batch and freeze some dough for later, or bake them all if you're feeding a crowd.

  • 14 of 16

    Grilled Chicken with Gluten-Free Lemon-Tahini Zucchini Noodles

    Grilled Chicken with Gluten-Free Lemon-Tahini Zucchini Noodles
    Stefania Di Stefano / EyeEm.

    It's time to unpack your spiralizer. This recipe combines zucchini noodles, grilled chicken, cherry tomatoes, and feta for a gluten-free dish. A garlic and tahini sauce keeps things flavorful but light, and fresh parsley and lemon keep it tasting bright. If you don't own a spiralizer, many stores now sell pre-spiralized zucchini.

  • 15 of 16

    Butternut Squash with Chickpeas, Tahini and Za'atar

    Butternut Squash with Chickpeas, Tahini and Za'atar
    Anita Schecter.

    Butternut squash is baked until tender and sweet before being topped with roasted chickpeas in this vegetarian recipe. A Greek yogurt tahini sauce makes the healthy dish worthy of center stage. Serve with a salad for a simple or hearty meal.

  • 16 of 16

    Tahini Caramel Sauce

    Tahini Caramel Sauce
    Tahini Caramel Sauce. Credit: Anita Schecter

    Making your own caramel sauce is easier than it sounds, and it also allows you to customize the recipe to your tastes. Like your caramel salty? Add salt. Like it with a bit of nutty flavor? Then make this Tahini Caramel Sauce. The sesame flavor melds flawlessly with the caramel, making it an ideal topping for ice cream or cake.