Whether it is labeled as tahini, raw tahini, tahina or sesame paste, this quintessential Middle Eastern ingredient is also one of the most versatile. When raw, it is simply hulled and finely ground sesame seeds. But—much like raw peanut butter—it can be used in both sweet and savory applications.
It is mostly commonly combined with water, lemon juice, garlic, and spices to make a popular dip for pita bread or sauce for meat and roasted vegetables. The raw version is also extremely popular as an important ingredient in hummus and the eggplant spread, baba ganoush.
When sweetened, however, it also becomes an excellent ingredient for desserts. Some forms of halvah, a popular Middle Eastern confection, are made with raw tahini, dairy, and a sweetener such as sugar or honey. The confection retains its nutty, sesame flavor while still being a tantalizing sweet treat. Likewise, tahini can be added to chocolate brownies and cookies for a great unique flavor. Because, like most seeds and nuts, sesame is full of fat, the tahini usually replaces some of the butter normally called for in recipes.
And, since tahini pairs so well with dairy, it's a great ingredient in cheesecakes. This no-bake version is made with cream cheese, sugar, freshly whipped heavy cream and raw tahini with a graham cracker crust. It's a delicious spin on a classic.
- For the Graham Cracker Crust
- 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
- 2 tablespoons butter (melted)
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- Pinch of salt
- For the Cheesecake Filling
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 16 ounces cream cheese (room temperature)
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup sesame paste (tahini)
- Optional: 1/4 cup crumbled halvah candy
Note: while there are multiple steps to this recipe, this tahini cheesecake is broken down into workable categories to help you better plan for preparation and cooking.
Prepare the Crust
Gather the ingredients.
In a bowl, mix together the crushed graham crackers, melted butter, and granulated sugar until thoroughly combined.
Butter an 8- or 9-inch springform pan. Press the graham cracker and butter mixture into the bottom and about an inch up the sides. Use the bottom of a measuring cup or drinking glass to help press the crumbs down evenly.
Make the Filling
Gather the ingredients.
Pour the heavy cream into a large bowl. Using a hand or stand mixer with the whisk attachment, beat for several minutes until firm. Be careful not to overbeat or it will break and take on a butter-like consistency. Set aside.
Add the room temperature cream cheese, granulated sugar, lemon juice, salt, and tahini to another bowl and beat until smooth. Gently fold in the whipped cream.
Assemble the Cheesecake
Pour the cheesecake filling into the prepared graham cracker crust. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least a couple of hours or until the mixture firms up.
To remove the cake from the pan, run a knife along the sides and gently open the springform and lift off.
Serve the cheesecake with halvah crumbled over the top, if desired.