Try homemade tahini and recipes that use it

JeanMarie Brownson
The Daily Meal
Tahini is a puree of sesame seeds. Think of it as an alternative to peanut and other nut butters. Food styling by Shannon Kinsella. (Kristen Mendiola/The Daily Meal/TNS)

Tahini, a staple in my condiment collection, is best known for homemade hummus, baba ganoush and as a key ingredient in sauces to pair with falafel and other Middle Eastern bites. But tahini is the gift that keeps on giving and has uses far beyond the expected.

Tahini is simply a puree of sesame seeds. Nothing else. Think of it as an alternative to peanut and other nut butters.

Bottled tahini takes the work (and the mess) out of grinding sesame seeds. Make sure to read the labels to ensure that nothing else is added.

Soom, made from Ethiopian white humera sesame, is the preferred brand of chefs for its silken texture and rich sesame flavor. However, this brand can be a bit hard to track down in stores, For easy shopping, consider the roasted sesame seed flavor in tahini from the Whole Foods 365 brand or the milder organic tahini from Trader Joe’s.

Note that vigorous stirring is required for nearly all tahini brands; the mixture separates out oil, much like natural peanut butters. While it’s best used at room temperature, you should store tahini in the refrigerator to prevent the oils from turning rancid.

Of course, pretty, creamy white sesame seeds can entice you to make your own tahini. The small bottles sold in the spice section of most supermarkets are pricey, so look for bulk sesame seeds instead. In general, hulled sesame seeds, which have a creamy white hue, taste less bitter than beige or grayish sesame seeds which have their hull still intact.

To make your own tahini, toast 1 cup of sesame seeds in a skillet over low heat, stirring constantly, until some of the seeds are just a little bit golden in color, but not browned. Transfer to a plate and cool completely. Then, process the seeds in a food processor or blender — you’ll get the smoothest results with a high-speed blender — until the seeds are the texture of fine sand. With the machine running, drizzle in untoasted sesame oil, grapeseed oil or safflower oil until smooth and mixture has the consistency of very thin peanut butter. Transfer to a jar and refrigerate covered for a week or more.

For breakfast, spread homemade tahini on toast with a drizzle of honey and a sliced banana with a dollop of yogurt. It’s also a great addition to smoothies.

Consider the lovely sesame paste for baking. It adds great flavor to cookies, brownies and homemade ice cream. Or, of course, you can use tahini for these recipes.

Creamy lemon hummus. Food styling by Shannon Kinsella. (Kristen Mendiola/The Daily Meal/TNS)

CREAMY LEMON HUMMUS

Prep: 10 minutes

Makes 13 / 4 cups

Tahini and garbanzo beans, aka chickpeas, make classic hummus. Replacing some of the garbanzo beans with white beans yields a lighter, creamier version that’s a delicious, satisfying dip for raw vegetables and crackers. A garnish of tangy ground sumac underscores the lemon flavors. This recipe doubles nicely and keeps for about a week in the refrigerator.

  • 1 (15-ounce) can garbanzo beans
  • 1 (15-ounce) can white beans
  • 1/4 cup tahini, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Grated rind from 1 small lemon
  • Extra virgin olive oil, for serving
  • Optional toppings: crushed red pepper flakes; ground sumac; chopped fresh herbs (such as dill, cilantro, parsley or chives)

1. Strain garbanzo beans and white beans over a bowl to catch the juices. Reserve the juices. Put 4 ounces of garbanzo beans and 4 ounces of white beans into a blender or food processor. Save remaining beans for another use.

2. Add 1 / 4 cup tahini, 2 tablespoons each oil and lemon juice, 1 / 2 teaspoon salt, 1 / 8 teaspoon cayenne and 1 / 4 cup of the reserved bean liquid. Process until very smooth. Taste and add remaining oil and lemon juice as desired. Puree. Add more bean liquid (or cold water) to reach desired thickness. Scrape into a bowl.

3. Stir in grated lemon rind. Taste and adjust salt. Refrigerate covered up to several days.

4. Serve with a pool of extra virgin olive oil poured over the hummus. Top with one or more of the options, as desired.

Green chile tahini sauce. Food styling by Shannon Kinsella. (Kristen Mendiola/The Daily Meal/TNS)

GREEN CHILE TAHINI SAUCE

Prep: 20 minutes

Makes 11 / 2 cups

Note: You can substitute 1 can (4 ounces) roasted green chiles, drained, for the fresh chile here. This sauce goes well with grilled lamb chops, salmon or halibut.

  • 1 fresh hatch chile or small poblano chile, roasted, peeled, seeded
  • 1/2 of a 15-ounce can cannellini or other white beans, drained
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 2 tablespoons avocado oil or extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Juice of 1 / 2 lime
  • 1 tablespoon chopped mint
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives (or green onion tops)

1. Set 1 hatch or poblano chile directly over a gas burner or a hot grill, or under a hot broiler, turning often, until chile skin blisters and blackens, about 5 minutes total. Cool, then peel off the blackened skin, remove the seeds and rinse under cool water. Chop.

2. Put 71 / 2 ounces of beans, 1 / 4 cup tahini, 2 tablespoons oil, 1 teaspoon salt and the juice of 1 / 2 a lime juice into a blender. Add 1 / 2 of the roasted chile and 1/3 cup water. Blend smooth. Taste for spice and add remaining chile if desired and blend smooth. Consistency should be that of creamy salad dressing; to thin, add a little more oil or water.

3. Cover and refrigerate for several days. Use at room temperature.

LAMB CHOPS WITH GREEN CHILE TAHINI SAUCE

Prep: 10 minutes

Cook: 8 minutes

Makes 3 to 5 servings

  • 2 pounds lamb chop loins, about 9 to 10 chops
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup green chile tahini sauce, see recipe in notes
  • 1/2 cup cooked or canned white beans (4 ounces)
  • Chopped roasted green chiles, for garnish
  • Fresh chives, for garnish

1. Pat 9-10 lamb chops dry and place on a baking sheet. Sprinkle all sides generously with salt and pepper. Drizzle both sides with olive oil and refrigerate uncovered for up to 2 days.

2. Prepare a charcoal grill until coals are covered with gray ash or preheat a gas grill to medium-hot. Remove chops from the refrigerator. Gather all ingredients to the work surface.

3. Place chops directly over heat source on grill. Cover and grill for 4 minutes. Flip chops; close the grill and cook to medium-rare, 2-3 minutes more. Remove to a platter.

4. To serve, put 2 or 3 chops on each serving plate. Drizzle chops and the serving plate with some of the green chile tahini and olive oil. Sprinkle with beans, chiles and chives.

Maple tahini glaze. Food styling by Shannon Kinsella. (Kristen Mendiola/The Daily Meal/TNS)

MAPLE TAHINI GLAZE

Prep 10 minutes

Makes about 1 / 2 cup

To use this as a salad dressing, double the lemon juice and add 1 / 4 cup olive oil. Use on crisp romaine or over a wedge of iceberg. Sprinkle with chopped nuts and blue cheese.

  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Grated rind of 1 / 2 lemon
  • 3 tablespoons water

Put all ingredients in a small bowl and stir until combined. The glaze should be about the consistency of barbecue sauce. Refrigerate covered up to several days.

ROASTED ZUCCHINI WITH MAPLE TAHINI AND PISTACHIOS

Prep: 20 minutes

Cook: 20 minutes

Makes 4 servings

This is also great as a glaze for blanched green beans. Coat the beans in oil, then a few tablespoons of the glaze and roast until glazed, about 10 minutes.

  • 2 large zucchini, total 11 / 2 pounds
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • 1/4 cup maple tahini glaze, see recipe in notes
  • Toasted crushed pistachios, hazelnuts or pecans

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit convection or 400 degrees Fahrenheit conventional. Cut 2 large zucchini lengthwise into 1/3-inch-wide slabs. Turn the slabs and cut into 1/3-inch-wide sticks. Put onto a baking sheet. Toss with oil to coat well. Season with salt.

2. Roast zucchini, stirring once or twice, until nearly tender, about 10 minutes. Toss the zucchini with the maple tahini glaze to coat pieces lightly. Roast until the glaze starts to turn golden, 5-15 minutes more, depending on the oven. Serve hot sprinkled with crushed pistachios.

Sesame cashew tahini blondies. Food styling by Shannon Kinsella. (Kristen Mendiola/The Daily Meal/TNS)

SESAME CASHEW AND TAHINI BLONDIES

Prep: 20 minutes

Cook: 35 minutes

Makes 48 small bars or 24 medium bars

Be sure the butter is soft for easy mixing. Sesame honey cashews are available at Trader Joe’s. You can also use chopped bits of sesame brittle or any dry-roasted nut.

  • 2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/3 cups light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup tahini
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup chopped sesame honey cashews or dry-roasted unsalted cashews
  • 51 / 2 ounces best-quality white chocolate broken into bits or chips
  • 3 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • Coarse salt, for garnish

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a 13-by-9 inch baking pan with foil. Spray lightly with nonstick spray or brush lightly with oil.

2. Mix 2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder and 1 / 2 teaspoon salt in a small bowl.

3. Beat 2 sticks of room-temperature butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in 1 1/3 cups brown sugar and ⅓ cups tahini until smooth. Beat in 1 teaspoon vanilla, then beat in 2 eggs, one at a time, until smooth.

4. With the mixer on low, beat in flour mixture just until incorporated. Use a spoon to stir in 1 cup chopped nuts and 51 / 2 ounces white chocolate.

5. Transfer batter to prepared pan, then use an offset spatula to spread into an even layer. Sprinkle with 3 tablespoons sesame seeds and a few generous pinches of coarse salt.

6. Bake until the edges start to pull away from the sides of the pan and the top is golden, 30-35 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.

7. Use foil to lift the bars from the pan and let cool completely on the wire rack. Cut into small bars. Store in a covered container for several days.