It seems like you can turn just about any nut or seed into some kind of spread these days. Almonds? Sunflower seeds? Cashews? Pumpkin seeds? Hazelnuts? Yes to all of the above.
Although alternatives to peanut butter have been popping up all over the place in recent years, one of the first and best varieties is tahini. This traditional Middle Eastern spread is made from ground sesame seeds, and has actually been around even longer than peanut butter (circa the 13th century).
Similar to the process for other nut and seed butters, tahini is prepared by grinding toasted sesame seeds until an oily paste is formed. This oily paste is a key ingredient in hummus but can also be used for many other things.
Tahini has a subtle nuttiness that works well in both savoury and sweet dishes. The taste of the sesame seeds can be a little overpowering if you aren’t used to it, but eventually the flavour grows on you. If you aren’t already putting this stuff on everything, you might want to pick up a jar, because there are quite a few reasons why tahini will change your life.
1. It’s economical
While slightly more expensive than peanut butter, tahini is much cheaper than any of the other nut butter alternatives. You can usually find 1-kilogram tubs of this stuff for under seven dollars in the Middle Eastern section of the grocery store.
2. It’s easy to find
No need to make a special trek to the health food store for this one. The majority of grocery stores carry it. In fact, my student district’s version of the local discount grocery store even sells it.
3. It’s healthy
Tahini is a nutritional powerhouse. Not only is it an excellent source of polyunsaturated fat and amino acids, but it can also help regulate blood pressure, cholesterol and hormone levels. It’s also rich in many vitamins and minerals.
4. It can turn any dish into a complete meal
Running short on time? Just slap some tahini on whatever you’re eating for an instant boost of fat and protein. Throw it on your salad, stir it into your oatmeal, or put some on your avocado toast to make a filling and complete meal with minimal effort.
5. It’s versatile
The uses of tahini are limitless. In addition to being enjoyed on its own, it can be used as a base in salad dressings or sauces to give a rich and nutty taste. It’s also used to make the dessert halvah, which is sort of like a sesame-esque fudge. You can even use it to make cookies or a healthier version of Nutella. Magic.
The next time you’re in need of a healthy, do-it-all, one-jar wonder – go for tahini. It’s the glue that will hold your (food) life together.