What Is Tahini? What to Know About This Savory Spread
Disclaimer: I am obsessed with tahini. I put it on everything. Eggs, salads, yogurt, hummus, toast, oatmeal – you name it. I think it adds a perfect texture of creaminess, balanced with a nutty and hearty flavor, that makes any dish gourmet. In fact, I love it so much, I got myself a gift of Seed + Mill tahini and halva for Christmas last year. Yeah, for myself. So what is tahini exactly? I'll walk you through what this amazing spread really is.
AKA Sesame Seed Butter
Tahini is technically a sesame seed butter. Think peanut butter, but without the peanuts. The spread is made from grinding toasted, hulled sesame seeds beyond paste-form in order to get a creamy, velvety smooth spread.
What Does Tahini Taste Like?
Because tahini is made from sesame seeds, it's pretty obviousl that it will taste like sesame seeds. But then again, who really knows what sesame seeds taste like?
Tahini has a slightly nutty, savory taste, but it can easily be made sweet by mixing it with molasses or honey. The versatility of the spread makes it perfect for basically any dish – like on maple toast with bananas or as a salad dressing.
Where Does Tahini Come From?
I like to say tahini comes from "the land of my people," AKA the Middle East. Believe it or not, sesame is actually used as much in the Middle East as in East Asia, because of its abundance within the region. In fact, I know of tahini as "tahina," thanks to my Arabic-speaking family.
Specifically, tahini can be found anywhere from North Africa to the Mediterranean to the Balkans, and down to the lower Middle East (Persia). Its simple ingredients make it the perfect healthy addition to any dish.
How Do You Eat Tahini?
Tahini is most commonly known as being the major ingredient in hummus, where it got its famed origins. But there are so many more dishes that can use tahini, from dips like baba ghanoush to a common Middle Eastern breakfast called "ful" (fava beans mixed with tahini, parsley, tomatoes, and red onions).
In the Middle East, particularly the Israeli region, tahini is also used in many popular desserts, like halvah (tahini mixed with sugar, nuts, or chocolate), or tahini sesame cookies. In the US, tahini has taken new forms – there are endless recipe options with this amazing spread.
Where Can I Get Some?
Tahini is available in almost every supermarket, from TJ's to Whole Foods. It's also definitely available in any Middle Eastern specialty store. But if you can't find it anywhere, or you're feeling adventurous, you can make your own tahini with some sesame seeds.
So what are you waiting for? Pick up or make a jar of this delicious savory spread ASAP. It'll add an incredible depth of flavor and creaminess to any dish, making you a gourmet chef in no time. Oh, and a Middle Eastern food lover. Welcome to the club!