You might know tahini as the creamy base of your hummus or the smooth topping you enjoy on falafel. But tahini is so much more than that! This ingredient can transform dishes, adding a subtle earthy flavor and indulgent texture to your favorite foods. Try tahini and discover what those in the Middle East have known for centuries: this one pantry staple can elevate just about any dish.
What is Tahini?
Tahini is a spread made out of toasted sesame seeds. These seeds are ground into a smooth paste with a texture similar to creamy peanut butter. Tahini usually has an off-white color that won’t alter the appearance of your dishes. (A darker tahini made out of black sesame seeds exists as well, but it’s less commonly used in cooking.)
Tahini has a creamy, nutty, slightly bitter flavor that stands in contrast to the usually sweet spreads that have a similar consistency. Because of this, tahini is often used to add an indulgent texture to savory dishes without altering the taste. It’s also used in various desserts across the world to balance out the sweetness and add a depth of flavor.
Tahini is mostly associated with the Middle East, but it is also used in North Africa, Southeast Asia, as well as the Mediterranean and Caucasus regions. It’s unique flavor and clean list of ingredients has helped it gain popularity in the West as well, making tahini one of the most globally loved foods.
History of Tahini
The name tahini comes from the Arabic word meaning “to grind”, and the food has been a staple of the Middle East and India for thousands of years. It’s even listed as an ingredient in Kitab Wasf al-Atima al-Mutada, an Arabic cookbook from the 13th century! Because tahini is so popular in so many different countries, its exact origins are unclear.
Tracing the history of tahini will lead you to the history of sesame seeds, tahini’s only main ingredient. In Persia, sesame seeds were considered a holy food and were frequently enjoyed by aristocrats. Ancient Greeks and Egyptians considered sesame seeds special for their medicinal properties.
Despite their noble beginnings, sesame seeds became popular among all people throughout the region. Grinding sesame seeds into tahini was discovered as a way to unlock the flavor of these dense seeds, and today tahini is a staple in many countries. Hummus, a combination of ground chickpeas and tahini, is one of the most popular Middle Eastern foods. It’s also enjoyed simply as a dip for pita bread or as a topping for shwarma, falafel, or vegetables.
One of the great things about tahini is its versatility. You can use it for extra creaminess in almost any recipe. Best of all, this indulgent texture comes without dairy, sugar, or artificial ingredients! It makes a great base for salad dressings and dips, but can also be used in meat marinades, curries, and desserts. It’s nutty flavor balances out both sweet and spicy dishes, so don’t be afraid to use it in creative ways.
If you’re cooking with tahini for the first time, try making hummus or baba ghanoush. This hummus recipe with tahini will allow you to create your own version of a food you probably already love. It couldn’t be easier! If you’re looking to explore some more, consider making your own falafel pitas or sabich sandwiches. Drizzle tahini on top of these and enjoy the rich, smooth, authentic Middle Eastern flavor.
Nut butters, sunflower seed butter, and even greek yogurt can act as tahini substitutes if you’re looking to replace the creamy texture. Watch out for added sugar in your substitutes though, as you don’t want a sweet flavor to throw off your dish. If you’re looking for something that mimics tahini’s flavor, try adding sesame oil to your dishes.
How to Make Tahini
Due to its short, clean ingredient list, many cooks decide to make their own tahini at home. In order to do this, you’ll want to have a high-speed blender or food processor. Because sesame seeds are so small and tough, you’ll need a kitchen machine with a powerful motor in order to break down the seeds into a silky smooth paste. Be sure to store your homemade tahini in an airtight container in the fridge to keep it fresh.
The easiest tahini recipe has just one ingredient: sesame seeds. In order to make a simple tahini, just blend hulled sesame seeds (either raw or toasted) until smooth. For a creamier texture and enhanced flavor, you might also add a few tablespoons of oil and a pinch of salt to your sesame seeds. You can also experiment with other flavors by adding herbs and spices to your tahini. Try making green tahini (popular in countries like Israel) by adding fresh green herbs like parsley.
Health Benefits of Tahini
Tahini’s key ingredient (sesame seeds) have been used since ancient times for their numerous health benefits. These tiny seeds are packed with minerals, making them one of the most nutrient-dense foods you can add to your diet. Sesame seeds are a great source of copper, which helps to fight inflammation, and magnesium, which supports your muscles and respiratory system. They are also good sources of calcium, manganese, phosphorous, and zinc.
Sesame seeds are the best natural source of phytosterols, a powerful compound that helps to lower cholesterol and boost immunity. The combination of phytosterols and healthy fatty acids like Omega-6 make sesame seeds a great addition to any heart-healthy diet.
Sesame seeds are also packed with protein, iron, and B vitamins, making them a great addition to a vegetarian or vegan diet. With so many benefits packed into one food, it’s no wonder that sesame seeds have been used in naturopathic treatments for centuries.
Where to Buy Tahini
While tahini is becoming easier to find in Western supermarkets, all tahini is not created equal. The quality of the sesame seeds greatly affects tahini’s taste, and selecting a high-quality tahini can be the difference between an overwhelmingly bitter taste and a deep, nutty, aromatic flavor. Buying your tahini right from Nomads Marketplace takes the guesswork out of the process. It’s the easiest way to get fresh, tasty and quality tahini delivered right to your door. Shop Tahini.
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