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Does tahini go bad?

Maybe you’ve found an old jar of tahini at the back of your pantry, dusted it off, given it a sniff and are wondering whether it’s safe to use. Does tahini go bad?

The simple answer is yes. Tahini does go bad. But not easily. 

Below is everything you need to know about storing tahini safely, including all our tahini-obsessed tips for avoiding sesame spoilage.

How long does tahini last?

This really depends on the kind of tahini you have. Also on how much you love tahini.  

Around here, tahini is lucky if it lasts more than a few weeks, but even after opening it is shelf stable and can potentially stay good up to the best by date indicated on the label.

Generally speaking, we’d always recommend that you check the best-before-date to make sure your tahini is still safe to eat. And of course your tahini is also going to last longer if you store it well (more tips on storing tahini coming up). 

All SoCo tahini is non-GMO and 100% natural, so we do recommend you use it within 6 months after opening. This just ensures maximum freshness and best taste. 

If your tahini doesn’t have a best-before label or has been lurking in your pantry for longer than you can remember, you’ll need to decide for yourself whether or not it’s gone bad. 

How to tell if tahini has gone bad

Wondering what rancid tahini tastes like? Not great. 

The good news is that you’ll definitely know if tahini has expired. The taste will be sour, kind of metallic, and just plain weird. 

Utilizing a trusty sniff test is another way of finding out if it’s time for your tahini to take a one-way trip to the bin.

But something that’s important to remember is that ground sesame seeds do naturally have a slightly earthy, bitter aftertaste. 

This signature sesame bitterness should not be confused for rancidity. It’s all part of tahini’s delicious flavor profile and the only tahini that has less of this bitterness are sweet tahinis, like our Dates & Tahini

So, if you’ve smelled, sniffed and tentatively tasted your tahini and are still on the fence about whether or not it’s fine to eat - why not whip up a small portion of this classic combo: tahini, lemon and olive oil. This will let you test how the tahini tastes when it’s not 100% raw.

Does tahini need to be refrigerated? 

If you live in a warm country or don’t use your tahini that often, the fridge is a great home for your tahini.

In fact, seed butters and pastes are technically  less at risk of becoming rancid if you store them in the fridge. But be warned. Tahini that hides in the fridge for too long (or stored in fridges that feel more like freezers) can turn chunky and hard. So hard you’ll feel like you need a cement mixer to get things moving again. 

That’s why, if you are storing your tahini in the fridge, make sure the temperature of your fridge is not too cold. Also go for a high quality tahini that arrives nice and creamy and is good at staying that way (think perfectly pourable liquid gold, SoCo tahini). 

Now you won’t have to worry about bending a spoon trying to shovel it out. 

SoCo says: It’s only important to store tahini in a fridge if you live in a warm place without air conditioning. Otherwise, your tahini will be happy in a cool, dark pantry, far away from direct sunlight, cozied-up next to your other pantry staples.

Refrigerator vs Pantry: What is the best way to store tahini? 

If we’re talking about fridge vs. pantry, the best way to store tahini really all depends on how your tahini was prepared, and what consistency you prefer. 

Tahini that comes straight from a jar (exactly like you bought it) can be stored in either the pantry or fridge. Both are fine. The SoCo squad prefers keeping our tahini in the pantry, treating it like we would olive oil or peanut butter. 

The big difference between storing it in the fridge and pantry is that the fridge will thicken your tahini, giving it a consistency similar to nut butter. Tahini stored in a pantry will keep more of a velvety and smooth texture (making the pantry a supreme place to store your jar if you’re using tahini a lot). 

Wherever you put it, just make sure the lid is properly screwed on and your tahini is air-tight. You should also always double-check the label as different tahini brands and flavors often have product-specific recommendations. 

And then there are sauces. 

If you’re using your tahini to create an amazingly tasty dressing, you are 100% going to need to put that baby in the fridge. Use it within a couple of days, just like you would with something like hummus. 

We highly recommend making your own sauce or dip by simply adding the liquid and seasoning of your choice. Your creations are simple to make and allow you to have a fresh dip or sauce effortlessly. They will keep in the fridge for 5-7 days.

Store bought, ready made tahini sauces or dips are usually made with preservatives, stabilizers, emulsifiers or chemicals helping it last longer.

SoCo says: How tahini is stored depends on how it’s prepared, and what tahini consistency you prefer. Store-bought tahini can either live in a cool dark place or in the fridge (we prefer the pantry, as the fridge can change the consistency of your tahini, making it less silky smooth). If you’ve mixed your tahini with other ingredients to make a sauce, always keep it in the fridge and use it within 5 days. 

Why has my tahini separated?

If your tahini has separated, it’s just doing what all good, high-quality tahini does naturally, so do not worry!

In fact, tahini is a bit like peanut butter in the sense that it’s totally normal if a little pool of oil appears on the top, especially when your tahini is 100% natural and organic, or hasn’t been used in a while.  

Fun fact: The fancy scientific name for the process of tahini seed oils separating from solids is called syneresis

Even funner fact: SoCo style tahini is made in a way that means it takes longer for oil separation to occur. It’s actually one of the things that sets us apart from other tahinis and makes ours so creamy. And that’s not to say that oil separation won’t ever happen. Our unique slow roasting process simply means it happens far less. 

Try these effective techniques to stop tahini from separating 

A little trick for avoiding oil separation is to turn the tahini upside down every now and again. This helps to evenly distribute the oil and keep things moving (especially useful if you are not a daily or weekly tahini user). You can do this whenever you remember, or when you go into the pantry or fridge for something else. Make sure you put a paper towel underneath in case it leaks.

Tahini clumping is something else you may encounter with some tahinis. Or little specks of crystalized fats. Again, not to fear. Even if your tahini has lumps, bumps and clumps - it’s still totally safe to eat. Just give it a shake or stir every time you use it. 

Here are some more tips for mixing, blending or re-emulsifying tahini that has separated:

  • Place your jar of tahini in warm water, taking care not to let water get inside. Then stir the tahini (this tip is best for tahini that comes in glass jars). 
  • Scoop your tahini out into a blender and give it a whizz before pouring it back into the jar. Size-appropriate immersion blenders can be a quicker way to mix the tahini while it’s still in its jar - but also potentially messy and awkward.
  • For an easy and effective, minimal-mess mixing technique, use a knife to cut deep lines in the tahini so the oil can drain down. Then go in with a spoon to easily stir the tahini (yes, we’re serious about tahini perfection).

This is the tastiest way to stop your tahini from going bad

Spoiler alert! The best way to stop tahini from going bad is to use it all up before it has time to get weird. 

More tahini than you know what to do with?

Check out our fabulous recipe page for endless inspo that will have your tahini finished  in no time. Cookies, ice cream, salads, drinks. Spread it. Dip it. Dunk it. Drench it. Whatever, whenever - just make sure you tahini to your heart's content!

And if your tahini is looking and smelling a bit suspicious - send out a sesame SOS and grab one of our ready to use, straight-from-the-jar tahinis

This post is dedicated to all the tahini that has been binned, chucked, thrown away - or never made it past the halfway point of the jar. 

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