Tahini. We love it.
So much so that we started making our own tahini back in 2017. Since then, our journey has been sprinkled with researching, crafting, savoring, selling and recipe-testing.
Armed with tahini-knowledge, we’ve put together this guide. We are sharing our favourite method for making tahini at home, introducing you to some of our favorite tahini facts and uses, while also answering some common tahini-related questions we get asked.
Jump ahead to any sections you're most interested in.
📚 Table of Contents
- What is tahini?
- How can I make my own tahini at home?
- How long does it take to make tahini at home?
- Our commercial tahini-making process
- Our 3 tips for making great tahini
- Where can I buy or try tahini?
- Our 3 tips for buying delicious tahini
- Our personal favorite ways to use tahini
- A quick dip into tahini's history
- Learn more about tahini
- Step-by-step DIY tahini recipe
Tahini - Our definition
Tahini is a smooth, creamy paste made primarily from sesame seeds. We say ‘primarily’ because technically, there are two types of tahini - raw tahini and tahini sauce.
There's 'Raw Tahini': This is the tahini you'd use when following recipes that call for tahini as an ingredient. It’s the pure form of tahini made from just one ingredient - 100% sesame seeds. It’s created by hulling, roasting, and then grinding sesame seeds into a creamy, thick paste.
There's also 'Tahini Sauce': Tahini sauce is lighter and more fluid compared to raw tahini. It’s made by blending raw tahini with additional ingredients like water, lemon juice, garlic, and salt, which transforms it into a ready-to-use, pourable sauce or dip.
The word "tahini" is derived from the Arabic word "tahana," which means "to grind." This reflects the traditional process of grinding sesame seeds to make tahini.
Even if you’ve never eaten tahini by itself (either as a sauce or in it’s raw form) chances are you’ve probably encountered tahini in many beloved dishes like:
- baba ganoush
Tahini plays a such a big role in these kinds of sweet or savory dishes due to its ability to enhance flavors and add such a delicious creamy, rich texture.
If you've never had tahini before or curious about what it tastes like, we've describe its unique flavor in this post: What Does Tahini Taste Like?
How to make tahini at home - jump ahead to full recipe
Making tahini at home is more straightforward than most imagine.
You only really need 3 ingredients and a 4 bits of common kitchen equipment. Taking everything into account, thats:
- Raw white sesame seeds
- Salt (to purify and soften the seeds while their soaking)
- Water (for the saltwater seed-soak)
- Baking sheet (for roasting the seeds)
- Food processor (or a traditional stone mill if you have one)
- Airtight container (for storage)
The step by step directions on how we'd make our tahini at home is at the bottom of the guide.
How long does it take to make tahini at home?
From our experience, making tahini at home typically takes about 30 minutes to 1 hour, not counting the 8-hour soaking period for the sesame seeds. So, it's roughly 9 hours in total.
Our own commercial tahini-making process
For our artisanal tahini production, we source prime sesame seeds from the renowned Humera region in Ethiopia. These seeds then undergo a gentle roasting in a traditional oven and are finely ground using the time-honored stone-ground method.
3 tips for making delicious tahini
1. Don't skip the seed-soaking pre-treatment.
We've tried it before and it's really not the same. Soaking not only softens the seeds for a smoother grind but also enhances the tahini's digestibility.
2. Keep a watchful eye during the roasting process.
Sesame seeds are delicate; they require a watchful eye. Experiment with your roasting technique—temperature and time are your variables. Find that sweet spot where the seeds are golden brown, and their oils are just starting to release. We say 10-15 minutes but know that everyone's ovens are a bit different.
3. This is a grinding game-changer...
Traditional tahini recipes call for stone grinding, but don't expect you to have a stone mill in your kitchen. A high-powered blender or food processor can do the job but here's a tip to try — add a drizzle of high-quality oil. Something like olive oil can make all the difference, giving you a tahini that’s not just smooth, but also has a luxurious, creamy texture that's perfect for drizzling over your favorite dishes.
Where can I buy or try tahini?
In the last ten years we’ve really seen tahini grow in global popularity.
Tahini's now more accessible than ever before in the US, you can find it in various places depending on your location and preference. Here are some options:
Grocery Stores: Many well-stocked grocery stores should carry tahini, especially those with a good selection of international foods. Look for it in the international foods aisle, near the Middle Eastern or Mediterranean products. We’ve also written a whole post on Where to Find Tahini in The Grocery Store.
Health Food Stores: Given its nutritional benefits, tahini is often stocked in health food stores. It's a great source of calcium, magnesium, and iron, among other nutrients so right at home in these stores.
Online Retailers: If you prefer shopping online or if your local stores don’t carry tahini, you have plenty of options online. Websites like Amazon, Thrive Market, or specialty food retailers often carry a variety of tahini brands.
International Food Markets: Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, or North African markets are likely to carry tahini. They might have a broader selection and offer different brands or types of tahini not found elsewhere.
Farmers' Markets: In some areas, local producers might sell homemade tahini at farmers' markets. This is a great way to support local businesses and get fresh, high-quality tahini.
SoCo’s Online Store: As the proud makers of our own artisanal tahini we’re proud to offer our sustainably produced, high-quality tahini through our online store. Visit SoCo's Online Tahini Store to browse our selection and try our ready-to-use tahini, delivered to your doorstep.
3 tips for buying delicious tahini
1. Try different brands
Like with any food product, you might find you prefer the taste or texture of one brand over another. Don’t hesitate to try a few different brands to find the one you like best. Or try out different tahini flavors.
2. Check those ingredients labels!
A golden rule for both of us — you don't want weird preservatives in your tahini when they don't have to be. Tahini should and can be 100% natural. Even when bought in a jar or combined with other flavors (like Tahini & Dates).
3. Consider the origin of the sesame seeds
The source of sesame seeds can impact the taste of tahini significantly. Seeds from different regions offer distinct flavors; for example, Humera Ethiopian sesame seeds like the ones we use are often prized for their quality and rich taste.
How to use tahini (our personal favorites)
If you know anything about tahini, it might be that there are endless ways to use it.
Growing up, tahini was something we both ate daily. It is kind of like our version of peanut butter in American culture. Go into any American pantry and you’re likely to find a jar of peanut butter. Similarly, tahini holds an important spot in our culinary landscape. Whether drizzled over falafel, swirled into hummus, or whipped into a quick dip - tahini was always there, adding a distinct nutty richness to our dishes.
These are our own personal favourite ways we enjoy tahini:
Dana: "I am blending it into smoothies or stirring it into warm oatmeal along with honey and sliced bananas. When it's time for something savory, nothing beats a tahini-lemon dressing over a fresh kale salad. It's that balance of tangy and creamy."
Goni: "I'll often use it as a marinade base when I am grilling food, adding garlic, herbs, and a squeeze of lemon to the mix. If I'm leaning towards a snack, a quick tahini and za'atar dip with warm pita is my go-to. And let’s not forget dessert — a drizzle of tahini over vanilla ice cream with a sprinkle of pistachios is so good."
We often update our recipe page with tahini creations.
A quick dip into tahini's history
There is a lot of in-depth content out there that intricately traces the origins and history of tahini so we'll keep our tahini timeline short and sweet:
Tahini has ancient origins. The history of tahini is, in essence, the history of the sesame seed. Over 4,000 years ago, sesame seeds were already being cultivated. From the tombs of ancient Egyptian pharaohs to the trade routes of Mesopotamia, these tiny seeds held cultural and culinary significance.
Levant is an area spanning modern-day Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, and Syria. It's believed that Levant was the place that first ground these seeds into a paste, giving birth to the rudiments of tahini. The name 'tahini' itself likely derives from the Arabic term "tahana," meaning "to grind."
Trade and Expansion
As ancient civilizations established expansive trade networks, tahini traveled. From the Mediterranean shores to the far reaches of Persia and beyond, its rich, nutty flavor found its way into many different cuisines and dishes.
With the global trend leaning towards nutritious and authentic foods, tahini experienced a renewed surge in popularity. Today, beyond its traditional roles in dishes like hummus or baba ganoush, it's making waves in contemporary kitchens, from dressings to desserts. Tahini's history is ancient but its appeal is timeless.
Learn more about tahini:
- Tahini & Women’s Health: The Potential Benefits Worth Knowing
- Where to Find Tahini in The Grocery Store
- What is Whipped Tahini? (aka 'The Mother of All Dips')
- Does Tahini Go Bad? How Can I Tell?
- What Does Tahini Taste Like?
Special Offer for Our Readers 😋
As a token of appreciation for diving deep into the tahini guide with us, we're offering a special discount. Use the code EXPERT at checkout in our online store for a 20% discount on your first purchase of any tahini goodies.
Step-by-step tahini recipe👇 ✨
Our Favorite At-Home Tahini Recipe
Super easy peasy tahini. Whip up this 3-ingredient tahini at home.
Raw while sesame seeds
Baking sheet (for roasting the seeds)
Stone mill or food processor (for grinding / blending the seeds)
Airtight containter (for storage)
Step 1: Soaking
Place your raw sesame seeds in a bowl or container.
Dissolve 1-2 tablespoons of salt in a sufficient amount of water to cover the sesame seeds. This saltwater solution will help purify and soften the sesame seeds.
Pour the saltwater over the sesame seeds, ensuring they are completely submerged.
Allow the sesame seeds to soak for at least 8 hours or overnight. This soaking process will help remove the outer shell, which can be bitter.
Step 2: Roasting
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees
Drain and rinse the soaked sesame seeds thoroughly to remove excess salt.
Spread the sesame seeds evenly on a baking sheet.
Roast the sesame seeds in the preheated oven for about 10 minutes, or until they turn a light golden brown. Be sure to stir them occasionally for even roasting.
Remove the seeds from the oven and let them cool to room temperature. Roasting enhances the flavor and aroma of the sesame seeds.
Step 3: Grinding
Once the roasted sesame seeds have cooled down, it's time to grind them into tahini.
Traditionally, a stone mill is used for this purpose. If you happen to have one, place the roasted sesame seeds in the stone mill and slowly grind them until you achieve a smooth and creamy consistency. This process may take some time, but the result is the real, authentic tahini with a rich flavor.
Alternatively, if you don't have a stone mill, you can use a food processor; add the roasted sesame seeds to a food processor.
Process the sesame seeds, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, until you reach your desired consistency. This can take a few minutes, and you may need to add a small amount of neutral oil (such as vegetable or sesame oil) to achieve the desired creaminess.
Step 4: Storage
Transfer the freshly made tahini into an airtight container. Store it in a cool dark place in room temperature for a longer shelf life. We’ve also written a blog with information on how long tahini lasts.
Now you have a homemade tahini that's free of preservatives and full of flavor. Use it in various recipes, from hummus to salad dressings or as a tasty dip for bread and vegetables.