This is a great question.
But asking it to a bunch of tahini fans (who make their own tahini) might not be the best way of getting an impartial answer…
We love the stuff but in the spirit of objectivity we’ve put this question to the public.
“How does tahini taste to you?”
If you’ve never tried tahini before, here’s how others describe it:
“Something about tahini reminds me of olives. I reckon if you like olives, you’ll like tahini”
“It’s got the texture of a super smooth peanut butter, with a hearty, smokey kind of taste”
“Savory and decadent”
“Very flavorful. There is nothing quite like it so it’s hard to describe. It’s got a strong, aromatic flavor. I always mix mine with garlic, lemon, olive oil and a splash of water”.
“If I really had to compare tahini to something, it tastes like a much more subtle, and nutty version of mustard. It’s nowhere near as pungent or peppery. But in its own way, tastes as bold”
We also posted this question to our socials and newsletter to see what our followers had to say. Click here to find out what they think.
How tahini tastes to us
Now it’s our turn.
Since we eat it day and night - we are good people to hear from.
This is our two cents:
- Every tahini is different, not just in taste, but in texture. Some can be bitter and claggy. Others are subtle and smooth.
- Not all tahini is made equal; we try our best not to be tahini snobs, but firmly believe tahini should contain minimal ingredients (no preservatives or chemicals).
- We make tahini for different taste buds. Sweet tooths, the savory people, and those who swing between.
- The taste of tahini totally transforms when you combine it with other things. It can mellow out and lose a lot of its richness. It's an amazing chameleon-like ingredient.
- Tahini is the key ingredient to a few fabulous elixirs: hummus being one. Here are some more.
Why is tahini bitter?
When trying tahini for the first time, you might detect a bitter aftertaste.
Bitterness is generally part and parcel of tahini - it’s how ground sesame seeds taste.
What you will find, however, is that some tahini can taste more bitter than others.
This is down to a few things; like how that particular tahini is processed, or the levels of something called oxalic acid in the hulls of the seeds. It can also be due to the type of tahini you’re eating - where the seeds were sourced and whether they are white or black variety etc.
Because a few variables can influence the taste of tahini, in the early SoCo days we knew we wanted to create a 100% pure, Artisanal Tahini that had that signature taste of tahini, but wasn’t going to be distractingly bitter.
Ethiopia’s Humera sesame seeds provided a wonderful starting point for this (they’re basically the best sesame seeds ever), and then it was up to us to do lots of behind-the-scenes-magic with a recipe that’s been in the family for ages, and boom! We had tahini that was well-balanced and smooth.
And when we do say bitter, we don’t mean sour. The bitterness in tahini is nothing like lemon or other strong citrus fruits.
If anything, the bitterness in tahini is more comparable to the kind of bitterness you get with some green teas or coffee. Or maybe even with something like kale.
It’s a natural, earthy bitterness that creeps in as a slight aftertaste - and a great signifier that you’re onto something good (here’s how you’ll know if your tahini has gone bad).
If you have a jar of tahini that tastes too bitter to eat by itself, try using it to bake or cook with.
Tahini vs peanut butter
Golden and glistening - peanut butter and tahini are two completely different things. Yet when it comes to the texture and their uses, they share a whole heap of similarities.
For example, it’s not unusual to find tahini being used as a substitute for peanut butter - both are incredibly versatile and can be enjoyed straight from the jar, as well as being used to cook and bake with.
Incorporating tahini or peanut butter into various savory and sweet recipes is a quick and delicious way to thicken stews and sauces, or give a rich, earthy base to something sweet.
And don’t forget that both are packed with heart healthy fats and plant-based protein (amongst lots of other things).
Because our tahini has a luscious, smooth texture, we would compare its texture to a very (very) smooth peanut butter.
So how then does their taste compare?
Peanut butter and tahini might be used in many of the same ways, but their tastes are decidedly different.
A few years back, we heard tahini being described as a more “grown-up” version of peanut butter and think that’s a pretty good description. Tahini just has a bit more *oomph* than peanut butter.
And when combined in recipes, both do the job of adding depth of flavour, but peanut butter has altogether milder taste while tahini cuts through as a stronger, bolder flavor.
Simply put - both are delicious, but both are different.
If you want to taste-test the difference yourself - whip up a batch of these easy to make soft and chewy tahini cookies and some peanut butter cookies. See how you think they compare!
Similar foods to tahini
If you are wondering if there are any similar tasting foods to tahini, no not really.
Apart from the comparable texture of smooth nut butters (in our case make that extra smooth), tahini is very much its own thing.
Even sunflower seed pastes and pumpkin seed pastes are distinguishable from tahini.
Very few seed pastes have such an ancient use as sesame seeds. It’s been around for ages and stood the test (and taste) of time. You can’t even compare it to other sesame based products, like sesame seed oil.
It’s simply unique!
- Classic, pure tahini. Smooth, velvety and well-balanced.
- The texture is perfectly pourable. Not thick and clumpy!
- As good to eat on its own, as it is to use in recipes.
- Herby, zesty, fresh and flavourful.
- A creamy nut-free pesto
- As close to homemade as you’re going to get in a jar!
How to eat me: Great with salads and pastas. Try it spread into sandwiches too - it’s a deliciously savory tahini.
READ: Find out more about our amazing Tahini & Pesto here.
- Sweet dates & slow-roasted sesame seeds
- Melt-in-your-mouth smooth
- Caramelly and mellow
How to eat me: Drizzle on everything. It’s amazing on freshly baked banana bread. We also love it on ice cream. And pancakes!