I talked about tahini on my old blog many years ago, and think it’s about time we revisit it. I frequently get questions about tahini – mostly about which brand I use. Today’s post will give you some info about tahini, some brand comparisons, and a slew of delicious tahini recipes!
Tahini, unlike other seed and nut butters, is rarely called ‘sesame seed butter’. But, that is what it is. Sesame seeds are simply pureed into a paste or butter, much like almond butter or peanut butter.
The first time I tasted tahini I thought it was truly awful stuff. Unlike nut butters, it is not inherently sweet. In fact, it has quite a bitter taste, comparatively. It was one of the first foods I tried when moving into eating vegan, but unfortunately I didn’t try it in the most appetizing way. I tried it straight up. It was pasty, bitter, and not all too appealing. Had I tried it in a sauce or salad dressing, I would have had a better first impression!
Oddly, I also had cookbook at the time (when there were perhaps 5 vegan cookbooks on the market!) that used tahini in several cookie recipes. It made all of them taste… like tahini. There are ways to use tahini in dessert recipes, but the flavor balance is trickier than using nut butters. Tahini can indeed be used brilliantly in sweets, but I use it most often in savory dishes.
I now LOVE tahini, despite my first disappointing taste-test. I use it in salad dressings, sauces, entrees, creamy dips, hummus (did someone say hummus?!), salads, and more. It adds body and creaminess to dressings and sauces and dressings (especially oil-free), nuttiness to hummus and dips, and also helps with binding and body in recipes like dinner loaves and burgers. The very simplest sauces can be made by whisking tahini with an acid (ex: lemon juice or apple cider vinegar) and a little salt/pepper. I also like to add just a smidgen of maple syrup or agave to balance the bitterness – just a touch. I have several tahini recipes in my books, including ‘Tahini-Tamari Sauce’ (The Everyday Vegan), Sesame Mustard Tahini Sauce’ (Vive le Vegan), plus a ‘Peanut Sesame Sauce’ and a ‘Smoky-Spiked Tahini Sauce’ (both from LTEV).
Suffice it to say, I now quite love tahini, especially in a super-savory-drizzly sauce! But, here’s the surprise… I now even love it straight up! Maybe that’s not such a surprise, as we know that our palates develop when eating more whole plant foods, maybe you’ve had a similar experience!
Nutritionally speaking, tahini (and sesame seeds) are a good source of calcium and iron, as well as other minerals and vitamins (B1 and magnesium), and dietary fibre. Tahini is a very healthy food to include in your plant-powered diet!
So, I’m often asked which tahini I use in my recipes. I mention in Let Them Eat Vegan that the brand I use most often is “Nuts To You”. It’s a Canadian brand, so it’s very widely available here. Here is a rundown on three brands that I’ve used, comparing color, texture, and taste:
Nuts To You Tahini: This brand is available in Canada, offering a variety of nut and seed butters. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen it in the US (my American friends, have you seen it?). This is my most-used tahini, for recipes and otherwise.
Color: Light beige/caramel.
Texture: Thick and somewhat dense, and not quite as silky-smooth as other two brands.
Taste: Medium-sesame flavor, slightly bitter but also earthy-nutty.
Joyva Tahini: This brand I have never seen in Canada. I picked it up in the US, and couldn’t believe the difference between this and my standard ‘nuts to you’ brand. I’ve sometimes heard people say that you can sub tahini for peanut butter, and I’ve thought “no way, not close enough in taste“… but, if they’ve been using this brand, I can see why they’d make the comparison.
Color: Darker beige, more caramel in color.
Texture: Very thick at the bottom, requires more stirring than ‘nuts to you’. Without good stirring, you might get very loose/oily tahini at the top, and a very dense, dry paste at the bottom.
Taste: Roasted sesame flavor, very nutty, almost peanutty, less bitter.
Artisana Raw Tahini: This is a more specialized tahini. Can be found in the US and Canada, but is far more pricey, double or more in price. The price might be worth it to you if you want a very mild, subtle, creamy tahini. This is your guy. Since it is made from raw sesame seeds, its color is much lighter. They claim to use ‘carefully selected seeds’ to reduce bitterness, and this appears to be true!
Color: Light, creamy-beige.
Texture: Smooth and creamy.
Taste: Very mild sesame, minimal bitterness, creamy.