Top trend: tahini

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Top trend: tahini

It’s been the hero of hummus and halva for generations, but now tahini is starring in cakes, cookies, marinades and dressings. Could it be the new peanut butter?

“The tahini trend really started to take off when Ottolenghi published his first book Ottolenghi and introduced so many ways to use tahini,” says South African-born Lisa Mendelson, who now runs New York’s sesame-focused store, Seed+Mill.

Aside from dressings for his bounteous salads, Ottolenghi uses tahini in a salted caramel, in halva, and as a base for a chocolate tart – amongst other things. Since him, the rise in veganism and the marketing of tahini as a health product has also contributed to the sesame seed paste’s meteoric rise.

Want to use it in your own kitchen? Take inspiration from one of these inspiring cooks.

How to use tahini

1. In ice cream

Based at Chelsea Market in New York, Seed+Mill is the USA’s first sesame-seed only store. Here, friends Lisa Mendelson, Monica Molenaar and Rachel Simons serve a unique ice cream made with roasted Ethiopian sesame seeds and goat’s milk. Also look out for their halva in every flavour from coffee to chocolate pistachio.

2. Have a hummus party

“Tahina in the Olami world is like liquid gold,” says Nirit Saban. At her restaurant, Olami, on Bree Street in Cape Town, she also sells it raw, imported from Israel, as well as with her famous falafel, as a dressing for salads (look out for the luminous tahini-and-turmeric dressing) and, of course, in hummus. “I’ve discovered that the trick is to whip the tahini before adding it into your chickpea mix to get that smooth, creamy texture,” reveals Nirit.

3. Bake it into a cake

Paris-based Middle Eastern bakery @mokonutsbakery makes this magnificent caramelised pecan and tahini bake. Blogger @gourmandiseries, who took this toothsome shot, says you can taste the tahini in there, but it’s got “just the right balance between sweet and bitter”. The café also sells wonderful cookies with tahini – and counts David Leibovitz among its fans.

4. Mix it into a dressing

“I first discovered tahini in a falafel wrap at a food market. It had the most incredible dressing and I was determined to recreate it,” says local plant-based blogger @thehonestgrazer. “Now I can’t shake my addiction and make my own tahini on a monthly basis.” She recommends dipping raw veg into tahini, smothering roast sweet potatoes in it, or adding it to smoothies.

5. Blend it into a smoothie

Vienna-based health blogger Inga Prokofjeva of Feels Healthy created this beautiful marbled smoothie with tahini, berries, beetroot, rose water, turmeric root, and banana. “I use tahini regularly for salad dressings, hummus, and for sweet or savory bakes,” says Inga. “I love to have it as a healthy spread on a rice cake, in energy balls or a veggie dip.”

6. Bake cookies

Blogger Monique Volz of Ambitious Kitchen loves using tahini with dark or semi-sweet chocolate, like in these chocolate-dipped brown butter tahini cookies. “It contrasts with the bitterness of the tahini and balances it out.” When baking with tahini, she recommends adding additional liquid, such as honey or maple syrup, instead of sugar.

7. Serve it with chocolate

Goodbye peanut butter cups – hello tahini cups – salted chocolate tahini cups, that is! They’re the creation of bloggers Vicky Cohen and Ruth Fox of May I Have That Recipe, who love the bitter sesame butter so much that they named their new vegan cookbook – Tahini and Turmeric – after it.

Make your own tahini

Tahini is very easy to make, but it does require a food processor. If you prefer tahini with a nuttier flavour, roast the sesame seeds first. Alternatively, use raw sesame seeds, which will yield a thicker, more bitter result. The amount of oil you use is up to you. Use up to 1/4 cup for a smooth, pourable tahini, or as little as 2 T for a thicker, more paste-like version that can be spread like a nut butter.

1 cup sesame seeds
2 T – 1/4 cup neutral flavoured oil, such as grapeseed 

If toasting the sesame seeds: in a dry pan, over a medium heat, toast the sesame seeds until lightly coloured, but not brown – about 3-5 minutes. Watch carefully – they burn quickly. Once toasted, allow to cool.

Place the sesame seeds in a food processer, and process until the seeds form a crumbly paste.

Add a little neutral flavoured oil and process for a further 2 to 3 minutes. Check the consistency and add more oil if desired.

Add a little salt and process a little more to mix. Taste for seasoning, and store in a sealed jar in the fridge. It’ll keep in the fridge for a month.

Inspired? Check out our recipes with tahini here

Katharine Pope Article by: Katharine Pope

TASTE's head of digital content is an adventurous, if somewhat haphazard cook. Her favourite recipes are all either cake, curry, or risotto, and she is an expert at hiding vegetables in unexpected places, to outwit her veg-hating toddler and husband.

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