You can’t think of making hummus without the delicious tahini. Sauces and dips get a delightful nutty taste when one or two tablespoons of tahini are swirled into it. It’s yummy to have desserts flavored with sesame paste.
Suppose, you want to make a tahini caper salad, bread, or noodles, and you don’t have this condiment. Don’t panic! Still, you can complete your dish with a nutty flavor without tahini. If you badly need a good substitute for tahini, I have got for you 6 alternatives.
What is tahini?
Tahini is a spread or paste ground out of sesame seeds. In short, it’s a sesame equivalent of peanut butter. It’s nutty, oily, and creamy, and a quintessential part of Middle Eastern cooking for centuries.
This sesame paste is vegan, gluten-free, and is rather simple to make in your kitchen.
What is tahini made of? Tahini is made by grinding up sesame seeds until a smooth, peanut butter-like consistency forms. The branded tahini you buy from stores is usually made from hulled sesame seeds.
What does tahini taste like?
At the first glance, tahini appears like homemade peanut butter, but it isn’t sweet and fatty like the nut butter. This butter-like paste has the earthy, nutty flavor of sesame seeds but with a note of mild bitterness on the finish. If your store-bought tahini tastes astringent or unpleasant, it has past its prime for sure.
What to do with tahini?
Sesame paste is extensively used in several Middle Eastern cuisines and a few Mediterranean dishes. The well-known dips and appetizers like hummus and baba ghanoush have this paste as a key ingredient. Those familiar with Arab foods, this is the stuff they drizzle on falafel. This ancient food ingredient is celebrating a grand renaissance right now. Currently, tahini has become popular the world over in salad dressings, sauces, marinade, dips, halva, baked goods, desserts, cooking sauce for meat, and many more.
Unhulled Vs Hulled Tahini
Hulled tahini is made with sesame seeds without outer shells and has a more creamy texture, whitish appearance, and a deeper nutty taste. On the other hand, unhulled tahini is made with whole sesame seed with its outer shells. The brownish unhulled tahini has a stronger bitter flavor because of the hull included in it.
Most people prefer the hulled, white tahini because of their brighter color and nuttier taste with less bitterness.
What Is A Good Tahini Substitute?
Tahini is a staple of several Middle Eastern cuisines like hummus and sauces. A good quality traditional tahini can cost you dearly, also it’s scarcely available in most parts of the world. If you don’t have this sesame paste available for your dishes, try out one of the tahini substitutes below.
1. Homemade Tahini
Tahini is not at all a difficult thing to make yourself at home. In fact, this is the best substitute option for a store-bought substandard variety.
The only three ingredients needed for making tahini are sesame seeds, salt, and a healthy oil (preferably, use sesame, canola, or olive oil).
Toast the seeds in a roasting pan over a low-flame stove until the seeds turn golden and fragrant. Transfer the toasted seeds to a blender; add a pinch of salt and sufficient oil to form a thin paste-like consistency. That’s it, you have the tahini ready.
Ideally, using hulled sesame seeds would render your tahini white, smoother texture, and less bitter flavor.
About ¼ cup oil is required for every 1 cup of sesame seeds but you may add more oil later on if you wish to make tahini thinner and smooth. Always store the tahini in an air-tight container and under refrigeration.
2. Sunflower seed butter
Sunflower seed butter is available in any good grocery store in your locality. You can simply blend some sesame oil into this seed butter to make a paste that is quite identical to tahini in both texture and taste.
If you have sunflower seeds at your disposal, you can also make this butter at home by grinding them and adding sesame oil to make the butter. Some would love to use sunflower seed butter in place of tahini as it does not have the bitterness of traditional tahini.
Sunflower seed butter is also a healthful substitution for tahini as it has an excellent nutritional profile with several essential vitamins and minerals.
3. Peanut butter
Perhaps, peanut butter is the simplest replacement for tahini as you might already have it in your pantry. In addition, it is widely available and an affordable option for all.
The silky smooth texture and delicious nutty flavor of peanut butter is a wonderful swap for tahini. Always blend the peanut butter with sufficient sesame oil to achieve the similar flavor profile and consistency of orthodox tahini.
For some, it may not be a preferred choice of substitution because of the mild sweetness and stronger flavor of peanuts as opposed to the slight bitterness of tahini. Use it in lesser quantity to tame its strong flavor.
4. Almond or Cashew butter
You can use either cashew or almond butter to replace tahini for some of your dishes. The smooth and soft texture of these two butter is a suitable match for sesame paste.
The nutty taste of almond or cashew is quite similar to sesame but they are slightly sweet. You won’t find the pleasant bitterness of tahini in them.
In a pinch, you can use cashew or almond butter blended with sesame oil as a stand-in ingredient for tahini. Note, these are quite expensive options that may pinch your pocket.
5. Greek yogurt
The thick and creamy consistency of Greek yogurt has a close resemblance to tahini though it has an extra tang.
When you don’t have any of the nut butter, then the next best substitute for tahini is Greek yogurt.
Greek yogurt is a good possible substitution for making zesty dips and dressings. Of course, this ingredient may not work well in recipes where tahini is used to offset the sweetness. A tangy yogurt is a wonderful option to add creaminess to hummus and sauces.
Warning, the thinner consistency of yogurt will make for a runnier dish.
6. Sesame oil
Use the plain sesame oil in marinades and salad dressing in place of tahini. Sesame oil also tastes like tahini to a great extent as they both come from sesame seeds.
One of the downsides of using sesame oil is its inability to provide the bright texture that tahini adds to your dishes. While using sesame oil as a substitute, use it in less quantity than tahini or else your dish will turn oily and unpleasant to eat.
The Bottom Line
Tahini or tahina is a Middle Eastern condiment usually made from toasted ground hulled sesame and popularly used in dishes like baba ghanoush, halva, or hummus.
According to our research, the best substitutes for tahini are:
- Homemade tahini
- Sunflower seed butter
- Peanut butter
- Almond butter
- Cashew butter
- Greek yogurt
- Sesame oil.