Classic lemon tahini salad dressing is guaranteed to get rave reviews as a primo salad satisfier, super-dipper from vegetables to falafel, and a lentil lover extraordinaire.
This creamy, timeless dressing is a celebration of the basics. And no matter how fancy we might get with our cooking or recipe creativity, it always begins with the basics.
When it comes to tahini-based dressings, it often begins with tahini meet citrus. Check out tahini ranch, sriracha tahini dressing, or that orange tahini dressing that delivers the flavor for zucchini salad. All of them have some process of combining tahini with acidic citrus.
And no matter how complex the dressing, when I’m thinking about a new one, my mind invariably travels back to lemon tahini.
The 3-ingredient mixture of tahini, lemon juice, and garlic is nothing short of inspirational. The simplicity is genius, the creamy, "how thick do you want it?' texture is made to order, and the flavor is some kind of magic.
Although this is THE dressing I turn to when I have limited ingredients (or inspiration), I always try to give it the attention it deserves. That means using the best ingredients I’m able to obtain. And it all starts with tahini.
The once exotic ingredient, limited to occasional hummus, tahini is darned close to ubiquitous. The market in the US in 2020 was 1.37 billion and is expected to grow to 1.77 billion by 2025. Either that means endless barrels of hummus, or we've all discovered that tahini serves more than chickpeas.
More basics. If you toast sesame seeds, then grind them up into a paste – Yippee! You have tahini. And if you want to make your own tahini (and there are a lot of good reasons to do that), that’s precisely how you'd make it. Want to learn how? Flip over to my in-depth instructions for making your own tahini.
Tahini might look a bit like peanut or almond butter, but it has a flavor that less sweet. It’s not the stuff you'd spread on bread and gobble up unless straight sesame seed paste is are your jam. Then give that a try. Otherwise, let’s save it for the dressing.
There’s also a flavor difference depending on the kind of tahini you use. Sesame seeds are always the primary ingredient. But like a lot of processed foods, the quality is all about how that process is accomplished.
Of course, homemade is the best, but when time is at a premium, that doesn’t always happen. And as much as I love my own (best), I always keep a store-bought jar on the shelf. Always be prepared – me and tahini, the Scouts, and "for any old thing.”
That tahini on the shelf (or in the fridge) shouldn’t be 'any old thing.' You want tahini that has a mild nutty taste that is only slightly bitter. It should be creamy and smooth without being oily. You’ll know if you run into an unsavory brand of tahini because it will be super bitter-tasting, crumbly, and even a bit acidic. If you keep an open jar in the fridge and it tastes astringent, it’s time for new tahini, or time to fetch the sesame seeds and take a few minutes to make your own.
Although I won’t recommend specific brands, I will suggest that you do a little research before you order tahini online or hit the supermarket. Look for brands that are 100% sesame seeds. Cheaper brands can have additives and oil to assist in quicker processing.
Some brands also contain added salt. I prefer the unsalted so you can adjust the flavor to complement other ingredients you might be adding.
Roasted sesame seeds make milder tahini. Whereas I find tahini made from raw or unhulled sesame seeds has a strong flavor and is less creamy.
You are also likely to run into different colors from white to beige. Generally, that has to do with how toasted the seeds are. And although sesame seeds can be found in a range of colors, including black, tahini is mostly made from the white sesame seeds.
Where to buy tahini
If tahini isn’t sitting on the shelf of your store near the nut butter, try the international section. Sometimes, it’s tucked amongst the oils. Specialty stores that cater to Middle Eastern, Greek, or Indian cuisines are also good options.
Once you have your tahini basics mastered, let’s get it mixed with lemon juice. That’s the starting point. We tend to like our dressing on the lemony side, so I start mixing in a 2:1 ratio of tahini to lemon juice.
When you start stirring it with the juice, the tahini will get smoother and lighter. That’s all good, but it’s going to need more liquid at this point.
Taste first, then make a decision if you want to add more lemon juice or cold water to thin it out. Both? That’s all good. Just start adding liquid a tablespoon at a time. Take a moment to whisk or stir it well. Then add more.
Once you get the consistency and lemon flavor where you want it, add the minced garlic. If you are not a huge fan of garlic, you can reduce to 1 clove.
Options, options, options
My classic lemon tahini is only 3 ingredients; however, there are plenty of simple options you might consider.
Add 1 teaspoon of a liquid sweetener such as maple syrup or Agave nectar. This helps if your tahini is a bit bitter to your taste.
Add a dry spice such as cumin, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, or consider a blend like Baharat or hit the spicy side with Berbere. Fresh herbs such as dill, chives, or parsley can be added to complement the flavors of your dish.
Although I’ve made it a thousand times, I never get tired of lemon tahini dressing. Try smothering it over baked sweet potatoes, and you’ll immediately get the reason why.
I try to be a good, prepared Scout and keep tahini, lemon juice, and garlic at the ready. It's never the same old thing because It the seer definition of a classic - judged over time to be of the highest quality and outstanding of its kind. That’s high praise for anything – even a plant-based salad dressing. Peace.Print
Classic lemon tahini salad dressing, plant-based, oil-free healthy is guaranteed to get rave reviews as a primo salad satisfier and lentil lover extraordinaire.
- ½ cup tahini
- ¼ - ½ cup of fresh lemon juice
- 2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
- Water, for thinning the dressing
- In a small bowl, mix ½ cup of tahini with ¼ a cup of lemon juice. Use a whisk or spoon to stir until the tahini gets smoother and starts to lighten in color.
- The tahini will be thick at this point. Taste it and add lemon juice or water a tablespoon or 2 at a time until you get a dressing consistency you like.
- Stir in 1 clove of minced garlic, taste, and add another according to taste.
- This dressing keeps for 5 days in the refrigerator.
- Serving size is estimated as 3 tablespoons per person. The amount of dressing you make will depend on the consistency and how much lemon juice or water you add.
- Make your own tahini following my easy steps or buy tahini at bigger supermarkets or specialty shops with Middle Eastern or Indian foods. Look for tahini made only from sesame seeds without additives or extra ingredients.
- The color of tahini and lemon dressing depends on the extent to which the sesame seeds are roasted and how much liquid you add.
- Build the flavor of this classic dressing by adding dry spices or fresh herbs to compliment the dish you are serving it with. Consider cumin or smoked paprika.
- If your tahini tastes bitter, consider adding 1 teaspoon of maple syrup or another liquid sweetener. A pinch of salt also helps to diminish bitterness.
- Category: Dressings & Condiments
- Cuisine: plant-based
Keywords: lemon tahini salad dressing