Learn how to make tahini that is completely oil free, healthier and heads to toes tastier than anything you can get off the shelf. And even better news – all you need are sesame seeds!
What is tahini?
Quite simply and for exactly this recipe, tahini is sesame paste. Period. More succinctly, tahini sesame paste is ground, toasted sesame seeds.
Once elusive and known to only a few American home cooks, tahini has become a staple ingredient that is no longer limited to making creamy hummus. Creamy, ground sesame paste (tahini) is a staple of Mediterranean cuisine and you’ll also often find it in traditional Asian, Middle Eastern and African dishes as well. It makes terrific sauces for exotic things like satay and in my book, it’s the absolute best for dressing up salads, like our favorite Middle Eastern chickpea salad or zucchini green bean salad. It must also be said that is makes a mean satay sauce.
Why make your own tahini sesame paste?
If you have recently bought a jar of tahini (or read the sub-title for this post), you may have guessed that my motivation to make tahini was all about added oil. Seriously, it made me a bit ill seeing the amount of added oil the accumulates at the top of tahini jars. Even when I was willing to shell out for the ‘good stuff’ I noticed oil as an added ingredient.
I know, what’s a little added oil? Well, it’s a lot actually. One of the cornerstones of following a whole food, plant-based diet is the elimination of highly processed foods. There is plenty of scientific evidence to conclude that elimination of such foods can have positive impacts on our health. In short, oil (all oils) are highly refined and have a nutritional package considered inadequate.
In The Forks Over Knives Plan by Drs. Alona Pulde and Matthew Lederman, there is a stark comparison of oil to refined sugar and they conclude that oil is nothing but fat with all nutrients, including protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, fiber and water stripped away. The lack of fiber and water make it difficult to realize how many calories of oil you have eaten which means you will likely consume more than you intend (or need). Oil has the least calorie density of any known food. In other words, it has more calories per gram than any other food and zero nutritional value.
Less oil and…
If the added oil isn’t enough, let me explain another important reason to make your own tahini – it tastes better! If you do a quick toast of the sesame seeds before you grind them, you get a wonderful, slightly nutty tasting tahini that doesn’t have the bitterness that some brands do. I honestly wasn’t that convinced until I made it the first time and there was an immediate conversion. It makes a serious difference.
Quality control, taste and $$
Like quality and taste isn’t enough, you’ll save money buying a big bag of sesame seeds and making your own tahini as compared to buying one of the high-quality brands. And that jar of expensive tahini, well, that jar might sit in the back of the fridge for months before you either use it up or pitch it out.
I realize that there are times when decisions between convenience over quality and nutrition sometimes err on the side of convenience. That’s ok, but because you can make tahini with so little effort, perhaps the balance is tipped in favor of quality and nutrition in this case.
How to make your own tahini in 2 simple steps
I have tried making tahini by toasting the sesame seeds first and then, in a bit of hurry have skipped this step. This is my way of telling you that it’s ok to skip the toasting. Just know that toasting the seeds gives your tahini a nuttier taste and although I have no evidence to back this up, I believe that toasting lends to making a creamier consistency.
Use a spice grinder (the more powerful, the better)
Through my experiments, I’ve used a food processor, a blender and finally a spice grinder to make tahini sesame paste. If you have a powerful food processor (which I don’t) that may yield a nice, creamy tahini. If not, I am thrilled to report that a spice grinder (particularly one with 2 dual blades) works like a charm. This was the last device I tried, and I couldn’t believe the difference. How would’a thunk that one? And really, I should have known, that’s the same spice grinder I used for making Thai red curry paste. Job done.
One tip I can share, no matter what device you use is to consider the amount of sesame seeds you are grinding. Density of seeds helps the grinding process, so you want to use at least 1 cup of sesame seeds. I usually aim for 2 which will yield about a cup of tahini.
Full disclosure, I had several moments of serious contemplation as I was writing this recipe. Turns out, making tahini was a lot more than toasting and grinding sesame seeds. I started reflecting on the impact of fiber and carbohydrates and the quantity of food we can consume. I have a rich history of falling for that. If I can gain a little ground in my battle to control bad habits and overeating by toasting a few seeds and ramping up the spice grinder, rather than opening an oil-laden jar, then that’s a win in my column. Small wins, forward motion. Peace.Print
Learn how to make the best, healthiest and creamiest oil-free tahini using an easy 2-step process that takes just minutes. The best hummus and more await!
- 2 cups sesame seeds
- Over medium heat, roast the sesame seeds in a skillet for about 5 minutes. Be sure to move them constantly so they don’t become too brown.
- Place the sesame seeds in your spice grinder, food processor or blender and start to process the sesame seeds at a slow-medium speed.
- Once the sesame seeds start to break down, increase the processing speed until you have creamy tahini. (about 10-15 minutes).
- Tahini done!
- Be sure to use the principle of density – this means adding enough sesame seeds that they will break down.
- You can oven-roast the sesame seeds on a baking tray, but take care you don’t burn them.
- Homemade tahini will keep in the refrigerator for several weeks or you can freeze small portions for later use.
- Category: dressings & condiments
- Cuisine: Middle Eastern
Keywords: How to make tahini