Once confined to the Middle East, tahini is gaining popularity worldwide—especially in vegan circles. Tahini (also spelled: tahina) is the Arabic word for sesame seed butter. Some brands of tahini use raw seeds, while others use darkly roasted sesame. Tahini made from roasted seeds has a rich and smoky flavor.
Nearly all tahini goes into sauces, salad dressings, hummus, and baba ghanouj. It is one of the most important ingredients in Middle Eastern cooking. You can also spread tahini on bread like you can any sort of nut butter—if you take that route, be sure to add some sliced dates.
Is Tahini Vegan?
Like any seed-based food, tahini is rich in protein, fat and several other nutrients.
One of the most common methods of preparation is to make a dressing from tahini. Oftentimes, people improperly refer to this dressing as tahini, when it should really be called tahini sauce (or tahini dressing). This can create confusion, since Greek-style falafel restaurants usually add yogurt to their tahini dressing.
So, when eating out, always check whether the tahini dressing is dairy-free.
If you’re vegan or love Middle Eastern food, tahini deserves a place in your pantry.
For such a simple food, the quality varies immensely from one brand to the next. I’ve found that tahini from the Middle East consistently tastes better than brands made in other parts of the world. Al Wadi tahini, which is made in Lebanon, is both inexpensive and perhaps the tastiest brand on the market.