Let’s Talk About Tahini

Tahini is one of those miracle ingredients that makes tons of dishes better. It plays a starring role in the best hummuses around, lending nuttiness and depth. But it’s also great in cookie dough, on ice cream, on cauliflower–you name it. I’ve found so many ways to use tahini that I always keep a jar around my house.

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Tahini topped soft serve, with a side of sesame candy for good measure

What is tahini, exactly? It’s made up of ground, toasted sesame seeds. The flavor varies quite a bit by brand, so you might need to shop around for the brand you like. I’ve noticed that certain brands are smoother and more pleasant to eat with a spoon, but other brands can be a bit thick and bitter. I’ve had good luck with both Joya and Whole Foods 365.

Tahini has a slightly earthier flavor than peanuts, but most people really can’t tell the difference once it’s in baked goods. The flavor is more pronounced if you use it as a dressing or drizzle–like the amazing soft serve with tahini sauce that I tried at Seed + Mill last year.

Here’s a look at some of my favorite tahini dishes so far–and what I want to try next.

My favorite tahini recipes:

Tahini swirled brownies: This is a pretty simple way to dip your toe into the tahini dessert waters. Just make your favorite brownie recipe, and swirl a layer of tahini in the top before you throw the pan in the oven. I also topped mine with sesame seeds for extra texture. You could put a swirl in the middle too–just pour in half the batter, add a tahini swirl, and top with the rest of your batter.

Tahini Cupcakes with Chocolate Tahini Frosting: This was my first foray into baking with tahini. They taste sort of nutty, with a lovely texture.

Tahini Peanut Butter Chip Cookies: These use tahini in the base dough and peanut butter chips as a flavor accent. I’d omit the pumpkin seeds if I made them again–they just didn’t seem necessary!IMG_1448.jpg

Salted Tahini Chocolate Chip Cookies:These are easy and pretty incredible. Sesame gives the dough a unique flavor, and you can’t go wrong with salted chocolate.

Tahini recipes I want to try: 

Tahini Dirty Blondies: I keep meaning to make these! They look delightfully chewy.

Zahav’s hummus: My favorite hummus so far was at Dizengoff in NYC. It’s so rich, pillowy and satisfying.  I’ve read that the trick is lots of high-quality tahini, and several prep steps that enhance each ingredient’s flavor.

Tahini French Toast: I first had tahini french toast at a place called Bar Bolonat in NYC. I immediately looked for recipes to try at home–but sadly, haven’t actually made it yet!

Carrot Tahini Muffins: I can’t quite imagine what these would taste like–which is usually my cue to try a recipe! They look scrumptious and satisfying in the photos, and I bet you it’s a unique flavor.

Carrot Lentil Cakes: I bake more than I cook, but these lentil cakes sure look good.

Roasted Butternut Squash: This recipe comes from Yotam Ottolenghi is the king of vegetables with tahini sauces. This one looks great, and I also tried  one of his cauliflower recipes recently at a friend’s house.

Black Tahini Morning Buns: Black sesame is richer than white sesame. I can’t stop thinking about a black sesame kougin aman that I tried a couple months ago, so this recipe is a must-try for me.

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