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If you’ve ever eaten hummus, you’ve had tahini. But beyond giving hummus richness and a creamy boost, there’s so much more that this humble spread can do. Tahini can take your tea latte to the next level, it’s the secret ingredient in your vegan pumpkin dinner recipe, and it makes the best dressings for green salads. Tahini (AKA sesame seed paste) is a rich and creamy ingredient that should not be overlooked — and may soon become a pantry staple.

What is Tahini?

Tahini is made from toasted, hulled, and ground sesame seeds, and while it comes from the Middle East, sesame paste is also used in Asian, North African, and Balkan cuisine. It’s a staple in Mediterranean cuisines, where it’s used in everything from velvety smooth hummus to desserts. If you’re a falafel or gyro lover, tahini is in the sauce that’s drizzled on top.

Nutritional Benefits of Tahini

Tahini is not a low-calorie food, as it’s made from seeds. That said, it is incredibly nutritious. Tahini contains 85 calories per tablespoon, with nearly three grams each of protein and carbs and nine grams of fat. Most of the fat in tahini is unsaturated, or the heart-healthy variety. And it’s a source of calcium and iron, plus magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium.

What Can I Do with Tahini?

Go beyond hummus to discover new ways to use this nutritious, versatile Mediterranean staple. Here are some of our favorite uses:

1. Swirl tahini, sweetened with brown sugar, on top of your brownies or into chocolate cookie dough.

2. Use in place of avocado on your morning toast. Top with pickled onions or kraut, spicy sprouts, a squeeze of fresh lemon, and black sesame seeds. (Or schmear tahini on an everything bagel!)

3. Swap tahini for peanut butter for a grown-up PB&J. We like fig jam or honey, plus a sprinkle of flaky sea salt on toasted sourdough.

4. Mix with roasted garlic, white wine vinegar, parsley, and tarragon for a light salad dressing. Thin as desired with water.

5. Dice cucumber, tomato, red onion, and peppers, then toss with tahini and red wine vinegar, plus dried oregano, salt, and pepper, for quick side salad.

6. Thin with water, then season to taste with garlic powder, lemon juice, and salt. Serve with crudités, crackers, or falafel.

7. Swap that same tahini sauce for the mayo in your favorite composed salad like chicken, egg, tuna, or tofu.

8. Use tahini instead of peanut butter in your favorite spicy peanut noodle dish. (Or swap in zoodles!)

9. Blend a tablespoon of tahini with 16 ounces of water and one or two pitted dates, plus a pinch of salt, for a new spin on plant milk.

10. Or use less water to create a sweet, rich dip that’s perfect for fruit.

Tahini Tips

Since tahini is high in fat, it’s very oily, and we know what happens when you try to combine oil and water. In the case of tahini, you need to use a little patience and elbow grease to integrate it into other liquids. Tahini will first seize up and thicken, then as you add more liquid, it will yield and thin out. Due to the fat content, tahini will cause sauces and dressings to thicken upon standing or after being refrigerated.

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(Photo via World Market)