Meet Hummus' Versatile Cousin: Tahini

This healthy sesame paste adds a delicious punch to a variety of recipes.

Vered Guttman
Vered Guttman
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Vered Guttman
Vered Guttman

As Americans scoop up more and more hummus, Israel's de factor national dip, tahini, its versatile relative, is also gaining ground.

Tahini is a paste made of ground hulled sesame seeds. It has long been on the shelves of American supermarkets, and was considered a hippie health-food staple. But aside from drizzling it over hummus, no one really knew what to do with it.

Yes, you make hummus with tahini, and you can add it to a salad dressing. But for this humble, healthy spread, there's so much more.

Israelis are used to taking a tablespoon of raw tahini and adding it to a bowl of Israeli salad (cucumbers and tomatoes, dressed with lemon juice, olive oil and salt). They are also known to drizzle it over tabbouleh, a fresh herb salad, as well.

Tahini and parsley dip is a basic Palestinian recipe that’s very popular in Israel. It is prepared by simply mixing fresh parsley, garlic, salt, lemon juice, water and tahini. It is consumed in the same easy manner as hummus: Just dip a fresh warm pita, savor, and eat.

Tahini's nutty flavor lends itself to a range of gourmet possibilities, however. Check out these recipes for cauliflower and red onion salad with tahini dressing, Tilapia and roasted tomatoes in tahini sauce, and Japanese inspired-noodles, still in tahini. Also gear up your taste buds for beef kebabs in tahini sauce and tomato salsa and roasted eggplant in tahini and lemon juice.

Tahini also has a surprising sweet side. Grab a jar of it when you are baking for moist, delicious pastries. I’ll share some sweet tahini recipes later this week.

There are many good reasons to add tahini to your diet: It is rich in vitamins and is an excellent source of calcium.

Choosing the right tahini is important, because not all tahini pastes are created equal. The choice really depends on you and your taste buds, so try several brands before committing to a favorite. How do you know if a certain tahini is right for you? Taste it raw. If it is tasty in its raw form, everything you’ll make with it will be just as delicious. If it’s bitter, it will stay bitter after cooking.

My personal favorite tahini from the varities stocked in U.S. supermarkets is Al Arz tahini. It is kosher and is available in kosher markets around the country.

Raw tahini is delicious served on its own, mixed with olive oil or water, or added to a variety of recipes.Credit: Daniel Tchetchik



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