What Is Tahini?

Tahini is a sesame seed paste common in the Middle East and used in many Middle Eastern foods. It can be used as a side dish or garnish (usually with citrus juices, garlic, and salt), as a topping for meat or vegetables, or combined with sweet syrups and rubbed on bread. Tahini is also a major component in a number of other dips, dishes, and desserts like hummus, baba ghanoush, and halva.

Tahini is made by grinding hulled sesame seeds into a paste. Though it's readily available in stores, you can make your own tahini by toasting sesame seeds on a parchment-lined sheet pan for a few minutes in a 350-degree oven (be careful not to burn them). Once they've cooled, grind them in a food processor. When the seeds have started to break down, drizzle in some olive oil (with the food processor still running) until a smooth paste is formed.

Store your homemade tahini in the refrigerator in a sealed glass jar and reach for it the next time you want to jazz up a salad dressing or make an unusual dessert — or even if you have hummus on your mind and are looking for quick dinner dishes you can make entirely out of cans.