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Cooking with Tahini
Knowing more about ingredients makes you a better cook. The more you know, the more you can freestyle in the kitchen.
So let’s talk about one of my favorite ingredients lately: tahini.
Tahini is so much more than something you add to hummus.
It can be used across cuisines and in both savory and sweet applications. Best part? You can quickly turn it into one of my favorite sauces for roasted meats or charred vegetables. I especially love it for vegetarian meals because it instantly makes a dish more satisfying!
What is Tahini?
It’s made from ground sesame seeds that may be soaked, hulled, and/or toasted. You can think of it like nut butter.
So what’s it taste like?
On its own, tahini has a strong sesame flavor. It’s nutty and creamy. And it’s a tahini bit bitter. 😉 But in a bittersweet kind of way.
Ways to Use Tahini
We all know what it’s like to buy an ingredient for a recipe, use a tablespoon of it, and then never touch the jar again. And I bet you’ve done that with tahini after making hummus. But don’t worry! I got you.
First up, my favorite. Make a quick tahini sauce. Mix tahini with lemon juice and water, a grated garlic clove, and a pinch of salt. I like a ratio of 4 parts tahini to 1 part lemon juice to 1 part water. If it’s too thick, add a teaspoon of water at a time to thin it out until it’s a drizzleable (I think that’s a word) consistency.
Pour it over roasted cauliflower, charred eggplant, seared chicken breasts, or even a bowl of chickpeas.
Here are few more ideas:
- Your tahini quick sauce can turn into a wonderful vinaigrette. It’s perfect for hardy salads. Swap half of the tahini for olive oil and then replace the water with more acid.
- Like you would sour cream or creme fraiche, add a tablespoon to soups or stews to add body, creaminess, and richness.
- Try it with something sweet. Really? Yep! Think about where you use peanut butter in desserts. Then use tahini instead! Brownies, cookies, tahini and jelly sandwiches...
- While tahini isn’t the same as the sesame paste you’d find in Asian markets, it’s a great substitute. Mix tahini, soy sauce, grated ginger, rice wine vinegar, and whatever else you’re feeling. Then pour over noodles or stir-fried veggies! It works for peanuts! Why not sesame?
- Remember slash and char chicken? Use tahini in a rub for meats and vegetables before you cook them—let’s say tahini, honey, salt, cumin, coriander, and a little bit of lemon juice and oil. Rub that all over your meat or vegetables before throwing them in the oven.
Picking a Good Tahini
Like most ingredients, brands differ. Some are thicker. Some are sweeter. The best way is to try a few different ones and pick your favorite.
I like to go for ones that are made using toasted sesame seeds. To me, they have a better flavor. 😋
While separation is natural and going to happen, a good tahini should be easy to remix until it is smooth. If you grab a spoon and feel like you’ve hit rock bottom when you dive into the jar, it might be worth trying a different brand.
But remember this. Don’t feel the pressure to pick the “perfect” tahini. It’s more important that you find one you like and get used to using it. For example, you may want a tahini sauce to be thinner so it’s drizzeable. But you may use a thicker brand of tahini. All good! You just use more liquid than a recipe calls for to thin it out.
You can store tahini in a pantry or refrigerator! Either works. It will be thicker when stored in the fridge and be slower to separate. On the other hand, it will be more difficult to recombine.
The nice thing is that tahini lasts a while. Like months usually. How do you know if it’s gone bad? You can smell it when it’s rancid. 👃
I hope you’re inspired to grab that jar of tahini off the back shelf and put it to use. But if you haven’t used it in a while, sometimes the lid will stick. Just make sure to utter the magic phrase: “open sesame”. 😜
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