Toasting Sesame Seeds (Photo by Cynthia Nelson)

I want you to think of today’s recipe as a precursor to the recipes that will be shared over the next two Sundays in this column.

Tahini, sometimes called Tahina is a paste made of hulled, toasted sesame seeds. Nutty, flavourful and full of nutrients, Tahini is widely used in Middle Eastern and North African cuisines. As a paste it is blended with other ingredients to make dips and sauces. As a sauce, it is used as a condiment, but the sauce is also blended with other ingredients to make a variety of dressings and sauces.

Store-bought Tahini is often expensive and some times of inferior quality. Tahini is very easy to make at home, all you need is a food processor to turn those shiny toasted seeds into a smooth, thick sauce, or, if you prefer, paste. I generally make mine into a thick sauce rather than a paste as I find it easier to work with. Once made, Tahini can be used immediately, or it can be refrigerated for later use.

To get us started on using Tahini, next week we will make Baba Ganoush – a creamy dip/spread made of fire-roasted eggplant (think Baigan Choka) and the following week, we will make Hummus – a chickpea (channa) dip. These are two of the most popular dishes outside of its regions that we know, of using Tahini.

Let’s make some Tahini.

You will need the following:

  • 1 cup hulled sesame seeds (see notes below)
  • 4 – 6 tablespoons oil (preferably a neutral tasting oil)
  • Salt (optional)

Here’s what to do:

  1. The Tahini can be made without toasting the seeds but it would not have that signature toasted, nutty flavour, therefore, I strongly advise toasting the seeds. Add the cup of sesame seeds to a dry, cold, pan and spread it out evenly in the pan; place over medium-low heat and toast, stirring frequently, until the seeds are lightly coloured and fragrant. About 5 to 7 minutes.
  2. Transfer the seeds to a large plate, spread evenly and let cool completely.
  3. Tip the seeds into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until seeds are very fine and crumbly. With the processor running, drizzle in 4 tablespoons of oil and pulse until the mixture becomes a thick paste with a fine grain (scrape down the sides of the bowl in between pulsing). Add in the other 2 tablespoons of oil if you would like a thinner Tahini and pulse to mix.
  4. Add salt to taste, if using, and pulse to mix in well.
  5. Transfer to an airtight jar or container if not using immediately and store in the refrigerator. Keeps for a month or longer. If the mixture separates, stir the tahini to redistribute the oil.


  • Tahini can be made with un-hulled, sprouted or toasted sesame seeds. This recipe was made with raw, hulled sesame seeds that look white/sea-shell white in colour. Each variety lends a different flavour, colour and texture to the Tahini.

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