Learn how to make tahini with this ridiculously easy recipe! It requires only two ingredients: sesame seeds and olive oil.
Tahini (like desiccated coconut and dulce de leche) is an item that people often buy without even thinking about making it themselves. It turns out that the homemade version tastes just as good as the store-bought kind, if not better.
The main difference between homemade tahini and its store-bought counterpart has to do with the texture. This didn’t bother me, as tahini is typically mixed into something.
What is Tahini?
Tahini is a paste of sesame seeds and olive oil. It’s used in all kinds of Mediterranean cooking; it’s a key ingredient in most hummus and baba ghanoush recipes.
How to Make Tahini
To make tahini, you’ll need a heavy, wide-bottomed sauté pan and a food processor.
First, you’ll need to toast the sesame seeds. Begin by heating the pan (a cast iron skillet also works really well) over medium-high heat.
Add the sesame seeds and toast lightly – about 2 minutes, shaking the pan or stirring vigorously so they toast evenly. Keep a careful eye on the sesame seeds as they go from toasted to burnt really quickly; they are done as soon as they start to brown.
Transfer seeds to a bowl and let cool completely.
Next, you’ll process the toasted seeds with the olive oil.
Tip: If you want to make your tahini extra smooth, use a coffee grinder to grind the toasted sesame seeds to a powder at this point.
Put the toasted sesame seeds in a food processor and drizzle in the olive oil. As you can see, I poured rather than drizzled. It worked just fine!
Pulse for 3-5 minutes, or until it’s as smooth as you can get it. Add a little more olive oil if necessary to get the consistency you want.
Remove from the food processor and store in the refrigerator.
Choosing Sesame Seeds
Sesame seeds are sold two ways, unhulled and hulled. It’s important to choose the right one when you make tahini from scratch.
The hull, or seed coat, is found in unhulled sesame seeds (typically sold as natural sesame seeds). Most sesame seeds sold in the United States are hulled, with the seed coat removed.
Using unhulled sesame seeds will give you a thicker end product with a texture like that of peanut butter. This type of tahini is considered to be healthier and, because of its thickness, it is often called sesame paste.
Using hulled sesame seeds will yield a smother tahini.
Store-bought tahini (shown on the left) is typically even smoother than the homemade version made with hulled sesame seeds. You can approximate this texture by grinding toasted sesame seeds finely using a coffee or spice grinder.
Why Does Tahini Sometimes Taste Bitter?
Tahini made from unhulled sesame seeds can sometimes taste bitter as the sesame seed coats have a bit of a bitter taste. Most people don’t mind this flavor, but it can be off-putting to some. Use hulled sesame seeds if you want to make sure that you don’t experience any bitterness.
It can also taste bitter if you burn the sesame seeds. Make sure that they are golden brown and not burnt.
What is the Best Way to Store Tahini?
If you are going to eat it within a few days, it’s fine to keep your tahini out on the counter. However, if you plan to keep it around for a few weeks or longer, it is best to store it in the refrigerator.
Can You Use Black Sesame Seeds?
Yes! You can follow the same recipe instructions below using black sesame seeds to make a tahini that is black in appearance.
- 2 cups sesame seeds
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- Heat a heavy, wide-bottomed sauté pan over medium-high heat.
- Add the sesame seeds and toast lightly for about 2 minutes, shaking the pan so they toast evenly. I tend to just vigorously stir rather than toss. (Keep a careful eye on the sesame seeds as they go from toasted to burnt really quickly. As soon as they start to brown, they are done.)
- Transfer to a bowl and let cool completely.
- Put the toasted sesame seeds in a food processor and drizzle in the olive oil.
- Pulse for 3-5 minutes, or until it's as smooth as you can get it.
- Add a little more olive oil if necessary.
- Remove from food processor and store in the refrigerator.