We all know of the humble sesame seed. Sesame seeds are tiny light beige or black seeds made up of 55% oil and 45% protein, packed full of nutrients and antioxidants.
Tahini is simply sesame seeds ground into a butter, called tahini or sesame seed butter, with a consistency a bit thinner than peanut butter. Made from roasted or raw sesame seeds, the healthiest choice is made from raw seeds, with nothing added, subtracted or refined. (Tahini made from raw seeds is lower in fat.) Tahini keeps for several months after opening if refrigerated and over time may separate to form a layer of oil on top, which is quickly fixed by stirring.
Tahini is a high quality protein that is easily digestible and non-acidic, ideal for people with weak digestive systems, and provides quick energy for active people and athletes, and is rich in many vitamins and minerals, but it is particularly rich in B vitamins; B1 (thiamine), B2, B3, B5 and B15. B vitamins help to promote healthy cell growth, regenerate the body after injury, and help to support the immune system, nervous system and digestion.
It is also an excellent alternate source of calcium, phosphorus and copper, helping to support strong bones, muscles, teeth, and red blood cells and vessels. It also contains fiber, iron, potassium and vitamins C and E, with no cholesterol. It is a source of omega-3 and -6 fatty acids, which are beneficial to brain and heart.
With all these powerful nutrients, studies show that tahini has anti-ageing qualities and contributes to youthful, fresh looking skin (we love that).
A common sauce in the Middle East is made from tahini, lemon juice, garlic and salt usually served with eggplant, avocado, chickpeas, potatoes, peppers, and bread or pita.
Tahini is also served with fish and meat, especially roast lamb, and it is an essential condiment in falafel sandwiches. It can be added to soups and stews as a thickener, and makes a delicious salad dressing (recipe below). It is also a perfect breakfast topping for waffles, pancakes, or toast when mixed with an equal amount of honey.
Recipes Made with Tahini (from The Raw Gourmet ©Books Alive by Nomi Shannon)
Frozen Vanilla Bliss
This tastes very much like dairy soft serve ice cream, only better. Not only is it a great way to start your day but it also makes a healthy snack
3/4 cup water
2 tablespoons raw tahini, or more to taste
1-2 frozen bananas, cut in chunks
Dash vanilla (optional)
In blender, combine water, tahini, banana and vanilla. Blend until thick and smooth. Serve immediately. Serves 1.
Creamy Carrot Asparagus Soup
This could be called the king of soups. The fiber in the asparagus creates a delightful texture, and the tahini gives the soup a smooth quality. Do not use the woody ends of the asparagus; chop only the most tender part, about two inches from the end.
1 cup carrot juice
1 cup coarsely chopped asparagus, or more to taste
2 heaping tablespoons raw tahini or almond butter
1 teaspoon chopped onion, or more to taste
Nama Shoyu (a raw soy sauce) or celtic sea salt, to taste
Dulse flakes, to taste
In a blender, combine the carrot juice, asparagus, tahini, onion, nama shoyu and dulse flakes. Blend all the ingredients until smooth. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Yields approximately
1 1/2 cups. Serves 1.
Variation: Heat soup in the top of a double boiler or over very low heat until it is warm to the touch. For extra spice, stir in 1/2 teaspoon wasabi powder. Or try it with a dash of curry powder or for a nice East Indian flair, use some garam masala.
Orange Tahini Dressing
This delightfully light dressing only takes a few minutes to make. Its simplicity invites variation. Try adding 1-2 teaspoons tamari (a soy sauce made without wheat), or 2 teaspoons poppy seeds and 1/4 teaspoon Chinese 5-spice powder.
2 tablespoons raw tahini
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon dulse flakes
1 teaspoon grated ginger root
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon curry powder
Pinch sea salt
optional: curry powder, dried Kaffir Lime leaf
In a small bowl, place the tahini. Add the orange juice gradually, blending it with the tahini. Add the dulse, ginger, cinnamon, curry, and salt. Yields approximately 1/2 cup.
Halvah is a candy popular in the Middle East, where it is made from ground sesame seeds.
1-1/2 cups raw almonds
1/2 cup raw tahini
3 tablespoons honey (or 3-4 soaked dates)
1 teaspoon vanilla
In a food processor, place almonds and process until finely ground. Add the tahini, honey and vanilla, and process thoroughly. Press the mixture onto a plate or pan until it is 1/2″ (1 cm) thick. (Don’t worry about filling the pan, just press the mixture to the correct thickness.) Chill the halvah in the refrigerator for 1 hour or more, then cut it into bite-sized pieces and roll into little balls. Yields 20-24 pieces.
Enjoy the amazing tahini!