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Tahini Substitute


Here, you’ll find a tahini substitute list that allows you to use many options for all tahini recipes. Whipping up hummus is an easy, delicious snack that takes only a few minutes. What happens when you run out of tahini, one of the main ingredients?

spoon full of yellow sesame seed mixture and glass jar labeled "tahini"

What Is Tahini?

Tahini is a ground sesame seed paste; often, these seeds are toasted, adding a nuttier flavor. Expect the consistency of tahini to be similar to that of natural nut butter, if not slightly thinner. You’ll often find this food item in Mediterranean cooking, though some recipes include tahini from North Africa and the Levant.

This paste offers a delicious, creamy sesame taste. It is used as a sauce or dressing for salad recipes, dip for falafel, and a topping for gyro meat. It’s well-known as the main ingredient in hummus and baba ghanoush.

Types of Tahini

Tahini is available in two varieties hulled tahini and unhulled tahini. Each type presents a unique flavor created based on the difference in the processing of the sesame seeds.

Hulled tahini uses hulled white sesame seeds, aka sesame seeds, with the hull removed (outside skin). This process includes soaking the seeds, pulverizing them, then soaking them again to make removing the hull much easier. You can note a lighter color and sweeter taste when purchasing hulled tahini.

Unhulled tahini uses the whole sesame seeds as a base, providing a darker color and a stronger, bitter flavor. These types can be broken down further with additional mix-ins, as sweet varieties offer chocolate or honey inclusions.

Best Tahini Substitute and alternatives

1. Homemade Tahini

Homemade tahini is the best substitute for tahini as it will provide the closest flavor to store-bought options. It’s easy to make and requires two ingredients – hulled sesame seeds and oil. Blend these two ingredients in a food processor or blender until the texture is creamy and smooth.

Use homemade tahini in any recipe that usually includes the store-bought version, including sauces, dips, and baked goods. You may notice a flavor difference, especially if you have previously consumed tahini that included roasted sesame seeds. However, the nutty, sweet taste will be available in your recipes.

Pros
The flavor of homemade tahini is nearly identical to that of the store-bought variety. You can use this option in all recipes that require tahini.

Cons
Making a homemade version of tahini can be time-consuming. It may be a little challenging to find hulled sesame seeds at your local grocery store. Also, the consistency will be slightly different as well, depending on how much oil you use.

Cooking Tip:
Use in a 1:1 ratio to replace store-bought tahini.

2. Natural Peanut Butter

Peanut butter is usually on the thicker side; however, a more similar texture is found when using natural peanut butter. Natural peanut butter avoids thickeners, it has a more liquid-like consistency than tahini paste.

This nut butter has been around since the late 1800s. However, natural options without emulsifiers became available recently like the original invented version.

While the main flavor will be different, as they are made from other ingredients, natural peanut butter provides a nutty flavor to recipes. This option will be much sweeter than tahini, making it a good choice for baked goods.

Pros
Natural peanut butter is more readily available now and can be found at most grocery stores. It offers a nutty taste in recipes like tahini.

Cons
Some varieties of natural peanut butter are on the pricier side. This swap offers a different flavor and has limited uses, including some sauces and sweet bakery items.

Cooking Tip:
Replace tahini with natural peanut butter in a 1:1 ratio.

3. Cashew and Almond Butter

Cashew and almond butter are some of the best tahini substitutes. They are far less sweet than peanut butter, generally. Plus, they also add a nutty taste. You can use cashew and almond butter in sauces and salad dressings, along with baked goods.

Like natural peanut butter, you’ll want to aim for the natural versions of these nut butters to find the most similar consistency.

Pros
These nut butters are also more widely available now – even as natural varieties without added thickeners. Cashew and almond butter add nuttiness and work for some sweet and savory dishes.

Cons
Again, these nut butters will provide a different flavor. Plus, they are higher in cost than natural peanut butter and other options.

Cooking Tip:
Use in a 1:1 ratio to substitute tahini.

4. Sunflower Seed Butter

Sunflower seed butter is another option for a tahini replacement. This option also provides a nutty taste along with a slight bitterness. Sunflower seed butter is less sweet than other nut butter options, allowing you to use it in dips, dressings, and sweet goods.

This seed butter is an excellent option for those who have nut allergies. There will be a difference in texture when using sunflower seed butter as it’s thicker. You can blend some plant-based oil with sunflower butter to create a closer consistency to tahini.

Pros
Sunflower butter is easily found at grocery stores and has a relatively reasonable cost. A similar bitterness and nutty taste are offered when using this seed butter as a tahini replacement.

Cons
You’ll need to add oil to this seed butter to mimic the consistency. This addition will change the flavor of your dish depending on which oil you use.

Cooking Tip:
Use thinned sunflower seed butter in a 1:1 ratio.

5. Sesame Oil

Sesame oil is known for its nutty flavor, and sesame tastes like tahini. Both are made from sesame seeds, with sesame oil having a more pungent taste. This oil offers a much thinner consistency than tahini, meaning you will need to use much less in recipes.

This oil substitute has been used in China for centuries for culinary uses and medicinal purposes. Now, this oil it’s a very popular ingredient in Asian-style recipes. Use this swap when replacing tahini in salad dressings and as a flavoring agent for soups, marinades, and sauces.

Pros
This substitute offers a similar nutty, sesame taste and is easily accessible at grocery stores in the Asian section.

Cons
Sesame oil can be on the pricier side. This oil has a more robust flavor; it can be overwhelming if you use too much in recipes. Also, this swap does not bode well in all recipes due to its consistency.

Cooking Tip:
Use 2-3 tablespoons of sesame oil for every ¼ cup of tahini.

6. Olive Oil

Olive oil, like sesame oil, has a much different consistency than tahini. However, it will provide a nutty flavor to recipes and a slightly bitter taste. Depending on the grade of oil purchased, the taste will change and offer fruitiness or stronger olive flavor notes.

Use olive oil in salad dressings, sauces, marinades, and stews. Avoid using this replacement in baked goods unless you have time to experiment with altering the other ingredients.

Pros
Many people have this oil in their cupboard, making it easy to access. If not, grocery stores have olive oil available. This ingredient provides a nutty, bitter flavor that mimics the taste of tahini. It’s best in recipes which only use tahini in small amounts.

Cons
The taste of olive oil is stronger than tahini and provides additional flavor notes creating a noticeable taste difference. Because oil has a different texture, the uses for this oil as a swap are limited.

Cooking Tip:
Use 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil for every ¼ cup of tahini.

7. Sesame Seeds

Sesame seeds, especially toasted sesame seeds, are an excellent way to introduce a nutty sesame flavor into recipes. This swap has limited uses as it does not provide any liquid consistency to recipes. However, you can use it as a garnish for salads, marinades, and topping for sweets for a subtle sesame taste.

If you’re seeking a nutty, sesame flavor, this swap works well in a pinch. Otherwise, choose from one of the above options to create sauces, soups, and more.

Pros
Standard sesame seeds (not toasted) are affordable and found in most local grocery stores in the Asian aisle. They offered a similar taste to tahini when you included them in recipes.

Cons
Since sesame seeds don’t have a similar consistency compared to tahini, their uses are limited. It may be challenging to find toasted sesame seeds, which provide a closer taste to tahini.

Cooking Tip:
Use one teaspoon or more of sesame seeds to replace tahini.

8. Sunflower Seeds

You can use sunflower seeds like sesame seeds as a garnish in salads and some baked goods for a nutty, slightly bitter taste. You’ll want to source sunflower seeds that do not have a shell, as including them in recipes with a shell can make them a challenge to eat.

Like with sunflower butter, there is a taste difference in sunflower seeds. As they are inconsistent with tahini’s texture, this swap does not work well in all recipes. Use this option when you only want to add a nutty flavor to your dishes.

Pros
Sunflower seeds, even deshelled ones, are easy to find in stores and budget-friendly. They provide a similar nutty, slightly bitter taste to salads, marinades, and work great as a substitute for tahini in hummus.

Cons
These seeds will offer a taste difference and have limited recipes that they work well in as a swap.

Cooking Tip:
Use a small handful or about one tablespoon of sunflower seeds in your dishes.

9. Black Sesame Paste

Black sesame paste is one of the best tahini alternatives as it is made from ground black sesame seeds. The flavors are very close, though there is a stronger nutty taste when using black sesame paste. The paste also appears as a black color, which will change the appearance of dishes.

These sesame seeds are more common in Japanese and Korean recipes and used for many years. Likely, you’ve seen these seeds on a sushi roll in the past.

While this paste is an excellent replacement, it may be difficult to find unless you order it online or live near any Asian supermarket. If you can find black sesame paste, you can use it for any recipe that calls for tahini.

Pros
The flavor profile of black sesame paste is nearly identical to tahini. You can use it in any recipe that calls for tahini.

Cons
Black sesame paste may be challenging to find in local grocery stores. It is also on the pricier side.

Cooking Tip:
Use a 1:1 ratio when replacing tahini.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Substitute Yogurt for Tahini?

Yes, you can substitute Greek yogurt for tahini in some recipes. There will be a flavor difference, though you can use this swap for sauces and even a tahini substitute in hummus. Greek yogurt also works well in baked goods, though it will add more of a sour taste than you would receive with a tahini inclusion.

Does Tahini Taste Like Peanut Butter?

Yes and no. There are some flavor similarities between tahini and peanut butter as they offer nuttiness. However, tahini has a sesame seed taste, while peanut butter has a strong peanut flavor.

Where Is Tahini in the Grocery Store?

Tahini is generally in two locations in the grocery store – the international aisle near the Mediterranean food or the aisle with other sauces. This location will depend on your local grocery store. However, these spots are where you can find tahini typically.

Is Tahini a Hummus?

Tahini is not a hummus. Instead, it is the main ingredient you will often see used to make hummus creamy. However, you can make hummus without tahini utilizing a combination of olive oil and lemon juice to create a nutty, tangy flavor.

What Is Tahini Sauce Made of?

Tahini sauce is made from sesame seeds that have been hulled or unhulled. These seeds are roasted or raw, ground, and combined with oil and salt. In some versions, sesame seeds are ground without additional ingredients for a more robust sesame flavor.

How does Tahini Taste Like?

Tahini offers a sweet or bitter flavor, depending on if you purchase hulled or unhulled in the grocery store. Both varieties produce a nutty taste in recipes, along with a sesame seed flavor.

Summary

If you’re running low on tahini, don’t have any available, or can’t consume it due to allergies, any of the above alternatives will offer delicious flavor and allow you to eat your favorite recipes. Homemade tahini is the best alternative; however, black sesame paste is the next best option if you’re short on time. After that, the natural nut butter choices are best due to their versatility and ease of availability.

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Natalia | Flavorful home
Natalia is a recipe developer, food photographer, and home cook. She started Flavorful Home to document easy real food recipes perfect for busy families. She loves creating flavorful and nutritious meals while keeping the cooking process simple and joyful!

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