One of my vices is eating tahini on a spoon. I love it. It’s nutty and creamy yet has a slight bitterness which makes it more interesting. However, when I run out, here are the best tahini substitutes.
No need to stress!
What is Tahini?
Tahini is a paste or spread made from grinding sesame seeds. It’s like a sesame version of peanut butter.
It’s use extensively in Middle Eastern cuisine especially Lebanese. Most famously as the nutty ingredient in the classic dips hummus and babaganoush.
The Best Tahini Substitutes
1. Almond Butter
Almond butter is my number one alternative to hummus because it’s very similar in texture, colour and flavour. Although I find the taste of almond butter to be less bitter and slightly sweeter so you may need to add more salt to your dish to balance out the sweetness especially for savory dishes. It’s great in smoothies.
2. Other Nut Butters
Cashew butter, macadamia nut butter, brazil nut butter, ABC butter (which contains almonds, brazil nuts or cashews) or any combination of the above. All add the creamy richness and nutty flavor that you get from tahini. The flavor profile of these nut butters are slightly different but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
The only downside in using these nut butters as tahini replacements is that they tend to be much more expensive than their sesame seed based cousin.
2. Sun Butter
Sunflower seed butter has a similar consistency so works really well as a tahini substitute. If you want a closer match with more sesame flavour, add a teaspoon of roasted sesame oil.
3. Smooth Peanut Butter
I’ve made hummus with peanut butter and while it tasted completely different to regular hummus, it was still super delicious! Peanut butter has a much stronger flavour than tahini so it will dominate. Which may or may not be a good thing depending on how much you love peanut butter.
For sweet Mediterranean dishes containing chocolate or for cookies, ice cream or cakes peanut butter would be my number one tahini alternative.
Because smooth peanut butter and tahini are very similar from a nutrition and consistency perspective they can be used interchangeably so no need to adjust quantities.
4. Pumpkin Seed Butter
This puree made from ground pumpkin seeds works in a similar manner to the nut and seed butters mentioned above.
5. Sesame Seeds
If your recipe calls for a drizzle of tahini, often a sprinkle of white sesame seeds or black sesame seeds will give the same nutty flavour highlight. Just the texture will be different.
If you have a high powered blender or food processor, you can toast sesame seeds and grind or blend your own sesame seeds to make super fresh tahini. However I find it slightly gritty which I’m not a fan of.
6. Sesame Oil
A good substitute if you just want a little sesame nutty flavor. Toasted sesame oil has a much stronger flavour than tahini so use sparingly.
Won’t work if you’re using tahini as a sauce or in large quantities like in hummus. But is excellent in marinades.
7. Greek Yogurt
This will take your dish in a completely different direction. And won’t work in all cases but is a good option for people who have nut allergies or sesame seed allergies.
However a nice tangy yoghurt can work to add creaminess to sauces or hummus. Just remember it’s much more watery than tahini so will make for a runnier end product.
In many recipes where tahini is being used as a sauce, hummus can be substituted successfully. Of course if you’re needing tahini to make hummus itself this won’t work.
9. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
For recipes like salads where the tahini is drizzled on at the end to give richness and creaminess a good drizzle of your best peppery extra virgin olive oil will be just as delicious. For salad dressings olive oil is a great substitute.
10. Black Sesame Paste
I’ve included this last on the list because it’s not a very common ingredient and if you don’t have tahini in the house it’s not likely you’ll have this butter made from black sesame seeds. However if you do, feel free to use it as a tahini substitute. Of course the color will be completely different but the flavor is surprisingly similar.
Unhulled vs Hulled Tahini
It’s a bit like brown vs white rice. Unhulled tahini is browner in colour and has a more bitter flavour because the hull or bran are included.
I prefer hulled (white) tahini because the flavour is much cleaner and nuttier.
Can I use sesame oil instead of tahini?
It depends on the recipe. For sweet dishes no. But for savory dishes it’s possible to use sesame oil to give you the flavour of tahini. Just be careful with quantity because sesame oil is so strong and doesn’t have the same creaminess it can easily over power your dish.
For example if you wanted to use sesame oil in hummus that normally contains 3 tablespoons tahini, I’d start by adding 1 tablespoon sesame oil and see how it tastes before adding more.
Is tahini the same as sesame paste?
Yes essentially tahini is just sesame seeds that have been finely ground to give a sesame paste or sesame butter.
What can I use in hummus instead of tahini?
If I don’t have tahini but I do have another nut butter that would be my first choice. But if I don’t have any of those options I would increase the olive oil to compensate for the tahini. The result won’t be as creamy and nutty but it will still be a delicious chickpea based dip. A pinch or teaspoon of ground cumin can be added to make up for the loss of flavour.
What’s the best way to store tahini?
I keep mine in the pantry because I use it frequently. It lasts for months and months at room temperature but if you don’t use it very often it will last for longer if kept in the fridge.
What can I use instead of tahini or nut butter
If you aren’t able to eat any seed butters or nut butters, the best option is to use olive oil. If you want a milder flavour go for light olive oil. But if you’re after more flavour the big boost of peppery flavour from extra virgin olive oil will be a great choice.
Because tahini is only 55% oil, you won’t need as much olive oil to add a similar amount of richness.
If dairy is an option, greek yogurt would be my second choice to substitute for tahini. Just be mindful that yoghurt has less than 10% oil so is much lighter than tahini. So you may want to also add a little olive oil to boost the richness.
What does tahini taste like?
The best word to describe the flavor of tahini is nutty. It has a slight bitterness balanced by a lovely creaminess as I mentioned about I LOVE eating it from a spoon but it’s not for everyone. My boys find it super bitter.
Because tahini is a key ingredient in hummus there are similarities between hummus and tahini but hummus has the more complex flavours of garlic, lemon juice and chickpeas. Tahini is like a creamier, nuttier less tart version of hummus.
Favourite Tahini Recipes
+ Simple Hummus
+ Tahini Miso Turmeric Sauce
+ Lime & Tahini Kale Salad
+ Stuffed Sweet Potato with Tahini Sauce
+ Warm Salad of Roast Pumpkin (Squash) & Chickpeas
+ Avo on Toast with Smashed Olives & Tahini
+ Broccoli Hummus with Spicy Sausage
Delicious Tahini Flavour Pairings
+ Lemon & Tahini
+ Lime & Tahini
+ Garlic & Tahini
+ Greek Yoghurt & Tahini
+ Chickpeas & Tahini
+ Sumac & Tahini
More Ingredient Substitutes
- The Ultimate Guide to Vegetable Substitutes
- Collard Greens
- Miso Paste
- Oyster Sauce
Also see see the Simple Ingredients Substitutes Index.
Have fun in the kitchen!