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What is tahini made of and top benefits of tahini paste

Made from ground sesame seeds, tahini may help lower cholesterol levels, promote fat metabolism and support digestive health.


With so many diverse foods becoming readily available around the world, you might be left wondering what some of these new and fantastic flavors are. In recent years, tahini has been increasingly recognized for its versatility and health benefits.

Define tahini: Tahini is a sesame seed sauce native to middle eastern cuisine, and served as a dip for bread, sauce for fish, or as an ingredient in traditional vegetable dishes.1

Tahini is a thick paste made from ground sesame seeds.1 As one of the oldest crops harvested by man, the use of sesame seeds as a condiment dates back to 1600 BC.10

What is Tahini Used In?

Considered a staple ingredient in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dishes, tahini is frequently used in baba ganooj, taratoor sauce, and hummus.

What is Tahini Made Of?

Tahini ingredients depend on the way the tahini is being used, but typically a basic tahini sauce is made of hulled, ground sesame seeds, and olive oil. It’s then mixed with lemon juice, salt, and garlic to create taratoor sauce, or can be stirred into chickpea and garlic paste to form hummus.1

What Does Tahini Taste Like?

Pure tahini paste has a distinctly nutty flavor, like sesame oil. Often described as fragrant and slightly bitter, tahini has a consistency close to homemade peanut butter, without the sweetness that most nut butters posses.

Benefits of Tahini

Due to the sesame content in tahini, it offers several health benefits to those who enjoy it. The most noted health benefits of tahini are:

  1. Cholesterol-Lowering Effect
  2. Natural Antioxidant
  3. Antibacterial Properties
  4. Lowers Blood Glucose Levels
  5. Supports Digestive Health
  6. Promotes Fat Metabolism

Introduced to the United States in the 1930’s, sesame seeds are amongst the oldest crops to be produced for mass consumption in the world.3 For a closer look at each of the top benefits associated with tahini, and the science to back them up, read below.

Tahini to Lower Cholesterol

LDL cholesterol is often referred to as ‘bad’ cholesterol, as it contributes to plaque buildup in the arteries.9

Sesame-packed tahini may provide benefits for your heart, according to a 2010 animal study. During the study, researchers tested the affect of sesame protein on subjects’ lipid levels. Results indicate that subjects fed sesame extract saw a rise in high-density (HDL) cholesterol and a decrease in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.4

Tahini’s Antioxidant Properties

In 2016, a scientific review was published on the antioxidant properties of sesame seeds, the prime ingredient in tahini. Using information collected from 7 scientific databases, the review concluded that sesame seeds showed a distinctive positive effect on oxidative stress, making it an antioxidant-rich ingredient.5

In a 1995 animal study, researchers found that sesame seeds may increase levels of vitamin E.8 Vitamin E is important for the protection of cells in the body from oxidative damage.

In a 2009 study, researchers also noted that sesame seeds promote the production of natural antioxidants in the colon. 6 Increased antioxidant levels may help prevent damage caused by free radicals.

Tahini has Antibacterial Properties

Used to treat wounds for thousands of years, sesame seeds have natural antibacterial properties. Studies have shown that they inhibit the growth of common pathogens such as Staphylococcus and Streptococcus.10

Tahini to Lower Blood Glucose Levels

According to a 2005 animal study, sesame oil has a positive affect on blood glucose, which may be beneficial for patients with diabetes. During the study, diabetic subjects were fed a controlled diet with 6% sesame oil over 42 days. Following the experiment, subjects who ingested sesame oil saw a drastic decrease in blood glucose.7

Tahini Supports Digestive Health

Sesame seeds may help promote a healthy digestive system as they have a mild laxative effect on the body. In addition, they have been shown to have natural anti-inflammatory properties that may help calm gastrointestinal discomfort.10

Promote Fat Metabolism with Tahini

One of the primary components of sesame seeds is sesamin. Research has shown that increased levels of sesamin may enhance the body’s natural fat burning process and decrease body fat storage. Sesamin has also been shown to improve natural ketone body production, which is required for ketosis.10

Uses for Tahini

Thanks to its versatility and creamy texture, tahini can be used in a variety of ways. Below we list the top uses for tahini in everyday cooking.

Veggie dip – Rather than dipping your carrot sticks and celery into ranch dressing, try serving guests a dish of fresh tahini.

Salad dressing – If you’re bored with the standard Caesar and vinaigrette dressings, try adding 1 Tbsp. lemon juice, and a pinch of salt and pepper to 3 Tbsp. tahini. Drizzle over a Mediterranean style salad for a nutty dressing.

Spread for baked goods – Tahini, on its own, or with the addition of cinnamon or lemon can be used as a sweet or savory spread on baked goods. Slather tahini on toast, or a morning bagel.

Tahini cookies – Using the same ratio as you would a natural peanut or almond butter, substitute tahini into your cookie and cake recipes for a truly unique flavor.

Baba ganooj – A traditional middle eastern dish, baba ganooj is made by roasting baby eggplant with garlic, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and tahini sauce. Serve the tahini overtop the eggplant, or slice it open and pour the tahini inside.

Meat rub –  Planning a BBQ night, but sick of the standard rubs and sauces? Taratoor is a middle eastern sauce made by mixing ½ cup tahini, ½ cup distilled water, 2 Tbsp. lemon juice, and 2 cloves mashed garlic. For a smoother texture, combine all these ingredients in a blender or food processor before marinating fish, meat, and vegetables.

Sesame soup – Tahini can add a delicious sesame taste to any soup, but works particularly well in soups with Middle Eastern and Indian spices. For example, add 3 Tbsp. tahini to a batch of mulligatawny or carrot coriander soup will bring depth to the dish.

Hummus dip – Hummus is a popular snack food and made by blending well cooked chickpeas, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, spices to taste, and tahini. Create unique hummus variations by adding fresh herbs, blended vegetables, or spice to the dip.

Falafel sauce – For a traditional shawarma taste, add tahini and yogurt to create a rich and creamy sauce.

Vegan nacho cheese – For a twist on an old classic, mix tahini, lemon juice, garlic and hot sauce together for a cheese substitute. Warm the mixture and pour over nachos.

Mayo substitute – As a way to spice up regular recipes, swap tahini for mayo. Tahini adds a rich, nutty flavor to any sauce and is a good substitute in pesto recipes.

Benefits of tahini infographic including tahini nutrition and uses for tahini

Tahini Nutrition

Per 1 Tbsp. (14 g), the United States Department of Agriculture lists tahini nutrition facts as follows:2

  • Calories in tahini: 85 kcal
  • Protein: 2.51 g
  • Fat: 7.9 g
  • Carbohydrates: 2.5 g
  • Fiber: 1.3 g
  • Calcium: 20 mg
  • Phosphorus: 111 mg
  • Potassium: 64 mg

Is Tahini Gluten Free?

Tahini contains no gluten, unless you add a wheat based product to your recipe. Gluten is typically found in barley, rye, couscous, semolina, spelt, wheat germ, wheat flour, graham flour, and bulgar.

Is Tahini Vegan?

Tahini is traditionally made of ground sesame seeds, or ground sesame seeds and olive oil, making it free of animal products and biproducts.

Tahini Shelf Life

Now that you know what tahini is, you may be wondering how to store tahini. Different tahini manufacturers label their products with varying shelf lives. Most manufacturers suggest storing opened jars of tahini in the refrigerator for up to 6-months. Others claim that their tahini will last up to one year opened in the refrigerator.

Does tahini expire? – Like other food products, tahini will eventually spoil. Foul odor and taste are the two of the most commons signs that your tahini may be expired. As with most oils, tahini should be replaced every 6 months to avoid going rancid.

Where to Buy Tahini

You can buy tahini in grocery stores, or in specialty shops, as well as through online vendors. Organic tahini can be found on in shops like Trader Joes, or in major grocery stores. Many of the department stores with international food sections also carry tahini, Walmart, for example carries tahini in their grocery section.

What Aisle is Tahini In?

Tahini is most commonly located in the condiment, ethnic, imported, or international section of the grocery store. It may be shelved with other nut butters and spreads, or placed in a section where middle eastern spices and ingredients are located.

Scientific Research Referenced in this Article

  1. The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. (2013, December 5). Tahini. Retrieved on December 10, 2017 from – View Reference
  2. United States Department of Agriculture. (2016). Basic report: 12171, seeds, sesame butter, tahini, from unroasted kernels (non-chemically removed seed coat). United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved on December 12, 2017 from https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/3700
  3. Oplinger, E. S., Putnam, G. H., Kaminski, A. R., Hanson, C. V., Oelke, E. A., Schulte, E. E. & Doll, J. D. (1990). Sesame. Alternative Field Crops Manual. Retrieved on December 10, 2017 from – View Reference
  4. Biswas, A., Dhar, P. & Ghosh, S. (2010). Antihyperlipidemic effect of sesame (sesamum indicum L.) protein isolate in rats fed a normal and high cholesterol diet. Journal of Food Science. DOI: 1111/j.1750-3841.2010.01821.x
  5. Gouveia, L. A., Cardoso, C. A., De Oliveira, G. M., Rosa, G. & Moreira, A. S. (2016). Effect of the intake of sesame seeds (sesamum indicum L.) and derivatives on oxidative stress: a systematic review. Journal of Medical Food. DOI: 1089/jmf.2015.0075
  6. Coulman, K. D., Liu, Z., Hum, W. Q., Michaelides, J. & Thompson, L. U. (2009). Whole sesame seed is as rich a source of mammalian lignan precursors as whole flaxseed. Journal of Nutrition and Cancer. DOI: 1207/s15327914nc5202_6
  7. Ramesh, B., Saravanan, R. & Pugalendi, K. V. (2005). Influence of sesame oil on blood glucose, lipid peroxidation, and antioxidant status in streptozotocin diabetic rats. Journal of Medicinal Food. 8(3), 377-381. DOI: 1089/jmf.2005.8.377
  8. Yamashita, K., Lizuka, Y., Imai, T. & Namiki, M. (1995). Sesame seed and its lignans produce marked enhancement of vitamin E activity in rats fed a low α-tocopherol diet. 30(11), 1019-1028. Retrieved on December 10, 2017 from https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2FBF02536287?LI=true
  9. American Heart Association. (2017, April). HDL (Good), LDL (Bad) Cholesterol and Triglycerides. Retrieved December 11, 2017 from http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Cholesterol/HDLLDLTriglycerides/HDL-Good-LDL-Bad-Cholesterol-and-Triglycerides_UCM_305561_Article.jsp#.Wi7hV2jyuUk
  10. Anilakumar,K., Pal, A., Khanum, F. & Singh Bawa, A. (2010). Nutritional, Medicinal and Industrial Uses of Sesame (Sesamum indicum L.) Seeds – An Overview. Agriculturae Conspectus Scientificus, 75 (4), 159- 168. Retrieved December 11, 2017 from http://hrcak.srce.hr/index.php?show=clanak&id_clanak_jezik=98744