Friday, June 14, 2019

Easy Tahini

When I make hummus, if I don't have sesame seeds on hand, I just skip the tahini. But when I do have sesame seeds, I make a quick tahini which is delicious, enriches the hummus with creaminess, and adds depth to the flavor. I use hulled sesame seeds (the kind that are white), bought from bulk bins at WinCo or in the Hispanic section in packets, sometimes labeled "ajonjoli" (translation - sesame). 

To make about 1/4 cup of tahini (the amount that is usually called for in a hummus recipe that uses one 15-oz can of garbanzo beans), I buy about 1/2 cup of sesame seeds. If in the bulk bin section, I just eyeball how much is 1/2 cup. But if you need help with guessing quantities, 1/2 cup of sesame seeds is about 2.5 ounces or about 1/6th of a pound. 

If you buy the sesame seeds in a packet, after using what you need for this recipe, pop the remainder of the packet into a freezer bag and keep in the freezer. Sesame seeds are high in oils (the reason they make hummus so creamy), so naturally can go bad at room temperatures. Stored in the freezer, they'll keep for 3 years (or more). 

Making tahini at home
Into a dry skillet on Medium heat, pour 1/2 cup of hulled sesame seeds. Stir constantly until about 1/2 of the seeds are beginning to turn golden. Remove the pan from the heat, still stirring and dump into a food processor. Pulse and add about 1 to 2 tablespoons of oil (olive or vegetable). Continue processing for a couple of minutes, stirring down the sides from time to time. It's not critical that all of the seeds become butter, because in the hummus recipe, the next step will be adding the drained, canned garbanzo beans and processing some more.

To make hummus:

  • After processing the roasted sesame seeds and oil into tahini, I add one 15-oz can of garbanzo beans, drained, with about 1/4 cup of lemon juice, 1 clove of garlic, minced (OR 1/8 teaspoon of garlic powder). I process until the beans are smooth.
  • I add 2 tablespoons of oil (vegetable or olive), and about 1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin, then process for about 30 seconds. The hummus will need a bit of thinning to make it dip-like, so I pulse in 2 to 3 tablespoons of water, until the product looks both dip-able and spreadable.
  • I salt the hummus to taste. For me, this is about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon.
  • I transfer the hummus to a shallow dish and swirl the top with the back of a spoon, then drizzle about 1 tablespoon of olive oil over the top. the drizzled olive oil both helps protect the hummus from drying out and adds flavor to each scoop of the hummus.
Other ingredients can be pureed into the bean mixture, such as roasted red peppers, roasted eggplant, browned onions, or roasted garlic to enrich the flavor. Chopped olives can be stirred in at the end, and the finished hummus garnished with additional chopped olives. Greek olives are especially nice for this, but canned black olives will also be tasty and a new dimension to the texture.


Tahini is an expensive product and for most of us, can only be used in a couple of recipes, so I don't think buying a container of tahini is a smart move, in most of our situations. It is so easy to make at home, buying only as much of the basic ingredients as you need at a time. For my situation, I don't think that I have ever bought commercial tahini. I've either made my own or just skipped that ingredient in a recipe. I want to add, if you are delaying making hummus at home because of the tahini, try skipping the tahini altogether. Sub in a little extra oil in with the garbanzo beans. The added oil would enhance the creaminess of the finished hummus. If you desire thinning the bean-iness of the hummus, then process in some browned onions or roasted garlic or red pepper. The results would be delicious and I think quite gourmet.