Tahini with lemon and garlic
|Type||Spread or dip|
|Main ingredient(s)||Sesame seeds|
Tahini (also tehina) (Arabic: طحينة) or harda (as it is known in Kuwait) is a paste made from ground, hulled sesame seeds used in North African, Greek, Turkish and Middle Eastern cuisine. East Asian sesame paste is typically made of unhulled seeds. Tahini is served as a dip on its own or as a major component of hummus, baba ghanoush and halva. Tahini is used in Iran as Ardeh (Persian: ارده).
Tahini is a loanword from Arabic: طحينة [tˤaħiːna], or more accurately ṭaḥīna طحينية, is derived from the root ط ح ن Ṭ-Ḥ-N which as a verb طحن ṭaḥana means "to grind", the same root as طحين [tˤaħiːn], "flour" in some dialects.
The standard Arabic spelling طحينة is transliterated properly as ṭaḥīnah. The last syllable is pronounced [næ, na, nɑ, ne, nɐ], depending on the region where the speaker is from. In Levantine Arabic dialects, however, the last syllable is generally pronounced [ne]. Since most 19th and early 20th century Middle Eastern immigrants to English-speaking countries were Christians from Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine, this might be the origin of the English usage of the final /i/. The source language could also be Greek since tahini in Greek is called precisely ταχίνι (tahini).
Plain, unprocessed sesame paste with no added ingredients is sometimes known as "raw tahini".
The oldest mention of sesame is in a cuneiform document written 4,000 years ago that describes the custom of serving the gods sesame wine. The historian Herodotus writes about the cultivation of sesame 3,500 years ago in the region of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. It was mainly used as a source of oil.
Tahini is mentioned as an ingredient of hummus kasa, a recipe transcribed in an anonymous 13th-century Arabic cookbook, Kitab Wasf al-Atima al-Mutada. Sesame paste is an ingredient in some Chinese, Korean, and Japanese dishes; it is used in some versions of the Szechuan dish Dan dan noodles. Sesame paste is also used in Indian cuisine. In the United States, sesame tahini, along with other raw nut butters, was available by 1940 in health food stores.
Preparation and storage 
Tahini is made from sesame seeds that are soaked in water and then crushed to separate the bran from the kernels. The crushed seeds are soaked in salt water, causing the bran to sink. The floating kernels are skimmed off the surface, toasted, and ground to produce an oily paste.
Because of tahini's high oil content, many manufacturers recommend refrigeration to prevent spoilage. This is particularly true among makers of raw, organic tahini, who will often prepare their tahini at low temperatures and ship and store it in refrigerated cases to maximize quality and shelf life.
Culinary uses 
Tahini-based sauces are common in Middle Eastern restaurants as a side dish or as a garnish, usually including lemon juice, salt and garlic, and thinned with water. Tahini sauce is also a popular topping for meat and vegetables in Middle Eastern cuisine.
In Turkey, tahini (tahin in Turkish) is mixed with pekmez to form a dish called tahin-pekmez. Due to its high-caloric nature, it is served as a breakfast item or after meals as a dessert to dip pieces of bread in, especially during the wintertime.
In Iraq and some Persian Gulf countries, tahini is mixed with date syrup (rub) to make a sweet dessert usually eaten with bread. In Cyprus, tahini, or locally called tashi, is used as dipping for bread and in pitta souvlaki rather than tzatziki, which is customary in Greece.
In Greece, tahini is used as a spread on bread either alone or topped with honey or jam. Jars of tahini ready-mixed with honey or cocoa are available in the breakfast food aisles of Greek supermarkets.
In Israel, tahini (t'hina in Hebrew) is a staple foodstuff. It is served as a dip with pita, a topping for falafel and shwarma, and as an ingredient in various spreads. It is also used as a cooking sauce for meat and fish and in sweet desserts like halva parfait.
In the Gaza Strip, a rust color variety known as "red tahina" is served in addition to ordinary tahina. It is achieved by a different and lengthier process of roasting the sesame seeds, and has a more intense taste. Red tahina is used in sumagiyya (lamb with chard and sumac) and salads native to the falaheen from the surrounding villages, as well as southern Gaza.
In Lebanon, tahini (t'hine in Arabic) is a staple foodstuff prepared with mashed garlic and lemon juice. It is served as a dip with pita, a topping for falafel and shwarma, and as an ingredient in various spreads. It is also used as a cooking sauce for meat and always served as a side with fish. It is also a main ingredient in a seafood dish called Siyadiyeh. Tahini is in sweet desserts like halva and halva with pistachios.
Nutritional information 
|Tahini Nutrition Facts|
|Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)|
|Energy||2,489 kJ (595 kcal)|
|Vitamin A||67 IU|
|Thiamine (vit. B1)||1.220 mg (106%)|
|Riboflavin (vit. B2)||0.473 mg (39%)|
|Niacin (vit. B3)||5.450 mg (36%)|
|Pantothenic acid (B5)||0.693 mg (14%)|
|Vitamin B6||0.149 mg (11%)|
|Folate (vit. B9)||98 μg (25%)|
|Vitamin B12||0.00 μg (0%)|
|Calcium||426 mg (43%)|
|Iron||8.95 mg (69%)|
|Magnesium||95 mg (27%)|
|Manganese||1.456 mg (69%)|
|Phosphorus||732 mg (105%)|
|Potassium||414 mg (9%)|
|Sodium||115 mg (8%)|
|Zinc||4.62 mg (49%)|
|Percentages are relative to
US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database
Tahini's relatively high levels of calcium and protein make it a useful addition to vegetarian and vegan diets, as well as to raw food diets when eaten in its unroasted form. Compared to peanut butter, tahini has higher levels of fiber and calcium and lower levels of sugar and saturated fats.
- Ghillie Basan, Jonathan Basan (2006), The Middle Eastern Kitchen: A Book of Essential Ingredients with Over 150 Authentic Recipes, p.146, Hippocrene Books
- Mariposa, Hollywood Glamour Cook Book, 1940, p. 101.
- Treasury decisions under customs and other laws, 1938, p. 1080 snippet
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- Rogov, Daniel, Halvah Parfait
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- "Nutrient data for 12198, Seeds, sesame butter, tahini, from raw and stone ground kernels".
- "Nutrient data for 12166, Seeds, sesame butter, tahini, from roasted and toasted kernels".
- "Nutrient data for 16167, USDA Commodity, Peanut Butter, smooth".