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Tahini next to lemon and whole garlic
Alternative namesTahin, Tahina, tahine, etc.[1][2]
TypeSpread or dip, ingredient or filling in other dishes
Region or stateWest Asia, Eastern Mediterranean, South Caucasus, parts of North Africa
Main ingredientsSesame seeds

Tahini /təˈhni, tɑː-/ or tahina /-nə/ is a Middle Eastern condiment made from toasted ground hulled sesame.[3] It is served by itself (as a dip) or as a major ingredient in hummus, baba ghanoush, and halva.

Tahini is used in the cuisines of the Levant and Eastern Mediterranean, the South Caucasus, as well as parts of North Africa. Sesame paste (though not called tahini) is also used in some East Asian cuisines.


Tahini is of Arabic origin and comes from the colloquial Levantine Arabic pronunciation of ṭaḥīna (طحينة),[4][5] or more accurately ṭaḥīniyya (طحينية), whence also English tahina and Hebrew t'china טחינה. It is derived from the root ط ح ن Ṭ-Ḥ-N, which as a verb طحن ṭaḥana means "to grind",[6][7] and also produces the word طحين ṭaḥīn, "flour" in some dialects. The word tahini appeared in English by the late 1930s.[8][9] Tahini is a loanword from modern Greek tachíni (ταχίνι) which was originally adopted from the Ottoman Turkish "tahin" .[10][1] In Turkish and also in Italian, the original root tahin is still used instead of the globally accepted Greek adjustment to the word.


The oldest mention of sesame is in a cuneiform document written 4000 years ago that describes the custom of serving the gods sesame wine. The historian Herodotus writes about the cultivation of sesame 3500 years ago in the region of the Tigris and Euphrates in Mesopotamia. It was mainly used as a source of oil.[11]

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.[12]

Sesame paste is an ingredient in some Chinese and Japanese dishes; Sichuan cuisine uses it in some recipes for dandan noodles. Sesame paste is also used in Indian cuisine.[13]

In North America, sesame tahini, along with other raw nut butters, was available by 1940 in health food stores.[8]

Preparation and storage[edit]

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.[14] It can also be prepared with untoasted seeds and called "raw tahini", which is sometimes sold as an organic food product.[15][self-published source?]

Because of tahini's high oil content, some manufacturers recommend refrigeration to prevent spoilage. Others do not recommend refrigeration, as it makes the product more viscous and more difficult to serve.[15]

Culinary uses[edit]

Hummus and ful topped with tahini

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. Hummus is made of cooked, mashed chickpeas typically blended with tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and garlic. Tahini sauce is also a popular topping for meat and vegetables in Middle Eastern cuisine. A sweet spread, halawa taḥīniyya (حلاوة طحينية "sweet tahini"), is a type of halva sweet. It sometimes has mashed or sliced pistachio pieces sprinkled inside or on top. It is usually spread on bread and eaten as a quick snack.

In Armenia, tahini can be used as a sauce to put on lahmajoun. In Greece, tahini (Greek: ταχίνι) 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 Cyprus, tahini, locally pronounced as tashi, is used as a dip for bread and sometimes in pitta souvlaki rather than tzatziki, which is customary in Greece; it is also used to make "tahinopitta" (tahini pie).

Tahini is called ardeh (ارده) in Persian. In Iran it is used to make halvardeh (حلواارده), a kind of halva made of tahini, sugar, egg whites, and other ingredients. It is also eaten during breakfast, usually with an accompanying sweet substance, such as grape syrup, date syrup, honey, or jam. Ardeh and halvardeh are among the souvenirs of the Iranian cities of Yazd and Ardakan.

In Turkey, tahini (Turkish: tahin) is mixed with pekmez to make tahin-pekmez, which is often served as a breakfast item or after meals as a sweet dip for breads. In Iraq, tahini is known as rashi, and is mixed with date syrup (rub) to make a sweet dessert usually eaten with bread.

In Israel, tahini (Hebrew: טחינהt'hina) is a staple foodstuff. It is served as a dip with flat bread or pita, a topping for many foods such as falafel, sabich, Jerusalem mixed grill and shawarma, and as an ingredient in various spreads. It is also used as a sauce for meat and fish, and in sweet desserts like halva,[16] halva ice cream and tahini cookies. It is also served baked in the oven with kufta made of lamb or beef with spices and herbs, or with a whole fish in the coastal areas and the Sea of Galilee.

In the Levant, tahini (Levantine Arabic: t'hine) is a staple foodstuff prepared with salt, lemon juice, and optionally mashed garlic. It is served as a dip with pita, or a topping for falafel and shawarma, and as an ingredient in various spreads. It is also used as a sauce for meat and fish. It is a main ingredient in a seafood dish called siyadiyeh. Tahini is used in sweet desserts like halva and halva with pistachios.[citation needed]

In the Gaza Strip, a rust-colored 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 the West Bank city of Nablus, tahina is mixed with qizha paste to make "black tahina", used in baking.[17]

In East Asia, sesame paste (Chinese: 芝麻醬) is a major condiment used with dry noodles (hot or cold). Sesame paste can also be eaten as a dessert, known as black sesame soup.


Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy2,477 kJ (592 kcal)
21.50 g
Dietary fiber4.7 g
53.01 g
Saturated7.423 g
Monounsaturated20.016 g
Polyunsaturated23.232 g
17.40 g
Vitamin A67 IU
Thiamine (B1)
1.590 mg
Riboflavin (B2)
0.120 mg
Niacin (B3)
5.640 mg
Vitamin B6
0.150 mg
Folate (B9)
98 μg
Vitamin C
4.2 mg
141 mg
4.42 mg
95 mg
790 mg
459 mg
35 mg
4.62 mg
Other constituentsQuantity
Water3.00 g

Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA FoodData Central

In a 100-gram reference amount, tahini provides 592 calories from its composition as 53% fat, 22% carbohydrates, 17% protein, and 3% water (table). It is a rich source of thiamine (138% of the Daily Value, DV), phosphorus (113% DV), zinc (49% DV), niacin (38% DV), iron (34% DV), magnesium (27% DV), and folate (25% DV) (table). Tahini is a moderate source of calcium, other B vitamins, and potassium (table).

See also[edit]

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  1. ^ a b "tahini". Oxford Dictionaries UK English Dictionary. Oxford University Press. n.d. Retrieved 19 April 2019.
  2. ^ "tahina". Oxford English Dictionary (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. 1989.
  3. ^ "Tahini | Definition of Tahini by Oxford Dictionary on Lexico.com also meaning of Tahini". Lexico Dictionaries | English. Retrieved 11 January 2021.
  4. ^ "tahini". The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (5th ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Retrieved 11 May 2019.
  5. ^ "Tahini definition and meaning | Collins English Dictionary". www.collinsdictionary.com. Retrieved 11 January 2021.
  6. ^ Ghillie Basan, Jonathan Basan (2006), The Middle Eastern Kitchen: A Book of Essential Ingredients with Over 150 Authentic Recipes, p.146, Hippocrene Books
  7. ^ "Definition of TAHINI". www.merriam-webster.com. Retrieved 11 January 2021.
  8. ^ a b Mariposa, Hollywood Glamour Cook Book, 1940, p. 101.
  9. ^ Treasury decisions under customs and other laws, 1938, p. 1080 snippet
  10. ^ https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/%CF%84%CE%B1%CF%87%CE%AF%CE%BD%CE%B9
  11. ^ Laniado, Limor (12 May 2011). "The glory of tahini". Haaretz.com. Retrieved 18 January 2013.
  12. ^ Alice Fordham (10 October 2008). "Middle Eats: What are Lebanon's chances of legally laying claim to hummus?". NOW Lebanon. Archived from the original on 12 December 2008. Retrieved 25 November 2008.
  13. ^ Sanjeev Kapoor, Khazana of Indian Vegetarian Recipes, p. 94
  14. ^ Helou, Anissa (2014). Davidson, Alan (ed.). The Oxford Companion to Food. Oxford University Press. pp. 802–803. ISBN 9780191040726 – via Google Books.
  15. ^ a b "Refrigerated or Not, How Long Does Tahini Last?". Ochef. Archived from the original on 20 January 2013. Retrieved 18 January 2013.[self-published source?]
  16. ^ Rogov, Daniel, Halvah Parfait
  17. ^ Berger, Miriam. "Is the world ready for this Palestinian dish?". www.bbc.com. Retrieved 28 March 2019.