Is Tahini Vegan? (5 Best Ways to Enjoy It)

Christiana Mikesch, CPT
Published by Christiana Mikesch, CPT | Senior Coach
Last updated: June 21, 2024
FACT CHECKED by Dr. Kristy Dayanan, BS, MD
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Tahini has a wide range of health benefits.

As well as being the principal component of the hummus, tahini is a versatile ingredient that is at the core of a lot of other recipes too.

But is tahini vegan? I checked what the research says, and I talked with our dietician.  Let’s take a closer look and find out.

Quick Summary

  • Tahini is vegan-friendly, as it's primarily made from ground sesame seeds and oil.
  • Tahini is a versatile ingredient used in various dishes, including hummus, baba ganoush, and as a standalone spread or dressing.
  • A study published on PubMed highlights that tahini is rich in healthy fats, which are beneficial for heart health and cholesterol management.
  • I find tahini to be an incredibly useful and delicious addition to a vegan diet, offering both flavor and nutritional benefits.

Is Tahini Sauce Vegan?

scooping out tahini sauce from a jar

Yes, tahini is vegan. Tahini sauce or tahini paste is made from crushed sesame seeds and oil.

The only reason I could come up with as to why people might think tahini isn’t vegan is the possible use of yogurt in some tahini dressing.

I tell my clients to always ask about the ingredients, tp ensure their tahini remains vegan.

If you’re at a falafel house or Greek restaurant, be sure to ask what goes in their tahini dressing.

What Is It Made From?

Tahini paste is essentially a nut butter but made from seeds. Think of it in the same way you would almond butter or peanut butter. Tahini can be used as either savory or sweet as part of a recipe or on its own.

Tahini nut butter is made by toasting hulled sesame seeds to bring out their lovely rich flavor and then grinding them into a paste (or chucking them in a food processor) with a bit of olive oil.

If you want thicker tahini nut butter, use less oil; if you want it runnier like almond butter, use more oil in the food processor. You can use unhulled instead of hulled sesame seeds, which makes sesame butter darker and more bitter.

Tahini Origins

Tahini nut butter is a Middle Eastern specialty and is used in many traditional dishes or condiments such as hummus, falafel, baba ganoush, and halva. It has also become increasingly popular in Greek and Thai cuisine.

Tahini may have started as a byproduct of sesame oil production, but it has since become a treasured product in its own right.

Tahini is the Greek spelling, and in its native Middle Eastern, it is called tahina from the Arabic “tahn,” which means ground.

What Might Make It Non-Vegan?

While tahini is vegan, some variations or twists on the ingredients are not. If you are ordering it as a tahini dressing or sauce at a restaurant, or if you’re buying it ready-made for those same purposes, be sure to ask or read the label.

As tahini has spread across the globe, other cuisines have put their own twist on the staple, such as the Greek style of tahini dressing which uses yogurt.

It is also used in Thai salad dressings with a sweet kick of maple syrup or something similar, but these usually remain vegan.

Health Benefits of Tahini

As someone who tracks their nutrient intake closely, I was impressed by the health benefits tahini offers, from heart-healthy fats to essential vitamins. It's become a key component in my balanced diet.

Here are all the health benefits of tahini:

  • Rich in healthy fats: Tahini is an excellent source of healthy fats, primarily unsaturated fats, which are beneficial for heart health. According to a PubMed study, fats can help to lower harmful cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease [1].
  • High in protein: For plant-based diets, tahini is a valuable protein source. It contains about 5 grams of protein per 2-tablespoon serving, making it a great way to boost protein intake, especially for vegans and vegetarians.
  • Loaded with vitamins: It's particularly high in B vitamins, including thiamine (B1) and niacin (B3), which are essential for energy metabolism and nervous system health.
  • Fiber content: It's rich in fiber, which helps digestive health, which helps prevent constipation, and supports a healthy gut microbiome.
  • Antioxidant properties: Sesame seeds, the primary ingredient in tahini, are rich in lignans, particularly sesamin and sesamolin. These compounds have antioxidant properties, helping to combat oxidative stress in the body, which can lead to chronic diseases.
  • Low in carbohydrates: Tahini is relatively low in carbohydrates, with only about 3 grams per serving. This makes it a suitable option for low-carb diets, including the ketogenic diet.

5 Best Ways To Use It

tahini on spoon, bowl and a jar
  1. A common way to use tahini is simply as a spread on toast for breakfast. It provides a similarly dense nutritional profile to peanut butter [2] in this way, and it tastes great.
  2. If you want some tahini for lunch, I recommend mixing your tahini with some lemon juice, garlic, a little hot water, and some salt and black pepper to make a tahini sauce or salad dressing. I pour this over my favorite veggies and sprinkle over some extra roasted sesame seeds. The lemon juice helps that lovely flavor pop.
  3. If you want more sesame seeds in your dinner, keep it traditional and keep it Middle Eastern. Try making your homemade tahini, hummus, falafel, and bread.
  4. Can you have tahini for dessert? You bet you can. If you haven’t tried halva, a good comparison is fudge but supercharged with sesame. It’s a delicious treat and worth a try.

References:

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34707227/
  2. https://www.soupersage.com/compare-nutrition/sesame-seeds-vs-peanuts
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About The Author

Christiana Mikesch, CPT
Senior Coach
Christiana Mikesch, CPT is a personal trainer and author with contributions to publications like the Chicago Tribune and Yahoo. She emphasizes a holistic approach to weight loss, combining an energy-fueling diet, goal-oriented workouts, and daily habits. Her approach avoids short-term goals and fosters a lifelong commitment to health and well-being.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Kristy June Dayanan, BS, MD is an author with a BS degree from University of the Philippines and an MD from University of Perpetual Help System. Her ability to simplify medical science complexities and dietary supplement jargon for the average reader makes her a valued medical fact checker and reviewer.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD is a published peer-reviewed author and renowned physician from India with over a decade of experience. With her MBBS from Bharati Vidyapeeth and an MD from Rajiv Gandhi University, she actively ensures the accuracy of online dietary supplement and medical information by reviewing and fact-checking health publications.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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