Isaac Robertson
Published by Isaac Robertson
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: April 15, 2021

Hummus and consequently tahini have been staples of my diet since I made the switch to a vegan diet.

As well as being the principal component of the hummus we all hoover down on a daily basis, tahini is a versatile ingredient that is at the core of a lot of other recipes too.

But is tahini vegan? What is it made from? Let’s take a closer look and find out.

Is Tahini 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.

So yes, middle-class vegans, breath a sigh of collective relief and resume your hummus drip-feed.

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.

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

Tahini 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 oil.

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

Tahini Origins

Tahini 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?

As mentioned above, while tahini is vegan, some variations or twists on the ingredient are not. If you are ordering it as a 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 dressings with a sweet kick of maple syrup or something similar, but these usually remain vegan.

5 Best Ways To Use It

tahini on spoon, bowl and a jar
  1. As mentioned above, tahini is incredibly versatile and can be enjoyed savory or sweet. 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 [1] 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. Pour this over your 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. It is entirely plant-based and vegan, and you can tweak everything to your tastes. Served alongside a baked sweet potato with tahini spread and some more sesame seeds sprinkled on top. Yum.
  5. 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.

Is Tahini Vegan? Final Verdict

In Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, “open sesame” magically opens a sealed cave. The phrase is likely inspired by the way the sesame seed split and burst from the flowering pod they are grown in.

There’s a fun fact for you next time you’re serving some delicious falafel to your vegan friends.

Tahini has been enjoyed for centuries all over the world, and yes, tahini is vegan.

It is a straightforward whole food product, with its only fundamental ingredient being the sesame seeds themselves.

You can enjoy it in the morning on toast instead of peanut butter and feel smug that it contains significantly more iron and calcium.  Or else make it into a superior dip like hummus or a peerless salad dressing.


References:

  1. https://www.soupersage.com/compare-nutrition/sesame-seeds-vs-peanuts

About the author