Tahini is an essential ingredient in everyone’s favorite healthy dip, garlicky hummus – but you may not always have this creamy sesame paste on hand. That’s why we’re laying out every good substitute for tahini in hummus and plenty of other recipes, too!
We often know tahini as a key ingredient in hummus. What you may not know about tahini are the many other creative uses for this creamy, slightly bitter paste – it’s even great in a recipe for gooey chocolate brownies.
If you find yourself staring down a recipe that calls for tahini, but you have none on hand, don’t fret! Use one of these simple substitutes in a pinch, or make your own at home with three essential ingredients.
What is Tahini?
Tahini is a thick paste that is a staple in much Middle-Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine. The tahini base is ground sesame seeds, which provide its nutty and subtly-sweet flavor with a drop of bitterness.
While most know tahini for its central role as a hummus ingredient, its creaminess allows it to work well in plenty of recipes, from dressings and marinades to chocolate brownies. Tahini is an excellent option for anyone looking to cut dairy out of their recipes without losing any of the rich creaminess it offers.
What is a Substitute for Tahini?
Before choosing a substitute, take a look at the recipe you’re making. Is tahini’s primary role in the dish for its flavor or texture? Once you determine why tahini is in the recipe, find a tahini sauce substitute from this list that best mimics that quality.
The 4 Best Tahini Substitutes
#1: Peanut Butter
While we don’t always have a bottle of tahini paste in the cupboard, almost everyone has a jar of the good stuff: peanut butter.
This substitute for tahini paste is the easiest, barring any peanut butter allergies that make it an unsuitable option. It’s smooth and creamy but has a stronger taste than tahini, so use it sparingly.
If you have it on hand, blend some sesame oil to make the peanut butter taste a little more tahini-like.
#2: Sunflower Seed Butter
This seed butter is pretty close to tahini itself, making it an excellent tahini replacement. Blend some sesame oil into your sunflower seed butter to make it an even closer fit with that distinct tahini flavor.
If you don’t have any sesame oil on hand, use a neutral oil instead – the taste will be slightly off, but the texture will be spot on.
You can make sunflower seed butter yourself with oil and shelled sunflower seeds in place of sesame seeds in the recipe below.
#3: Cashew or Almond Butter
These rich nut butters both make great substitutes for tahini, but beware if your recipe calls for a lot of tahini – they usually come with a hefty price tag!
Blend some sesame oil into either one to make it an even better substitution for tahini paste.
#4: Sesame Oil
Sesame oil contains the same main ingredient as tahini, making its flavor pretty spot on to substitute.
The texture of the oil will likely throw baked recipes out of whack, but it works incredibly well in liquid recipes, like marinade and salad dressing.
Tahini Paste Recipe: How to Make Tahini At Home
What can you substitute for tahini?
While any tahini alternative above will work just fine for most recipes, you can also make some tahini if you have the simple tahini ingredients at home.
- 1 c. sesame seeds, hulled works best
- 3 - 4 Tbsp. neutral-flavored oil like grapeseed, canola, or light olive oil
- Pinch of salt, to taste
- Preheat a wide, dry saucepan over medium-low heat. Then, add the sesame seeds to toast. Stir frequently and cook until the seeds become fragrant and lightly colored, ~ 3 to 5 mins.
- Transfer the toasted sesame seeds to a baking sheet or large plate to cool.
- Once thoroughly cooled, add the sesame seeds to the bowl of a high-powered food processor and process until crumbly paste forms, ~ 1 min.
- Add 3 Tbsp. of the neutral oil, then process for 2 to 3 mins, stopping to scrape all sides of the food processor with a spatula. Check your tahini’s consistency to ensure it’s smooth, not gritty, and pourable. If it’s not, you may need to process for longer or add another Tbsp of oil.
- Taste your tahini sesame paste and add salt as needed. Process 5 to 10 secs to mix it in.
- Use any tahini you need immediately, and store the rest in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 1 month. It may separate over time and need stirring before use.
Final Note: What Can I Use in Place of Tahini?
Try peanut butter, cashew or almond butter, sunflower seed butter, or sesame oil to substitute tahini in your favorite recipes.
The nut butters may alter the taste slightly, but that can be a fun experiment on its own. You may find you sometimes prefer what a different nut butter brings to the table even more than the tahini!With your tahini substitute covered, your biggest dilemma will be figuring out what to eat with hummus.