Tahini, or Tahina (as it is called in the Middle East) surprised my taste buds the first time I tried it. The beautiful amalgamation of subtle flavours of sesame, garlic and lemon made me fall in love with it. While you can use tahini in many ways including pizza topping and salad dressing, I love to use it as a dip for freshly made falafel. I have gobbled copious amounts of Egyptian bread stuffed with falafel, dunked in the luscious sesame sauce.
Since I had taken a special liking to this dish, it was only natural that I decided to make it at home. I did what any cooking enthusiast does – searched for the recipe on Google. And that’s where the problem started.
Tahini: Paste vs. Sauce
Most recipes for tahini will tell you it only needs sesame seeds and a neutral flavoured oil such as vegetable oil or olive oil. Blend the ingredients and throw in some salt and it’s ready. I followed one such recipe step by step. However, the resulting “tahini” was nothing like what was used to having. Instead of being smooth and creamy, it was dense, crunchy and weird to taste. Moreover, it lacked any of the flavours it was supposed to have.
Disappointed with the thick paste that I had ended up with, I shoved it into the refrigerator. Then I began digging deep into the Internet to find what had gone wrong with my attempt. After checking out countless recipes, I realized most of them overlooked one detail.
Here it is: there’s tahini paste, and then there’s tahini sauce. What you get at supermarkets or restaurants is the sauce. It uses tahini paste as one of the ingredients. However, the recipe calls for a few other things to get that fine balance of flavours.
Needless to say, what I had made was tahini paste, and not the sauce that I had fallen for. I finally found one recipe that describes the entire process in excruciating detail. Here I am sharing the same with you.
The Ultimate Tahini Sauce Recipe
- 100 gm hulled sesame seeds
- 3-4 tablespoons of any neutral flavoured oil (I used sunflower oil)
- 1/4th cup fresh lemon juice
- 5 cloves of garlic
- 4-5 tablespoons ice-cold water (might need more to adjust consistency)
- 1-2 teaspoon salt (might need more according to taste)
- 1/4th teaspoon cumin powder
- Dry roast the sesame seeds in a frying pan until they become faintly brown in colour. Be careful not to heat them too much, as sesame seeds tend to burn pretty quickly. Let it cool for about ten minutes.
- Next crush the garlic and mix it with lemon juice and salt. This is necessary to mellow the flavour of garlic. Set it aside for some time.
- Meanwhile, in a food processor, blend the sesame seeds until turn crumbly. Now, slowly pour in the oil, while keeping the food processor running. Blend until the oil combines with the seeds and you end up with a thick brownish paste. Your tahini paste is ready!
- In another bowl, blend the garlic and lemon mixture using the food processor. Add the tahini paste and continue to blend for about a minute. At this point, you will notice it starts to turn pale, dense and fluffy. Continue blending for another minute.
- Add 2 tablespoons of ice-cold water to the mixture, while the food processor is running. As it blends, the mixture will become further pale and smooth. Add some more water in order to achieve the perfect silky consistency.
- Finally, add cumin powder and blend one last time.
Voila! Homemade tahini sauce is ready! Check out the original recipe here.