• Tahini, a sesame spread, is making appearances in pastries, ice cream and cocktails. (Flickr/Liz Mochrie)
This versatile Levantine wonder-spread is being recognised in ways we can appreciate, with genius cooks adding it croissants, smoothies and cocktails.
By
Lucy Rennick

4 Apr 2018 - 12:33 PM  UPDATED 4 Apr 2018 - 4:57 PM

If you make hummus at home, own a health-food cookbook or have a bit of a ‘thing’ for Middle Eastern and Levantine foods like baklava and baba ganoush, you’ve probably already come across tahini. It’s a spread made from crushed sesame seeds, and has long-surpassed its Arab origins in terms of geographical reach: it’s known and enjoyed in various forms all over the world.

Comment: The real history of tahini
Is the current elevation of this ingredient - without acknowledging its Middle-Eastern roots - a case of cultural appropriation?

Although tahini has held cultural and culinary significance since ancient times in the Middle East, the building-block ingredient is beginning to pop up in some fairly unusual places – smoothies, desserts and even cocktails, to name a few.

According to Forbes, Michigan bakery, Zingerman’s Bakehouse is working tahini into its Jewish rye bread, French baguettes and sourdough rounds. Tahini works as an intriguing addition to Zingerman’s sweet treats, too, including tahini-date cookies and a tahini-filled croissant. “Tahini may have started with the chefs and bakers making Middle Eastern food, [but] than others of us see it and begin to translate it into our own kitchens,” Amy Emberling of Zingerman’s Bakehouse told Forbes, as is the way with many foods that flee the proverbial nest of their countries or cultures of origin.

Closer to home, Sydney-based, Lebanese-inspired bakery Oregano makes scrumptious scrolls with honey, butter, halawa and pistachios, topped with tahini icing and sesame seeds.

 

Take a quick squiz online and you don’t have to dig deep to find recipes for tahini hot chocolates, or even a tahini martini. Tahini seems to be having a moment well outside its Middle Eastern, drizzled-atop-falafel roots.

Tahini isn’t just finding its way into baked goods. Popular plant-based ice creamery Frankie & Jo’s in Seattle is promoting tahini-flavoured ice cream in pints or cones, and Sydney’s home of Turkish ice cream, Hakiki, is doing something similar with a tahini and grape molasses flavour.

But is using it in cocktails taking the tahini train too far? Not according to Chicago bartender Charlie Schott, who mixes tahini with an Indonesian liqueur derived from sugarcane (Batavia Arrack), tequila, crème de cacao, coconut milk, heavy cream and chocolate syrup. The trick, according to Schott, is to mix the tahini in last. “It’s really goopy and it’s going to gum up your jigger and you’re not going to get accurate measurements after you use that,” Schott told the Chicago Reader.

Tahini’s rise to prominence in the Western world could well be coinciding with consumers’ growing tastes for health foods, and nut and dairy alternatives due to an allergen or ethical concerns. Tahini is a safe, versatile and delicious sauce to add an umami kick to sandwiches or sweet treats, smooth out smoothies or – if you’re particularly brave –  cream up a coffee. It’s completely vegan and nut-free. 

Is 2018 the year we all start eating tahini croissants for breakfast? Perhaps. Just don’t forget who we have to thank for this wonder-spread.

Want to create your own tribute to this Middle Eastern treasure? Peruse our tahini recipe collection today (or don’t be afraid to add some to your next batch of cookies).

Tahini treats
Creamy hummus

You want hummus to be creamy and buttery – adding the iced water is part of the secret. I use a lot of tahini in this recipe, but I want it to be super creamy. 

11 things you didn't know you could do with tahini
Tahini wants you to know there's more to it than just being a chickpea's sidekick in hummus.
Tahini shortbread buttons

These delicious little morsels are reminiscent of halva, but without the sugar. 

Hemp tahini date-caramel bars

Use any nut butters you please, but I particularly like almond and sesame butters together. There's something magical about dates and tahini in a sticky sweet union!

Pumpkin, Turkish delight and tahini ice-cream

I love the way the ladies I met made sucuk pekmez. Thickening the molasses with semolina made me think about what other fruits or vegetables I could use the same technique with.