If you like healthy snacks, then you have certainly tried hummus before. This Mediterranean dip is made with chickpeas and tahini. So if you want some homemade hummus, you would need tahini, which is a common ingredient among Middle Eastern foods.
However, tahini is sometimes hard to find, as it isn’t a mainstream ingredient in a lot of places. If you can’t find any anywhere, or you don’t like the bitter flavor it has, then don’t despair, some substitutes can create a similar texture and flavor.
What Is Tahini?
First though, what is tahini?
This paste or thick spread is made from ground sesame seeds. Texture-wise, it resembles peanut butter but made from sesame. As you may have guessed by now, tahini originated in the Middle East and it is a signature ingredient in many of their recipes.
It is a key factor in making hummus or baba ganoush, but it is also a good addition to sauces and salads. You can usually find tahini in the international aisle of the grocery store or specialized stores.
What Can You Replace Tahini With?
These are the best tahini alternatives you can use for your hummus or Middle Eastern dish:
#1. Peanut Butter
As a creamy option, peanut butter will make a good substitute in terms of texture. This type of butter is made from peanuts.
Unlike tahini, peanut butter is sweeter and rich, so it can work in your hummus or dish. Make sure you go for the creamy option and not the crunchy one. If you can find a less sweet choice, then this may be more adequate for your savory dishes.
Peanut butter is common everywhere nowadays, as it is a high source of protein and healthy fats. But you may want to use it sparingly as well as tahini, as they can both add calories easily.
#2. Sunflower Seed Butter
Although not as common as peanut butter, this choice is a good alternative that can usually be made straight from the grocery store.
All you need to do is grind many sunflower seeds in a blender and store them. The result will be a creamy, buttery paste that won’t be as sweet as peanut butter, that matches tahini more closely.
This butter is high in vitamin E, which is an antioxidant, and in unsaturated fats, so it can be a great way to replace tahini in hummus and sauces.
#3. Almond Butter
This is now a mainstream choice that has become popular due to the high protein content of almonds as well as healthy fatty acids.
You can make your almond butter to avoid added sugars and to mimic the flavor of tahini more, but even the store-bought choices are lower in sugar than other kinds of nut butter.
The way you make almond butter is similar to making peanut butter. Simply grind almonds into almond flour, then continue blending it in a high-speed blender until you get a creamy butter consistency.
Almond butter is used as a breakfast food or healthy snack, constantly added to smoothies and parfaits.
#4. Sesame Seeds
This option may not work in all recipes, but if your recipe calls for a drizzle of tahini, you can choose sesame seeds to sprinkle on top of the sauce or during the cooking process. This will add the flavor of sesame but it will also change the texture completely.
Just like sesame oil, sesame seeds are easy to find, especially in the Asian section of grocery stores, and they are usually used in this type of cuisine.
#5. Greek Yogurt
This is not always the right choice, but you can pick Greek yogurt if you are making hummus with a different flavor or if the point of the tahini is to thicken a sauce. This will change the flavor and texture, as Greek yogurt is tangy and very creamy.
Greek yogurt can be found everywhere and it is a healthy choice because it is full of protein and relatively low fat. Keep in mind that this isn’t the perfect option for all the cases, but would work in some sauces and some flavors of hummus.
#6. Soy Butter
Though not a mainstream substitute, and while you can find soy butter in some specialty stores, it may be easier to make your own at home.
To make it, you can combine soy milk, a bit of oil preferably sunflower or canola for a more neutral flavor and a drizzle of lime or lemon juice. Blend this mix very well until you get a good consistency and flavor.
This choice is healthy and can be as sweet or bitter as you want to make it, which can come as an advantage if you are trying to imitate the flavor and consistency of tahini.
If You Can, Make It Yourself!
It may be a more complex process, but it can be the best option in certain cases. All you need is sesame seeds, salt, and olive oil. You do need to get hulled sesame seeds because they will result in a smoother texture and less bitterness, which can be a big problem if you use unhulled seeds.
To start, use one cup of seeds with ¼ to ½ of oil. You can use sesame oil if you prefer and grind it all together until you reach the right consistency. If you add more oil, then the tahini will become smoother and thinner, which may not be ideal. Add salt to taste, and maybe even lime or lemon juice.
For hummus, consistency is key, so any nut butter would be a good option, as they are all creamy and thick. You can add as much or as little as you like, the less you use though, the creamier and less thick your hummus will be.
Since the chickpeas have to be blended to use for the hummus, the tahini adds the creamy and thick texture to make it more like a dip. Think of tahini like the thickening paste that holds everything together.
Surprisingly, tahini and peanut butter are very similar. They are both high in unsaturated fats and sugar, but peanut butter has more protein than sesame seeds. However, tahini is safe for those with nut allergies, so it can be the right choice in some instances.
Tahini is a key factor in making hummus and some other Middle Eastern staples, but if you don’t have any, it’s not the end of the world. These alternatives all make for good replacements, just make sure you taste and measure accordingly. Now you’re ready to make your favorite dip for the next dinner party you host.
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*Photo by luknaja/depositphotos