Tahini Substitutes

Tahini, the creamy paste made from ground sesame seeds, is a staple ingredient in many Middle Eastern recipes such as hummus, dressings, and sauces.

Its unique nutty flavor and smooth texture are hard to replicate, but there are times when you might find yourself without this key ingredient.

Whether due to dietary restrictions, allergies, or a simple shortfall in your pantry, knowing how to effectively substitute tahini can save your recipe without compromising on taste.

A jar of tahini sits open on a kitchen counter, surrounded by various alternative ingredients like almond butter, yogurt, and sesame seeds

Nut butters like cashew and almond butter can be excellent alternatives to tahini. They offer a similar richness and are more readily available in many stores.

These substitutes maintain the creamy consistency required for many dishes that typically use tahini.

When using nut butters, opt for natural, unsweetened versions to come closest to the desired flavor profile.

If you’re looking to capture the essence of tahini’s taste, consider making your own version with sesame seeds and a neutral oil blended into a smooth paste.

This DIY approach allows you to control the texture and flavor intensity, potentially delivering a result that closely mirrors the original.

While sesame seeds are the base of tahini, this homemade version also affords you the flexibility to adjust the paste to your preference, creating a tailor-made substitute for your specific culinary needs.

Understanding Tahini

When you encounter tahini, you’re experiencing a staple of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine.

This paste is crafted from sesame seeds that are hulled, roasted, and ground to smooth perfection.

Its flavor, mildly nutty and earthy, is versatile, making tahini an essential ingredient in a variety of dishes.

What is tahini? Essentially, it’s a condiment similar to peanut butter but made from sesame seeds.

It forms the backbone of recipes such as hummus and baba ghanoush, imparting a creamy texture and a unique taste profile.

Sesame oil sometimes added during the grinding process, enhances tahini’s silkiness, making it more pourable.

Common Uses of Tahini
Salad Dressings
Baked Goods

Remember, tahini’s consistency should be fluid yet thick, resembling a loose nut butter. This quality is essential in tahini recipes, where it acts as a binder or enriches the dish’s mouthfeel.

However, if your pantry is devoid of this ingredient, several substitutes can mimic tahini’s role in both texture and flavor—albeit with slight variations unique to each alternative.

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Identifying Tahini Substitutes

When your recipe calls for tahini and you find yourself without it, don’t worry—there are several reliable substitutes that can mimic its rich, nutty flavor. Here’s a concise guide to alternatives you can use:

Nut Butters

Nut butters are a great option, offering a similar texture and richness:

  • Peanut Butter: Widely available, choose natural, unsweetened peanut butter for the closest match.
  • Cashew Butter: Its neutral taste and creamy consistency make it an excellent stand-in.
  • Almond Butter: Offers a slightly different but equally delicious nutty profile.

Incorporating these nut butters can be an easy swap in dressings, sauces, and dips.

Seed Butter

If you’re dealing with nut allergies or just prefer seeds, sunflower seed butter is your go-to. It has a distinct taste but still provides the desired creamy texture.

Homemade Tahini

Making tahini at home is straightforward. Blend sesame seeds with neutral oil in a food processor until smooth.

Here’s a simple breakdown of the substitutes:

Peanut ButterNatural, unsweetened varieties are best.
Cashew ButterNeutral flavor; creamy texture.
Almond ButterNutty flavor; slightly different from tahini.
Sunflower ButterNut-free; still offers a creamy texture.
Homemade TahiniSesame seeds and oil blended to smoothness.

Choose the best tahini substitute based on what you have available and your specific dietary needs. Each option brings a unique twist while fulfilling the role of tahini in your recipes.

Nut-Based Tahini Alternatives

A variety of nuts and seeds arranged around a jar of tahini, including almonds, cashews, sunflower seeds, and sesame seeds

If you’re looking for a tahini substitute in your recipes, various nut and seed butters can provide similar creamy textures and a range of nutty flavors. They are ideal for those with sesame allergies, and each comes with its own nutritional profile.

Peanut Butter

Peanut butter is a common substitute for tahini due to its smooth consistency and rich flavor. Opt for natural peanut butter to avoid added sugars if you are integrating it into savory dishes.

It offers a balance of protein and fats, though remember, it might introduce a distinctively sweeter taste compared to the milder tahini.

Almond Butter

Almond butter, rich in Vitamin E and calcium, is a healthier option with a subtle nutty taste.

Its creamy texture works well as a tahini alternative in various dishes. You’ll notice almond butter is less sweet compared to peanut butter, making it versatile for both sweet and savory recipes.

Cashew Butter

Cashew butter, known for its neutral flavor, is a closer match to tahini’s flavor profile. It boasts a smooth, creamy texture, making it a prime candidate for dressings, sauces, and dips.

Other Nut Butters

  • Hazelnut Butter: Aromatic and rich, better suited for sweeter applications.
  • Macadamia Butter: Creamy with a high-fat content, which translates to a luxurious mouthfeel.

For each, maintain awareness of potential allergens and the distinct flavors they may bring to your dish.

Sunflower Seed Butter

Sunflower seed butter offers a comparable texture to tahini and a nutty flavor without the nuts, making it excellent for those with nut allergies.

It’s also a good source of fiber and nutrients, and its mild savoriness means it won’t overpower the other ingredients in a recipe.

Pumpkin Seed Butter

This butter is less common but is a nutritious substitute rich in zinc and iron. With a deep green hue, it provides a rustic look and a distinctive taste.

Pumpkin seed butter is suitable for a variety of dishes and can bring an earthy quality to your meals.

Non-Nut-Based Alternatives

When looking for tahini substitutes that don’t contain nuts, several non-nut-based options can replicate the rich, savory, and creamy qualities of tahini in your dips and salad dressings.

Sesame Oil

Sesame oil, particularly the toasted variety, can add the trademark nutty flavor to your dishes without the presence of any nuts.

It’s suitable for dressings but use in moderation due to its potent taste.

Greek Yogurt

Greek yogurt offers a tang and creamy texture, making it a fantastic substitute in dips and savory dishes.

Opt for full-fat versions to better mimic the fat content of tahini.


Aquafaba, the liquid from cooked chickpeas, can serve as a vegan protein-rich alternative. Its versatile use in a variety of dishes makes it a popular tahini substitute.

Sesame Seed Products

Toasted sesame seeds ground into a paste or black sesame paste (kuro neri goma) can replace tahini.

However, these might be less smooth than hulled tahini but still provide a similar flavor profile.

Olive Oil

Olive oil has a neutral flavor that won’t overpower Mediterranean dishes.

It can serve as a substitute in salad dressings and offers a similar fat content.

Other Oils

When seeking a neutral oil with a less pronounced taste, options like sunflower or avocado oil can stand in for tahini in a dressing or condiment.

Legume-Based Pastes

Other legume pastes such as those from chickpeas can substitute tahini especially in recipes like hummus or baba ghanoush, giving you a similar consistency and healthful fats.

Asian Sesame Pastes

Employ Chinese sesame paste in your dishes for a depth akin to tahini or explore the Japanese condiment, goma-shoyu, as a possible substitution.

Dairy Alternatives

For a dairy-based approach, consider using other creamy dairy products which can work well in cool dips or as a base for dressings.

Seed-Based Pastes

Seed butters like sunflower butter can act as a tahini alternative, especially when looking for a similar taste and consistency but without using nuts.

Homemade Alternatives

Lastly, you can create your own DIY tahini substitute with toasted seeds blended with a bit of oil to achieve the desired tahini-like consistency for your recipes.

Applications of Tahini Substitutes

A jar of tahini sits on a kitchen counter surrounded by alternative ingredients like almond butter, sesame seeds, and olive oil

When you find yourself without tahini, your culinary exploration doesn’t have to end. Opting for a substitute can yield delightful results across a spectrum of dishes, allowing you to maintain the intended flavor profiles and textures.

Cooking and Baking

In cooking and baking, tahini imparts a rich, nutty flavor that can be emulated with alternatives such as cashew or almond butter.

Baked goods like cakes, cookies, and brownies benefit from these nut butters through added depth of taste and moistness.

  • Baked goods: Use cashew or almond butter in equal quantities to tahini.
  • Cookies: Replace tahini with peanut butter for a similar consistency.

Sauces and Dressings

For sauces and dressings, the creamy texture of Greek yogurt makes for a nutritious tahini stand-in that complements both savory and sweet profiles.

Olive oil or sesame oil can serve as a base for a tahini sauce or condiment, especially when making marinades or a drizzle for vegetables.

  • Salad dressings: Whip Greek yogurt with lemon juice and herbs as a tahini alternative.
  • Marinades: Mix sesame oil with other seasonings to mimic tahini’s rich essence.

Sweet and Savory Dishes

Tahini’s unique flavor straddles both sweet and savory dishes. In savory recipes, sesame oil can replicate tahini’s toasty notes, while in sweets like halva, substituting with sunflower seed butter retains the distinct nutty undertone.

  • Savory dishes: Blend nut butters into sauces for an umami kick.
  • Sweet recipes: Use sunflower seed butter in halva and other desserts.

Dips and Spreads

Substitutes like cashew and almond butter can be integrated seamlessly into dips and spreads, such as hummus and baba ghanoush, to achieve a similar consistency without compromising on taste.

  • Hummus: Cashew butter provides a creamy base without the sesame.
  • Baba Ghanoush: Almond butter offers a comparably smooth texture with a delicate flavor.

Snacks and Desserts

For snacks and desserts, peanut butter could play the tahini role in snack bars or energy balls, lending the expected texture and a complementary flavor, while sunflower seed butter is often favored for its subtle taste and creaminess in various desserts.

  • Snack bars: Substitute tahini with peanut butter for a chewy texture.
  • Desserts: Opt for sunflower seed butter in dessert recipes for a mild, nutty flavor.

Special Diets

For those with dietary restrictions, such as a nut allergy, gluten-free requirements, or following a vegan diet, sunflower butter and sesame oil are excellent tahini counterparts that respect these needs and enhance dishes with a similar richness.

  • Gluten-free: Sunflower seed butter is a safe and flavorful tahini replacement.
  • Vegan: Sesame oil can add the desired nutty flavor and is plant-based.

Nutritional Considerations

A jar of tahini sits next to various substitute options like almond butter, sunflower seed butter, and cashew butter on a kitchen counter

When considering substitutes for tahini, it’s essential to understand how they compare nutritionally. The protein and fiber content, the amount of fat and calories, the mineral content, and any allergy considerations are all important factors that can influence your choice.

Protein and Fiber Content

Nut butters such as cashew, almond, and peanut butter are common tahini substitutes that offer a comparable nutty flavor and creamy texture suitable for use in salad dressings. They also typically provide a good source of protein and dietary fiber, which are beneficial for maintaining muscle health and digestive regularity.

  • Protein: Nut butters have between 4-7 grams per tablespoon, which is similar to tahini.
  • Fiber: A tablespoon of most nut butters contains about 1-2 grams of dietary fiber.

Fat and Caloric Considerations

Tahini and its substitutes, such as nut and seed butters, are high in fats, but mostly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which are considered healthier options. However, calorie counts can be high, so portion control is key.

  • Fat: Expect about 8-16 grams of fat per tablespoon, depending on the substitute.
  • Calories: On average, nut and seed butters contain around 90-100 calories per tablespoon.

Mineral Content

Tahini made from sesame seeds is rich in minerals like calcium, iron, zinc, and phosphorus. Substitutes may have varying levels of these nutrients, so it’s worth checking the labels if you’re looking for specific mineral content.

  • Calcium: Almond butter is a good source, while others may have less.
  • Iron and Zinc: Found in significant amounts in most seed and nut butters.
  • Phosphorus: Commonly present in nut butters, aiding in bone health.

Allergy Information

For those with sesame or nut allergies, alternative substitutes such as seed butter or even Greek yogurt can be considered. Seed butters provide a similar texture to nut butters without the risk of nut allergies, while Greek yogurt offers a lower-fat option but with a different texture and tanginess.

  • Nut Allergy: Seed butter is a safe option, while Greek yogurt is suitable for those avoiding seeds and nuts.
  • Sesame Allergy: All proposed substitutes are viable if they don’t contain sesame seeds.

Choosing the Best Substitute

A variety of tahini substitutes lined up on a wooden table, including almond butter, sunflower seed butter, and sesame seed paste

When searching for the best tahini substitutes, you’ll want to consider both taste and texture to align as closely as possible with the original condiment.

Tahini is prized for its creamy texture and nutty, slightly bitter flavor that is a staple in Middle Eastern dishes. The best substitutes are as follows:

  • Cashew Butter: This nut butter has a neutral taste and creamy texture, making it ideal for mimicking tahini in dressings and sauces.
  • Almond Butter: With a similarly smooth texture, almond butter offers a nutty flavor, though slightly sweeter.
SubstituteTaste ComparisonTexture Similarity
Cashew ButterNeutral, mild nuttinessVery Creamy
Almond ButterNutty, mildly sweetCreamy
Peanut ButterNuttier and slightly sweeterCreamy but may be thicker

For those with sesame allergies or a preference for a different flavor profile, sunflower seed butter is a seed-based alternative that provides a similar creamy texture but a distinct, slightly different taste.

Keep in mind that each substitute will bring its own unique flavor to a dish, and the best choice for you depends on your desired outcome:

  • Choose cashew butter if you’re looking for a neutral profile that doesn’t alter the intended taste of your recipe.
  • Opt for almond butter if a little extra sweetness complements the dish.
  • Peanut butter can work well, but it has a stronger flavor that may stand out in your dish.

Frequently Asked Questions

Various ingredients like yogurt, almond butter, or sunflower seed butter can be used as tahini substitutes

In this section, you’ll find tailored solutions to common issues encountered when searching for tahini substitutes in various recipes.

What can I use instead of tahini in hummus to maintain the flavor?

To maintain the authentic flavor of hummus, cashew butter is a notable substitute. It possesses a creamy texture and a nutty taste that’s similar to tahini.

Is there a suitable nut-free alternative to tahini for allergy-friendly recipes?

Sunflower seed butter is an excellent nut-free alternative for tahini, offering a comparably creamy texture and a unique, yet subtle, flavor profile suitable for allergy-friendly dishes.

What’s the best substitute for tahini in baba ganoush without compromising the dish’s authenticity?

When making baba ganoush, if tahini is unavailable, you can use a mixture of Greek yogurt with a little bit of sesame oil to replicate the creamy consistency and nutty sesame flavor of tahini.

Can Greek yogurt be used as a replacement for tahini in dressings and sauces?

Yes, Greek yogurt can replace tahini in dressings and sauces, providing a creamy texture and a tangy note that pairs well with a variety of ingredients.

How can I substitute tahini in baking without altering the texture of the baked goods?

Almond butter is a good alternative for tahini in baking. Its similar consistency helps maintain the desired texture in your baked goods.

If I’m out of tahini, can sesame oil work as a substitute in recipes?

Sesame oil can be used judiciously as a substitute in recipes to recreate the sesame flavor that tahini provides.

Especially in marinades and dressings where the creamy consistency is not crucial.

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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
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