Open Sesame Paste

For a delicious and healthy boost to salads and sandwiches, substitute tahini for nut butter

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Tahini is a great nut butter substitute
We're spreading our love for tahini.

Updated Jun 29, 2017 @ 4:27 pm

Let us just start by saying that we love peanut butter. We wouldn’t dream of disparaging the classic spread we’ve all loved since childhood.

Yes, peanut butter is delicious and versatile and comforting and full of good nutrition, but it isn’t the only jar worth opening, especially with the proliferation of other nut butters in recent years. You may already have almond or cashew butter on hand, and now we want you to take a fresh look at another spread, one that might already be languishing in your pantry: tahini.

If you have a jar of the sesame paste and you only use it to make hummus, you’re in for a treat. Not only can tahini do everything peanut butter and other nut butters can (fill sandwiches, wake up apple slices, top yogurt or oatmeal), it’s a delicious and easy way to round out your diet.

Seed+Mill of NYC
Follow the lead of NYC’s Seed+Mill and use tahini with herbs in a fresh dip. (Photo: Scott Matthews)

While both peanut butter and tahini are good for you, they have different nutritional strengths. So swapping one for the other every now and then is an easy way to get a wider array of essentials. For example, peanut butter is richer in manganese (important for fat and carb metabolism), while tahini packs in more iron (essential for getting oxygen through the body). Peanut butter has vitamin E (a cancer fighter and brain booster), tahini has vitamin B1 (a.k.a. thiamine), which helps the body convert food to energy.

As with other nut and seed butters, when shopping for tahini look for brands with as few ingredients as possible, very little or no added sugar and no hydrogenated oils.

If you want to give a tahini swap a try, here are some ways to get started:

Now, if you’re the type to simply dig a spoon into the jar and lick it off (um, not that we would ever do that…), good news: As tahini becomes more popular, companies are offering ever more delicious flavored varieties. Here are some great products:

  • Soom tahini: This company’s classic tahini has excellent flavor and works beautifully in recipes and on its own. But their chocolate spread, made with powdered sugar and cocoa, is beyond rich and luscious; and it only has seven grams of sugar in a two tablespoon serving (a certain chocolate-hazelnut spread that shall remain nameless has three times as much).
  • Ilka Foods: The Honey Sesame Butter and Maple Sesame Butter Ilka Foods makes are perfectly delicious, but the Chai flavor is downright addictive. With honey, black tea, chai spices and a touch of black pepper, it is heaven on a spoon.
  • Seed+Mill: If you live in or plan to visit New York City, stop by Seed+Mill’s stand in Chelsea Market to sample their freshly made tahini and products made with it (including amazing halva and goat’s milk-tahini soft serve ice cream). Luckily, they ship, so you can have jars sent to you if NYC isn’t in your travel plan anytime soon. We love their herby green tahini (made with dried parsley and garlic), which makes fantastic sauces and dips.