The best ingredients are the ones you actually have. So if you’re eager to try that new hummus recipe, or delicious tahini salad dressing recipe, but you don’t have tahini, no problem. Maybe there’s a great tahini substitute right in your pantry or fridge.
What is Tahini, Anyway?
To help you figure out the best substitute for your tahini recipes, it may help to understand exactly what tahini is, anyway.
Tahini is a very simple, smooth paste made from ground sesame seeds. What peanut butter is to peanuts, tahini is to sesame seeds.
The ingredient list usually comprises nothing but ground sesame seeds, but you may find some that also have oil and salt. The taste of tahini is a nutty, earthy flavor, but it isn’t sweet like many nut butters.
Tahini is commonly found in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine as well as Asian and Greek dishes. It’s very versatile and is often a main ingredient in hummus and baba ghanoush recipes.
Tahini can also be used in dips, spreads, salad dressings, stews, and noodle dishes — even smoothies, brownies, and ice cream.
7 Best Tahini Substitutes
When you're searching for a good substitute for tahini, you have options ranging from nut butters, seed butters, Greek yogurt, sesame oil, or nothing -- because you may decide the recipe really doesn't need it.
So take a twirl through this list of the best tahini substitutes to find the swap that will work best to bring the nutty taste or the silky smooth texture of tahini to your recipe.
1. Peanut Butter
Peanut butter can be a very practical solution because it's something you may already have at home. And if you love the flavor of peanut butter, you might not mind that the flavor is stronger than tahini.
Smooth peanut butter thinned with a little olive oil or sesame oil will get it close to the consistency of tahini. And the sesame oil will have the added bonus of giving it an infusion of that lovely sesame flavor.
Whether you’re using this tahini substitute in a savory dish, or a sweet recipe, like this peanut butter-chocolate halvah, unsweetened peanut butter with no added sugar will get you closer to the flavor of tahini than sweetened peanut butter.
2. Cashew Butter
Cashew butter is a favorite tahini substitute because it has a similar consistency to tahini and the flavor is more neutral than, say, peanut butter.
Cashew butter is also a common ingredient in plant-based soups and sauces, much like tahini, so it makes sense that it could be a very convincing tahini imposter in dips and salad dressings.
3. Almond Butter
Like cashew butter, almond butter is favored by many as a pretty seamless tahini substitute because of its creamy consistency and neutral flavor.
Almond butter is a versatile swap that can be used in many recipes that call for tahini like dips and baked goods.
To see this easy tahini substitute in action, here's a baba ghanoush recipe from Jamie Geller with almond butter and chopped almonds.
4. Sunflower Seed Butter
Sunflower butter, sometimes called sunbutter, is similar to tahini in that it is also made from seeds, but, in terms of texture, it may have a thicker consistency than tahini.
Try to use a sunbutter that is made from 100% sunflower seeds and has no added sugar or salt, especially if you are using this tahini substitute in a savory dish.
You can generally use sunbutter as an even 1:1 tahini substitute in recipes like hummus, salad dressings, sauces, stews, and dips.
5. Greek Yogurt
If it’s the silky texture of tahini and high protein content you’re looking to replace, Greek yogurt just might be a good alternative in sweet or savory dishes.
In zesty dips and salad dressings, and creamy sauces and spreads, Greek yogurt can work well as a tahini substitute. Case in point: this hummus recipe with Greek yogurt from Martha Stewart.
Note that if your recipe is calling on tahini to lend nutty flavor or counterbalance sweetness, you may have to adjust the other ingredients, since you won’t get that from Greek yogurt. But the good news is you will get rich, tangy flavor.
6. Sesame Oil
From a pure flavor standpoint, sesame oil is certainly a tahini substitute that should be considered when you’re weighing your options. It won’t bring the creaminess, but it will bring the distinctive flavor of sesame.
Sesame oil can be a great tahini substitute in marinades, dressings, and spreads like this hummus recipe without sesame oil.
7. Nothing at All
Sometimes a recipe doesn't really need tahini. Even a classic recipe like hummus, where tahini is often a key ingredient, can be made without tahini.
I have always made hummus without tahini because it used to be hard to find in my local grocery stores -- and when I did find it, it was really expensive. Making hummus without tahini is actually quite common and you can find many recipes like this hummus recipe with no tahini. This one even has no oil.
Delicious Tahini Recipes
Here are a few of my favorite tahini recipes:
Maple Tahini Salad Dressing is delicious on salads and drizzled on roasted vegetables.
Buffalo Chicken Dip uses hummus instead of cream cheese for this healthy-ish twist on a classic dip recipe.
Roasted Broccolini Salad with tahini Greek yogurt dressing will make a broccolini lover out of anyone!