How to Make Great Tahini Sauce

Great tahini sauce finds itself on so many of our favorite dishes, from Lebanese shawarma to falafel. Learn how to make tahini sauce with the method that results in a smooth, glossy, delicious sauce. Shop my online market here for excellent tahini (not all are created equally!).

Tahini sauce in a bowl with a whisk

You would think that making tahini sauce is as simple as stirring your favorite flavorings into tahini.

But not so straightforward.

Just use excellent ingredients and follow one simple trick to make your sauce just the way you like it: glossy, smooth, delicious.

 

Tahini in a bowl with ingredients for tahini sauce

First, use tahini that’s smooth and tastes great.

Not all tahini is created equally! Read this for my soliloquy on lush tahini, which I love to call “adult peanut butter.” I can’t say that  around the peanut butter fans  here, though;  they consider that an offense to their beloved….

What to look for in tahini? It’s a tasting game. And a stirring game. Tahini, which is simply pureed sesame seeds, likes to separate oil from solids. Over time those solids can become sludgy in the base of the jar, making the rest of the tahini oily, thin, not so good. I’ve tasted more tahini than I can count in search of the very best in class. I look for little to no solids at the bottom of the jar, a creamy look and mouthfeel (!), and pleasant bitterness–which means not much bitterness. If you have not liked tahini when you’ve tasted it, that’s likely because the brand you’ve had is too bitter. Bitter is not a given; many tahinis are creamy and nearly “sweet.”

Seized tahini in a bowl

Know that Tahini seizes when mixed with other liquids.

Seizing describes what happens to tahini when mixed with liquids such as must-have lemon juice. In cooking, seizing means the smooth  liquid (tahini, or melted chocolate) gets stiff and clumpy.

Knowing that tahini seizes, and how to fix it, is the key to how to make great tahini sauce!

Tahini sauce mixed with cold water

How to fix the seized tahini?

You’ll love this simple answer: ice cold water! Add this magical cold water just a little at a time, and watch the smoooooth happen!

Tahini sauce in a bowl with a whisk

How to store tahini sauce.

I like to make extra sauce to keep on hand. Store the sauce in your refrigerator in an airtight container for weeks.  Store the jar of tahini in your pantry, as you would peanut butter.

What tastes good with tahini sauce?

Oh gosh, start with a spoon! Sauce made with great ingredients tastes fabulous. Serve tahini sauce alongside classic Lebanese and other Middle Eastern favorites such as shawarma, kibbeh, falafel, fried vegetables. Tahini sauce is also glorious on avocado toast and thinned out as a dressing for salads.

Once you start with tahini sauce, there’s no stopping the ways!

Lebanese Tahini sauce in a small dish

Kibbeh Bites with tahini dipping sauce, Maureen Abood

How to Make Great Tahini Sauce

Maureen Abood
There's a must-know secret to making great tahini sauce and the answer is at your fingertips: ice cold water, an important ingredient to smooth out the naturally occurring seizing (clumping) that tahini does when mixed with liquids.

Ingredients
  

  • 1/2 cup tahini
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic powder (fresh minced garlic can also be used; sauce will not be perfectly smooth)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup ice cold water, and more as needed

Instructions
 

  • Whisk the tahini with the lemon juice, garlic powder, and salt. The mixture will seize and become clumpy.
  • Add the ice cold water a tablespoon at a time, whisking with each addition, until the mixture is smooth. The finished sauce should be thin enough to pour but thick enough to dip, comparable to the thickness of stirred sour cream or labneh.

 

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6 Comments

  1. Dolores on February 8, 2022 at 1:14 PM

    Wow! What a simple way to make the tahini smooth. I’d have never thought to do the ice water. I’m going to make it today as my husband loves fish (not my like) & I love
    Tahini dip.
    Thank you for all the wonderful, warm stories which accompany your recipes. Gosh! Brings so many forgotten memories. Love your recipes. Made waddah eneb, Llosa stuffed, khoobuz, all from your inspiration. Today laban!!!

  2. Janice Azrak on April 8, 2022 at 3:44 PM

    I have a dilemma. I absolutely cannot find the “ultimate grape leaf.” Each time I decide to roll some grape leaves, I usually try a different brand hoping to find “the one.” However, that has not happened so I pose the question to you…
    I looked on your site and don’t see them for sale, so I was hoping you might be able to pass along your comments, recommendations for a brand of grape leaves.
    It’s such a bummer to open a jar and find them too thick or so thin that they rip while you are trying to separate them!!! Frustrating!!!
    Also, I live in south Florida and have actually tried growing them myself, but to no avail. I tried but they never thrived. Also, I really don’t have a green thumb… 🙁
    Anything you can pass along would be very much appreciated.
    Thank you!!!

    • Maureen Abood on April 8, 2022 at 4:54 PM

      Janice I feel your pain! Jarred leaves can be unpredictable. I look for Yergot or Orlando. When they’re huge I cut them in half. I have also purchased a Greek brand, Krinos, that were workable.

    • Catherine George on September 22, 2022 at 1:39 PM

      Hi Janice,

      I find that if I empty the grapes leaves from the jar, any brand, and immerse them in warm water for a few minutes, separating them gently, that they are most always in good condition. I transfer them to a large colander to allow the excess water to drain and then cover them with a damp towel so that they do not dry out!

  3. Janet Kalush Moore on October 5, 2022 at 11:42 AM

    You’re the best sweet one

    • Maureen Abood on October 10, 2022 at 1:14 PM

      Hugs to you dear Janet!

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I'm so glad you're here! You'll find among these pages the fresh and classic Lebanese recipes we can't get enough of! My mission is to share my tried + true recipes -- and to help our Lebanese food-loving community keep these culinary traditions alive and on the table. What recipes are you looking for? Let me know!

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