Your biggest Tahini questions answered. Learn everything you need to know about this delicious sesame paste from the best way to store it to the best way to enjoy it.
Mentioned as the main ingredient of hummus kasa in a 13th Century Arabic cookbook, ‘tahini’ is a condiment or table sauce that is made from ground sesame seeds. But it wasn’t until 1940 that tahini became available in the local food stores in the United States.
Primarily being used as a major component of hummus and baba ghanoush, tahini is commonly used in various cuisines in the Middle East and Southeast Asia, as well as parts of North Africa and Eastern Mediterranean. Tahini is a loanword that was derived from the Arabic root verb tahana which means ‘to grind.’
Given its widespread popularity today, it is highly likely that you too are aware of the great flavor of tahini. And if you have tasted it once, before then, you are bound to get hooked to its creamy texture that bursts into loads of flavor when in your mouth. Rich in vitamins and minerals such as calcium, potassium, iron, and magnesium, tahini has numerous health benefits as well. It promotes healthy cell growth, prevents anemia, maintains healthy skin and muscles, assists in weight loss and assists in many other positive ways.
So, the next time you buy a jar of tahini or make some at home, we suggest you double the quantity because of how beneficial it is. And if you need help in storing the extra tahini, then read on to find out how you can do it in the best possible way.
Issues with Storing Tahini
Tahini is rich in oil by its nature. When kept for a long time, the oil may separate from the paste, but this can easily be fixed by mixing the contents well before use.
The main issues that arise when storing leftover tahini are that the paste becomes dry, hard or lumpy when stored in the refrigerator. Also, it often goes rancid regardless of whether it was kept in the refrigerator or the pantry. To make the tahini last long, all you need is to be really careful when putting it away. Following is a detailed guide that will ensure your tahini doesn’t go bad.
How to Store Tahini
Choose the right storage place
Tahini should always be stored in a cool and dry place, away from sunlight and any other sources of heat. This is why most people keep the leftover tahini immediately in the fridge – because that is a cool and dry place, right?
Although the refrigerator is the best fit for such conditions, the fact is that storing tahini in a refrigerator is not always necessary. For instance, if you live in a region where the climatic conditions are pretty cool, then you can simply keep the half used can of tahini in your pantry or kitchen shelf (given no direct sunlight falls on it). You can also do this during the winter season when the weather is cold and dry. However, do not store tahini at room temperatures during the summer or even during winters if the humidity is high.
Choose the right container
If your store-bought tahini comes in a jar or any other container that has a lid on it, then close it after use. As for cans, which are the common container for tahini available off the shelf, balancing the lid back on the can and chucking it into the refrigerator is not the answer. Transfer the sesame seed paste to a suitable container (of course, one with a cover) or if you don’t have one at present, then spread plastic wrap or aluminum foil over the top of the containers and press firmly around the edges to prevent air from going in.
Keep the container closed
To make sure that the sesame seed paste stays fresh till the last drop, always close the container immediately after use.
While you might remember to do so for store-bought tahini that comes in a capped bottle or the likes, you must follow suit for homemade tahini as well. Tahini that placed uncovered in the fridge, will absorb the coolant gases and is likely to end up tasting foul. Also, the paste might harden because it will lose moisture. Keeping the tahini without covering at room temperature makes it unhygienic as dirt and dust will fall into it.
When to refrigerate tahini?
If you bought tahini from a store but haven’t opened it yet, then it can easily be kept in the pantry or a kitchen cabinet until opened.
Chilling tahini in a refrigerator after opening it will no doubt maximize its quality and prevent it from going bad. However, if you plan to use the leftover tahini within a short period, then it goes without saying that refrigerating it is not mandatory. Unless you live in a very hot and humid region where the current temperatures are extremely high, you can keep tahini (leftover or unopened) in the pantry with other food items given that you will consume it within a week at most.
How to Tell If the Tahini Is Spoiled
The major, or rather, the only constituents of tahini or sesame seed paste are well, sesame seeds and oil (can be sesame seed oil, olive oil or the likes). Oily substances that are low in water content do not promote bacterial or fungal growth. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that you will ever find mold or any other similar parasitic organism growing on the surface or in a jar of tahini. But despite this fact, you must discard the paste if you see any signs of contamination or find something that shouldn’t really be there in the first place.
While tahini is safe from bacterial growth, it can go rancid nonetheless. In case you are unsure of what that means, then here’s an easy explanation.
Rancidity is a type of food spoilage. Although most food safety authorities consider it to be harmless with no health risks involved, the fact is that food that has gone rancid smells bad and tastes foul. So, while it is safe to consume rancid tahini, it is probably better to toss it in the bin if you don’t want your guests to question your cooking skills.
Commercially available sesame seed pastes come with an expiration date, but many people still use it if it smells and tastes good enough. Plus, they are still healthy as a horse despite consuming tahini that was well past the labeled date.
Therefore, if you too have a long forgotten can of tahini in the pantry, then do a quick check to find if it is safe for use. If you smell a pungent or bad smell upon opening the can, throw it away immediately. But if it smells fine, stir the contents gently before tasting a small amount. An off taste is a sign that the sesame seed paste must go in the bin instead of the plate.
How Long Does Tahini Last?
Tahini usually has a long shelf life, but there is no one fixed answer to how long it can actually last before it’s spoiled. Sesame seed paste is somewhat similar to nut butter when it comes to properties and chemical composition. This means that its quality is bound to decrease with time and when the time comes to throw it away, it’s mainly due to the degraded quality rather than the paste being unsafe to use.
Overall, it is believed that unopened tahini can last in the pantry for up to 6 months before its oil goes bad and another six months once it is refrigerated after opening. However, since homemade tahini does not have any preservatives, it is best to consume it within a few weeks.
How to Use Tahini?
Do you think tahini is only used for hummus? What do you do with tahini except adding a spoonful when making hummus? If you answered ‘yes’ and ‘nothing more’ respectively to the two questions, then like the majority of people out there, you too haven’t really tapped into the amazing flavors that this paste adds to various dishes.
Tahini can take many food items to a completely different level. Here are a few ways in which you can use tahini besides the iconic hummus dip.
Cold noodle salad
Combine tahini with soba or udon noodles to make a refreshing cold noodle salad.
You can use tahini to complement picnic side dishes, coleslaw, deviled eggs, and the likes.
To enhance the flavor of various summer soups such as gazpacho, incorporate a spoonful or more of tahini into the mixture.
Whisk tahini and some sesame oil with white wine vinegar to make a tangy vinaigrette.
Give a new twist to cookies by substituting the traditional peanut butter or other nut butter with tahini.
Mix some soy sauce, garlic paste, and tahini, and you have a versatile dipping sauce ready in no time. It will go well with falafel, nuggets, raw veggies and more. You can even use the resulting paste as a marinade mixture for various meats like beef and even chicken.
Moreover, miso, which is made from fermented soybeans and grains, tastes great when combined with tahini. If you have miso readily available or leftover from previous use, then mix it with tahini and use it as a dipping sauce, salad dressing or in any other way that you like.
How to Make Your Own Tahini?
While grabbing a can of tahini paste from your nearest store is surely convenient, have you ever considered making your own tahini at home?
It’s super easy and super quick. Besides, it is likely to taste even better than store-bought tahini because added preservatives and a long wait on the shelf often make the paste bitter and it might, therefore, taste slightly weird. Nothing beats the freshness of homemade tahini after all. Plus, you save paying those extra dollars for expensive canned tahini and instead have one ready for a fraction of the cost.
Here’s how to make this delicious sauce at home.
Note: This recipe yields half to one cup of tahini depending on the amount of oil you use. Increase the quantities proportionally to make more if you need.
What you need
- Sesame seed – 1 cup
- Olive oil and/or sesame oil – 2 tablespoons
- Salt – to taste (optional)
- This is an optional step, but you really want to make great tahini, then toast the raw sesame seeds for a while. You can do this directly over the stovetop by tossing the seeds in a dry pan over low to medium heat or you can toast them in an oven for about five minutes (at 350 degrees Fahrenheit). Be careful not to burn or overdo them. Stop when the seeds become lightly colored (not brown) and give off a slight fragrance.
- Next, place the sesame seeds in a food processor and grind to make a coarse, crumbly paste. You may use a mortar and pestle or even a blender for the job.
- Now add oil to the paste and process for another minute or two. (If you don’t have olive oil, then you can use any neutral oil such as grapeseed oil as a substitute).
- Mix them well till a smooth consistency is reached. Add more oil if you feel the need.
- Add a touch of salt if you prefer.
Your homemade tahini is ready!
Whether you make it in bulk or use only a small quantity, make sure to follow the steps covered above in this article so that the tahini stays fresh, is ready to use and good to go the next time you need it.