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Creamy, tangy lemon tahini dressing is all-in-one sauce or salad dressing that’s so versatile you’ll want to use it on everything! Make the dressing and keep it in the fridge to use all week as a sauce for roasted veggies and grain bowls. Or make an instant salad with chopped greens combined with any kind of protein you like! Tahini dressing is naturally vegan and dairy-free.
Lemony, creamy, and savory tahini dressing belongs in your life! I literally pour it over everything from plain green salads to grilled chicken and fish. It’s pairs so perfectly with Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dishes.
This tahini dressing recipe is a delicious dairy-free, vegan mayo substitute for any salad dressing made with eggs or even a basic Caesar salad dressing.
What’s the difference between tahini sauce and tahini dressing?
Think of tahini sauce as a “base” for other sauces. It’s a simple mixture of tahini paste, garlic, water and lemon. Tahini sauce is the foundation for dressings and other quick sauces. My dressing includes olive oil, spices and vinegar to balance the flavors and thin the consistency.
Ingredients in tahini dressing
- Tahini paste: Shake or stir it up before measuring.
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Fresh lemon juice
- Apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar
- Garlic clove
- Hot sauce (your favorite brand)
- Cumin: ground cumin or cumin seed add a Middle Eastern touch. Feel free to leave it out.
- Cayenne or red pepper flakes: Use as much as you like according to your preference. I use just 1/4 teaspoon, which adds a very mild heat.
- Cold water: Ice-cold water makes a super-smooth and creamy dressing. If you’re whisking the dressing by hand, add in 1 or 2 ice cubes and stir until they melt into the dressing.
Tahini is a paste made from ground sesame seeds. It’s a pantry staple and condiment in the Middle East and parts of the Mediterranean. One of my favorite food writers refers to tahini as “Israeli peanut butter”!
Of course, tahini is a key ingredient in homemade hummus along with chickpeas.
- Tahini paste is made simply with one ingredient: pure sesame seeds. The seeds are roasted and ground to a smooth paste.
- Sesame seeds are typically hulled before grinding, creating a creamy beige-colored paste. Unhulled seeds make a darker paste with a more pronounced sesame flavor. Tahini made from hulled sesame seeds is what you’ll usually find in supermarkets.
- The best tahini producers source their sesame seeds from Ethiopia, where the rich soil produces seeds prized for their flavor and quality.
And yes — tahini is good for you! Tahini has gained stature as a superfood, full of beneficial omega acids, protein and especially calcium — one tablespoon of tahini contains a whopping 64 mg.
How does tahini taste?
Tahini tastes rich and sweetly nutty, with a pleasant toasty undertone. It’s not as intense as a nut butter (such as peanut butter) and it has a lovely velvety texture. I eat it straight from the spoon!
Storing tahini: Does tahini separate? Meaning, does the oil eventually create a layer on top of the creamy paste? Yes. In fact, it can be pretty annoying to open a jar of tahini and find the paste is too firm and difficult to stir together. That’s a sign that the tahini has been sitting around for a while.
Shopping for tahini: Fresh tahini is less likely to separate, and will have a consistency of thick heavy cream. Avoid jars that have thick layer of oil on top or containers that don’t budge when you shake them. In the kitchen, you should only need to give the tahini a good shake or stir to blend before pouring or spooning it out.
Happily, because tahini recipes have become so popular, it’s easier than ever to find excellent freshly-ground tahini paste in your grocery store or online. My go-to brands are made from fresh Ethiopian sesame seeds and are silky-smooth straight from the jar.
Tahini dressing variations:
- Add in a handful of fresh herbs such as cilantro, dill, parsley, basil or mint. They will make a fragrant green tahini dressing!
- If you enjoy a bit of sweetness, add a tablespoon or so maple syrup or honey before blending.
- Blend in ground spices or herbs you enjoy, such as za’atar, cumin, coriander. Improvise a dairy-free “ranch” style dressing by adding in tarragon, onion powder, black pepper and garlic powder.
How to use tahini dressing for quick, everyday meals
Tahini dressing has a place in healthy meal plan and it’s so versatile! Here are some ideas:
- Drizzle over a big leafy green salad. Add some sliced cucumbers, tomato and feta cheese for a Mediterranean-style lunch.
- Pour over grain bowls and roasted veggies — especially with spicy roasted sweet potatoes.
- Use it as a sauce for cooked proteins like meat, poultry or fish. I love it with spiced chicken meatballs salad and these easy chicken kabobs.
- Spread into pita sandwiches or mix a tasty caesar salad.
- Use it instead of mayonnaise on a potato salad.
- Serve as a dip with assorted crisp raw vegetables like carrot sticks, cauliflower and broccoli florets, sugar snap or sweet peas.
Storage: Tahini dressing keeps well in the refrigerator for a week or so. Stir it up to blend before using, adding additional water and/or lemon juice if it has thickened up.
Tangy Tahini Dressing
Yield: About 2/3 cup
- ⅓ cup (80 g) tahini paste, stirred
- ⅓ cup (80 ml) ice-cold water
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) apple cider vinegar, or white wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) fresh lemon juice
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 teaspoon hot sauce
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin, optional
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Put all ingredients in a work bowl of a food processor. Process until the dressing is smooth and creamy. Depending on the thickness of the tahini, you may need to scrape down the bowl once or twice.
- Pour into a lidded container, such as a glass jar. Use the dressing right away, or store in the refrigerator up to 1 week (shake the dressing to blend if it separates).
Karen’s Notes and Tips
- If you don’t have a food processor, blend the dressing in a blender or whisk all ingredients in a bowl.
- Tip: If whisking by hand, add in 1 or 2 ice cubes and whisk until they melt into the dressing. They will make the consistency so light, fluffy and creamy!