IF YOU’RE LOOKING for a versatile addition to your summer cooking arsenal, be sure to add tahini to your pantry.

Tahini is a paste made from ground sesame seeds. It has a mild, nutty flavor and can be used in sweet or savory dishes.

Tahini is commonly used in Middle Eastern and North African cuisine.

Tahini’s mild flavor and creamy texture makes it useful in cooking because it can easily absorb different spices and flavors. It’s also highly nutritious and boasts more calcium than peanut butter, as well as plenty of minerals like selenium, magnesium and zinc.

You can easily make your own tahini at home. You will want to get some hulled sesame seeds, which are readily available online, and lightly roast them before blending them with a little olive oil. If you want your tahini to be nice and creamy, a high-powered blender will work best, but if you don’t mind it being less smooth, you can use a regular blender or food processor.

One of my favorite ways to use tahini is to turn it into a healthy dressing. And dressings aren’t limited to salads; you can make tasty tahini-based dressings and serve them drizzled over meats and fish, too.

Another delicious way to use tahini is to sweeten it, blend it with some coconut oil and finely grated, dried coconut and make it into fudge. I added pistachios but it would work well with almond, pecans or peanuts. Not only is it just as tasty as traditional fudge, tahini fudge is vegan, gluten-free and not full of empty calories.

Did you know: Tahini is essential for making hummus, the wildly popular Mediterranean snack made from chickpeas or cauliflower and is available in different flavors like lemon, garlic and even chocolate.

Looking for other ways to use tahini? Try it as a dip for raw vegetables, use it as replacement for peanut butter, put it on your burger or stir it into soup.

Tahini

4 cups hulled sesame seeds

3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

Add sesame seeds to a skillet and set over medium-low heat. Toast the seeds, stirring constantly, until they are light golden brown. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.

Transfer sesame seeds to a high-powered blender or food processor. Process seeds on high for one minute, then add the olive oil and blend for an additional 1 to 2 minutes, or until the tahini is smooth and creamy.

Pistachio Tahini Fudge

2 1/4 cups tahini

1/2 cup maple syrup

1 tablespoon honey

1/2 cup coconut oil

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 cup roasted and salted pistachios

2 tablespoons desiccated coconut, such as Bob’s Red Mill

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons chopped pistachios

Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper. Spray the baking pan and parchment paper with cooking spray and set aside.

Add the tahini, maple syrup, honey, coconut oil and sea salt to a large bowl and mix until well blended. Stir in the pistachios and desiccated coconut.

Pour the mixture into the pan and spread evenly. Sprinkle chopped pistachios on top. Place the pan in a freezer for two hours, then remove fudge from pan and cut into squares.

Cherry Pecan Salad with Balsamic Tahini Dressing

3 cups spring greens

1 cup arugula

1-2 carrots, peeled into ribbons (use a vegetable peeler and peel the carrots lengthwise)

3/4 cup fresh cherries, halved and pitted

1/2 cup pecans, chopped

2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped

For dressing:

1/2 cup tahini

2 tablespoons honey

2 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 clove garlic, minced

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon white pepper

1/4 cup water

Mix the greens, arugula and carrots in a serving bowl and top with cherries, pecans and basil. Set aside.

To make the dressing, combine the remaining ingredients in a food processor and process for about a minute to combine. For a thinner dressing, add 2 to 3 additional tablespoons of water.

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