At home, I fly through tahini at an alarming rate, adding it to almost everything I make. I have a gift (though some may say it’s a curse) for making the creamy, toasty Middle Eastern staple disappear, spreading it on toast with honey and cinnamon, swirling it into brownie batter, or blending it with garlic and lemon to make a sauce. With this gift comes a major consequence: I’m often out of tahini (cue dramatic music). Lucky for all of us, we’ve done our research and found the best tahini substitutes. Before you give up on making a tahini-forward recipe like hummus, keep reading—for all you know, a substitute might be stocked in your kitchen, ready to save the day.
Of all the nut butters, cashew butter is your best bet for replacing tahini, (FWIW: we do love almond butter, too). The smooth consistency and subtly bitter nuttiness of cashew butter are reminiscent of tahini, which make it a seamless substitute; try it out in these no-butter chocolate chip cookies for a nutty twist. Keep in mind that nut butters can get expensive and obviously aren’t a safe substitute if you’re allergic. Avoid peanut butter when searching for a tahini substitute; as much as we love peanut butter, its thick texture and distinctive flavor aren’t the best at mimicking the flavor and consistency of tahini.
If you have sunflower seed butter in your pantry, grab it! It’s a great 1:1 substitute for tahini. Bonus: since it’s made from sunflower seeds, it’s safe for people with nut allergies to eat. Sunflower butter also has a similar texture to tahini and a pleasant earthiness in taste. If you don’t have pre-made sunflower butter around, it’s easy to make yourself by grinding toasted sunflower seeds and a splash of oil in a food processor until smooth. Blend it up with punchy ingredients like tamari, garlic, and ginger for a delicious vegan dressing, perfect for grain bowls, slaws, and salads. And if you’re craving hummus but don’t have any tahini, try dipping pita chips and crudités in sunflower butter instead.
If you’re missing the distinctive sesame flavor of tahini, look for sesame oil. Because it’s an oil rather than a spread, it won’t provide the same consistency and be a 1:1 swap, but a little drizzle will provide the sesame notes that you’re searching for. When paired with another ingredient like cashew butter or Greek yogurt, it’s a great option.
This one might be a curveball, but in some recipes—namely for dips and spreads—Greek yogurt works beautifully as a creamy tahini replacement. However, Greek yogurt doesn’t offer the punch of flavor that tahini does; if anything, it can dilute the flavor in a recipe, so use it wisely. Pro tip: Greek yogurt tends to curdle in hot applications, so it’s best to reserve it for room temperature or chilled recipes. Yogurt has a different texture from tahini, so it’s not an exact 1:1 substitution; it’s best to play around with the ingredients and adjust as needed. For example, this Ottolenghi-inspired sweet potato recipe includes a tahini sauce that would be great if you swapped the tahini for yogurt, and maybe added a touch of sesame oil for flavor.
Out of tahini, but have sesame seeds on hand? Problem solved. To make DIY tahini, toast sesame seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant and lightly browned. Next, transfer them to a food processor with a splash of oil and blend away until you reach the texture of tahini.