Before we discuss how to create a basic tahini sauce, we thought it would be important to review the properties of good tahini. This way, you can whip up a magical tahini sauce that will be the base to your future dressings, dips, and sauces.
Not all Tahini is Created Equal
Tahini is a staple pantry item that is often neglected. The paste is made from ground sesame seeds and is a versatile, nutritious, and delicious ingredient that can bring savory salad dressings or sweet chocolate brownies to new levels of texture and flavor. It is packed with calcium, iron, protein, and good fats and has been shown to boost brain function and immunity. So why is this savory and smooth Middle Eastern superfood so underrated?
Maybe your experience with tahini just hasn’t been with the right tahini. After all, not all tahini is created equal. Poor quality tahini can be a congealed cement-like sesame paste floating under a layer of oil. Or maybe the tahini your thinking of reminds you more of an off-brand peanut butter than a versatile kitchen essential. If when you think of tahini you think brown and bitter, thick and gritty, then you have definitely not experienced the right or good tahini.
What Good Tahini Should Be and What Makes Soom Tahini Superior
The best tahini is easily pourable and smooth with a mild bitterness to it. Soom Tahini begins with just one high-quality ingredient: 100% Ethiopian White Humera sesame seeds. Ethiopian Humera sesame seeds have the perfect oil to “meat” ratio, which creates a beautiful, creamy texture and a well-rounded nutty flavor with a mellow bitterness.
Our seeds are ground finely, making our tahini super smooth and easy to mix into savory or sweet dishes. Unlike poor quality tahini, which can be overly bitter from being over-roasted or using low-quality seeds, our sesame seeds are gently roasted in small batches to high standards. They are then pressed into a delightfully, well-emulsified creamy paste that requires little-to-no shaking or stirring. In conclusion, Soom Tahini reflects the qualities of good tahini (smooth texture, easy to re-emulsify, and a nutty, faintly bitter flavor). Thus, it will be the star of the show in this basic tahini sauce.
Key Ingredients to Make a Basic Tahini Sauce
There are only five simple ingredients to this basic tahini sauce base: premium tahini, garlic, lemon, salt, and ice-cold water.
Soom Tahini is the base of this irresistible tahini sauce. A subtle dose of garlic adds a pungent fragrance and flavor that enhances the nuttiness of tahini. Freshly-squeezed lemon juice brings a bright citrus tang. Salt sharpens the nutty and citrus flavor of the sauce. But ice water is the key to perfecting uniting all of the ingredients in this pour-on-everything dreamy tahini sauce.
Why Tahini Seizes When Coming into Contact with a Liquid
To achieve this versatile sauce, you can simply whisk the tahini, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and water together, or you can follow the detailed steps below. Don’t worry if you don’t achieve a luscious smooth consistency right away. When you first combine the lemon juice and water with the tahini it will seize up.
Why is this? Why does tahini have that “seize factor” in which by adding any sort of liquid, the tahini clings to itself, making it difficult to stir or whisk into a dreamy sauce?
We looked to cookbook author and tahini expert, Adeena Sussman, for clarity on this. In her cookbook, Sababa, she talks with famed food scientist Harold McGee for a deeper explanation. “‘Tahini is like peanut butter and chocolate,’ he told me via email. ‘All of them consist of tiny dry particles surrounded by oil or fat. When you add ingredients that contain any moisture, the dry particles absorb it and start sticking to each other, and the mixture seizes up,’ he continued. Not to worry though: ‘If you add enough moisture to hydrate the particles completely, then they no longer stick to each other and the mixture flows again. It’s the same thing you see when you add water slowly to cornstarch,’ he concluded.”
So, keep in mind that this is just a normal part of the process. As you add more ice water and continue to mix, the sauce will loosen and combine into a luscious sauce.
While tahini is the star of this recipe, ice-cold water is the key to success. Add ice to a glass of water right before you begin this sauce to ensure that your water is very cold. The cold water helps the mixture emulsify and transform from firm and clumpy gooey, to smooth and creamy. The end result is so smooth and full-bodied, you might forget that it’s 100% vegan!
Feel Free to Customize This Sauce
Add more water for a thinner consistency to drizzle, or less water for dips and hummus. Then customize your sauce or dressing to bring your dish to life! Include more salt to enhance the overall flavor, more lemon juice for a sharper tang, or vinegar and oils if you’re looking for your new favorite vinaigrette. Or, whisk in, or mix in by using a blender, fresh herbs like parsley, cilantro, dill or chive to add herbaceous, fresh-tasting flavor.
This sauce can be added to fresh or roasted vegetables, salads, falafel, pita bread, or can be used as the base for the best hummus you will ever eat. No matter what toppings or inclusions you add to this sauce, we know it will elevate whatever you pair it with.
Finally, the moment you’ve all been waiting for: here’s how to create the best basic tahini sauce.
How to Make the Best Basic Tahini Sauce
Servings: 2 cups
Total Time: 15 minutes
- 3/4 cup Soom Tahini
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 lemon, juiced; plus more to taste
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 cup ice-cold water, plus more if necessary
- 1/4 tsp cumin
- Marinate the garlic in the freshly-squeeze lemon juice for 10 minutes with half the salt. Garlic tends to have a harsh, pungent sharpness that might make the sauce too sharp and spicy. The acidity of lemon juice prevents the garlic from becoming too spicy. For an even deeper flavor, we suggest doing this step in a blender or a food processor. Blend on high for a few seconds and let the mixture stand for 10 minutes so that the garlic mellows.
- Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer and discard the garlic chunks. This steps ensures a perfectly smooth sauce and prevents the harsh taste of garlic from empowering the sauce.
- Add in the tahini and rest of the salt. At this time, although not required, you can add in cumin to round out the flavor of the sauce. Whisk together. The tahini will seize at this point.
- Add in ice cold water tablespoon by tablespoon. The addition of the ice cold water will loosen the sauce. Continue to whisk all ingredients together until desired consistency has been reached.
- Adjust taste if necessary. In case you feel that the sauce is lacking, add in additional lemon juice, salt, or other spices to give the sauce that flavor you’re looking for.
- Store in the fridge for up to 1 week. When you take it out of the fridge, be sure to add more water or lemon juice to thin in. Add a little salt if necessary to bring out the flavors.