The Amazing Tahini — History and 4 Amazing Recipes : Guest Author Nomi Shannon

Tuesday May 15 | BY |
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Tahini is made from sesame seeds, and is full of nutrients and protein.

Sesame seeds are best known as toppings for rolls and bread in North America, but in other parts of the world they are an important source of high quality protein and edible oil. These tiny light beige or black seeds are made up of 55% oil and 45% protein. The long shelf life of sesame oil is most likely due to its antioxidant properties.

Whole sesame seeds are commonly ground into a butter, called tahini, with a consistency a bit thinner than peanut butter. Available roasted or raw, the healthiest choice would be tahini made out of raw sesame seeds, with nothing added, subtracted or refined. Available ground from hulled or unhulled seeds, you can choose either—it’s a matter of preference. The unhulled variety, however, could have more roughage than desirable for some people. If the jar does not use the word ‘raw,’ then assume it is made from toasted sesame seeds.

A Little Bit of History
A fascinating discovery created interest in tahini. During both World War II and the Korean War, Turkish aviators were well known for their physical and mental endurance. Upon investigation, it was discovered that tahini was an important part of their daily diet. Since then, growing interest in ethnic foods has introduced many people to hummus, a chick-pea-tahini spread or dip that is a staple in the mid-east, and baba-gannouj, which contains eggplant and tahini.

A nutritional powerhouse, tahini contains all the essential amino acids, making it a high quality protein, plus it is rich in lecithin, vitamin E and calcium. It is easily digestible because its high alkaline mineral content neutralizes the acid end products of the protein. Because of its non-acid nature, tahini is an ideal protein source for people with weak digestive systems, invalids and young children, and is an excellent source of quick energy for active people and athletes.

Where to Find It
Raw tahini can be purchased from several mail order sources, usually at great savings over health food store prices. Many health food stores carry only roasted sesame tahini, but if you ask them to carry raw tahini they may comply, because the same sources that manufacture the roasted tahini also make raw tahini.

In the process of grinding the whole raw seeds into tahini, reputable companies keep the temperature from the friction in the grinding mechanism right around 100 ° degrees Fahrenheit, which is well below the 118 ° it takes to kill enzymes. The jars are then immediately capped with a special lid that creates a vacuum. There is no need for pasteurization, or for the manufacturer to immerse the bottled raw tahini into boiling liquids or steam. You should be getting raw tahini that really is a raw food product. (This same information also applies to raw nut butters and is based on a conversation with a manufacturer. Hopefully it’s true, but unfortunately there are no guarantees.)

Benefits to Health
Tahini is a useful food because of its healthful properties, pleasant taste and adaptability in recipes. At this point, it’s also more economical than most nut butters. As its popularity in the West increases, however, so probably will the price. Currently a jar of tahini costs about one third less than a jar of almond butter. If you’ve never used it, now would be a good time to start. You will be able to make many dressings, soups and main courses that take advantage of all tahini has to offer.

Recipes Made with Tahini (from The Raw Gourmet ©Books Alive by Nomi Shannon)

Frozen Vanilla Bliss
This tastes very much like dairy soft serve ice cream, only better. Not only is it a great way to start your day but it also makes a healthy snack. Use more tahini if you are a bodybuilder or are trying to increase your (good) fat, protein and calorie intake. Bodybuilders might try 1 cup of water, 4 tablespoons of tahini and 2 frozen bananas. The addition of carob or other fruit works very well in this recipe–let your imagination run wild! If you prefer a sweeter drink, add one or two soaked dates, or a bit of maple syrup (which is not raw).

3/4 cup water
2 tablespoons raw tahini, or more to taste
1-2 frozen bananas, cut in chunks
Dash vanilla (optional)

In blender, combine water, tahini, banana and vanilla. Blend until thick and smooth. Serve immediately. Serves 1.

Creamy Carrot Asparagus Soup
This could be called the king of soups. The fiber in the asparagus creates a delightful texture, and the tahini gives the soup a smooth quality. Do not use the woody ends of the asparagus; chop only the most tender part, about two inches from the end.

1 cup carrot juice
1 cup coarsely chopped asparagus, or more to taste
2 heaping tablespoons raw tahini or almond butter
1 teaspoon chopped onion, or more to taste
Nama Shoyu (a raw soy sauce) or celtic sea salt, to taste
Dulse flakes, to taste

In a blender, combine the carrot juice, asparagus, tahini, onion, nama shoyu and dulse flakes. Blend all the ingredients until smooth. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Yields approximately
1 1/2 cups. Serves 1.

Variation: Heat soup in the top of a double boiler or over very low heat until it is warm to the touch. For extra spice, stir in 1/2 teaspoon wasabi powder. Or try it with a dash of curry powder or for a nice East Indian flair, use some garam masala.

Orange Tahini Dressing
This delightful light dressing only takes a few minutes to make. Its simplicity invites variation. Try adding 1-2 teaspoons tamari (a soy sauce made without wheat), or 2 teaspoons poppy seeds and 1/4 teaspoon Chinese 5-spice powder.

2 tablespoons raw tahini
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon dulse flakes
1 teaspoon grated ginger root
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon curry powder
Pinch sea salt
optional: curry powder, dried Kaffir Lime leaf

In a small bowl, place the tahini. Add the orange juice gradually, blending it with the tahini. Add the dulse, ginger, cinnamon, curry, and salt. Yields approximately 1/2 cup.

Halvah is a candy popular in the Middle East, where it is made from ground sesame seeds. This is far superior to the store bought variety. For a lighter version, make this recipe with the almond pulp left over from making almond milk. (Use the almond pulp the day you make it.)

1 1/2 cups raw almonds
1/2 cup raw tahini
3 tablespoons honey (or 3-4 soaked dates)
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a food processor, place almonds and process until finely ground. Add the tahini, honey and vanilla, and process thoroughly. Press the mixture onto a plate or pan until it is 1/2″ (1 cm) thick. (Don’t worry about filling the pan, just press the mixture to the correct thickness.) Chill the halvah in the refrigerator for 1 hour or more, then cut it into bite-sized pieces and roll into little balls. Yields 20-24 pieces.

Variation: Add 3 tablespoons carob to mixture.

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Picture courtesy Gudlyf via

Nomi Shannon

Nomi Shannon

Nomi Shannon is an award winning author and world renowned coach. Her best selling book, The Raw Gourmet, has sold over 200,000 copies. Her second book, Raw Food Celebrations (with S.Duruz), is flying off the shelves at bookstores worldwide. Since 2008, Nomi has received numerous Best of Raw Awards for: Best Raw Educator, Favorite Raw Chef and Favorite Raw Book (for The Raw Gourmet, Raw Food Celebrations, and best in Media for What Do Raw Fooders Eat) as well as best Blog, best Online Store and her personal favorite, Funniest Raw Woman.

She’s not only a certified Hippocrates Health Educator; she actually ran The Hippocrates Health Institute’s Certification Course back in the early 1990’s. Raw since 1987, Nomi has been featured in Alive magazine, Get Fresh, San Diego North County Times, and Galveston News, as well as numerous radio shows and other media.

Nomi is known for teaching people proven steps to keeping — or regaining — vibrant health. Her website offers breakthrough information, product reviews, delicious recipes, an ezine and an online course — all free of charge. She also offers online coaching courses, her books, raw kitchen equipment, DVDs, phone consultations and live classes. Since there’s conflicting information about what the “best” raw food diet is, many raw fooders wonder what to eat. Nomi shows people a simple path to thriving on raw food and leaving the confusion behind. Just as important, she empowers people to whip up delicious meals quickly and easily, turning newbies into thriving home chefs practically overnight.


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  1. Hi Kevin an Annmarie! Just clicked in from your video Raw Flax Crackers and Guacamole Recipe. It was great! I will try your recipe/s. Thanks for sharing. You can check out my recipe for Corn & Black Bean Vegan Crispy Chips. They are great. I would like to share your video on my dehydrator/dehydrating page on my new site, Chard In The Yard. I’ve watched a few of your videos in the past few months, always enjoyable and informative. Love your upbeat and happy attitudes. Thanks, Joan

  2. Melissa says:

    Yes, I made tahini, peanut butter and spelt biscuits a couple of weeks ago and they were delish!

  3. Lance says:

    Wow! Can’t wait to try the Tahini recipe! I love hummus but I’ve never tried working with raw tahini yet. Do you have a few brands you recommend?

    I found one by Kevala that people seemed to be raving about and also seemed to be one of the best values:

    Again, curious to see what you recommend as well!

  4. Nomi says:

    Hi Lance. I don’t know if Kevala is RAW. I was able to read the label at that url you provided and it said organic sesame seeds, normally if it’s RAW is uses the word RAW.

    Maranantha and Artisana both make a raw tahini. When I need more quantity
    I have ordered it from, their price always seems competitive to me. Be sure to call them and explain you are a raw fooder, they do understand what that is and will be honest about their products with you.

    The price of tahini has been going up. I think it’s due to its popularity with raw fooders, but it also seems harder to find in the raw-centric stores I sometimes go to.

  5. Lauren says:

    Looks like I will be needing to make my own raw tahini, any suggestions?

  6. Kym says:

    Thanks. This is an excellent resource. I eat quite a bit of black and white sesame as raw seeds and in products like sesame tofu and some oil. But I have been looking for a good tahini recipe for ages.

  7. zyxomma says:

    I love organic raw tahini as an ingredient (I used it and raw almond butter to make a quick nut mylk a few days ago, and use it to thicken my balsamic vinaigrette).

    But — the photo is pine nuts (pignoli), not sesame seeds!

    Health and peace.

  8. Karen says:

    Thanks for the recipes. I already have Nomi’s book but it’s good to have all the tahini recipes together. I hardly use tahini, so you gave some yummy ideas to try. Thanks!

  9. Nomi says:

    I would never lick a spoon with tahini on it. I don’t like it on it’s own at all the way I do almond butter for example. However it is very yummy in recipes.

    I am pretty lazy when it comes to making my own tahini or nut butters. I don’t- but then again I do live in Southern California so I can find the ready made pretty easily.

    To make tahini or any nut butter it depends greatly on what kind of equipment you have on hand. A heavy-duty blender works best, a Ktec, BlendTec or Vita Mix.

    K-tec just came out with a new ‘twister jar’ I just received it and haven’t tried it yet, but I can see it will work well. You twist the lid while blending and it has these long ‘tines’ that pulls dense food away from the walls of the jar and into the center of the ‘blending vortex’.

    The instructions for almond butter using this latest and greatest jar and lid simply state to blend at speed 7 til smooth and creamy. Normally some additional oil is required to get the right consistency. So I am excited to try this new jar out.

    You can use just plain raw almonds, or soaked dehydrated almonds. With sesame seeds, as long as you have a good volume of them, a couple of cups- with their high fat content they probably don’t need additional oil, but again it depends on your equipment.

    You can also make nut/seed butter using the kind of juicer that has an auger of some sort and a blank screen…which forces all the food out of the ‘nose’ of the blender. But it’s much messier and you probably can’t get it as smooth as you can in a heavy duty blender.

    If you have a lesser blender I don’t recommend trying to blend dry nuts or seeds. I have burned out a few blender motors trying that.

    Here’s a quick recipe in the Ktec Twister Jar Recipe book (actually it’s Blend tec, ktec is the home version blender, Blendtec is the parent company name.)

    1 1/4 cups raw almonds
    2 Tablespoons raw cocoa (note: I bet it needs more)
    2 Tablespoons coconut oil
    3 Tablespoons Granulated sugar (! note surely
    coconut or palm sugar would work here)
    1/16 tsp sea salt they said Kosher salt but
    I don’t recommend going there.

    Let me know how it turns out. I am the only person I think in the USA who has no appreciation for nutella. This is trying to be a raw version of nutella. Which I think actually uses filberts which are oilier than almonds.

  10. mork says:

    In Canada, the only truly raw tahini available is Living Tree Community Foods. Maranatha’s products are not truly raw as they heat their butters above a reasonable temperature. They are cheaper, but not better quality!

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