By: Erica Bonelli

Tahini [tuh-hee-nee, tah-]: A Middle Eastern paste or sauce made from ground sesame seeds.

If you think you’ve heard the last of the latest nut butter craze (looking at you cashew butter), think again. Tahini, which is a rich nut butter or paste made from sesame seeds and a little oil, is about to rock your world. While it may not go best on top of smoothie bowls, this creamy, savory peanut butter substitute works in almost any other situation. Tahini is an ingredient often found in Middle Eastern, Greek, North African and Turkish cuisines, most commonly found in hummus, salad dressings and dips. Its toasty seed flavor is undeniably one of the best parts about your falafel or kebab — you just didn’t know it. Like avocados and other nut butters, tahini is high in good fats, which is not only beneficial for your health, but your palette as well. At falafel shops in Israel, “green tahini” — or tahini that has been made with green herbs like cilantro and parsley — is pervasive. By adding spices like coriander and chilli pepper, some places also add a little kick to their tahini. Tahini is great spread over crackers, mixed in with salads, as a component of hummus and dressings and as a dip. Adding this simple ingredient can elevate the flavors of your favorite recipes, making them more delicious and satisfying. Don’t know where to start? Try this recipe for chickpea burgers with tahini sauce, courtesy of Eating Well, or read on to find out some of the best shops in Washington serving up tahini.

Chickpea Burgers and Tahini Sauce

Courtesy of Eating Well


Chickpea Burgers

– 1 19-ounce can of chickpeas, rinsed

– 4 scallions, trimmed and sliced

– 1 egg

– 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

– 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano

– ½ teaspoon ground cumin

– ¼ teaspoon salt

– 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

– 2 pitas, halved and warmed, if desired

Tahini Sauce

– ½ cup low-fat plain yogurt

– 2 tablespoons tahini

– 1 tablespoon lemon juice

– 1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

– ¼ teaspoon salt


Cook Time: 25 minutes

Yields: 4 servings

Step 1:

Place chickpeas, scallions, egg, flour, oregano, cumin and salt in a food processor. Pulse, stopping once or twice to scrape down the sides, until a coarse mixture forms that holds together when pressed. (The mixture will be moist.) Form into 4 patties.

Step 2:

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add patties and cook until golden and beginning to crisp, 4 to 5 minutes. Carefully flip and cook until golden brown, 2 to 4 minutes more.

Step 3:

To prepare sauce & serve: Meanwhile, combine yogurt, tahini, lemon juice, parsley and salt in a medium bowl. Warm pitas, if desired. Divide the patties among the pita halves and serve with the sauce.

If you can’t get enough of tahini, we get it. Try these 20 tahini recipes for dips, cookies, noodles and more. Or, if your culinary skills are contained to making nachos in the microwave, don’t worry. These D.C. eateries are serving amazingly rich dishes to help you get your fix of tahini.

Amsterdam Falafelshop: 2425 18th St NW

Kapnos: 2201 14th St NW

Roti Modern Mediterranean: 2221 l Street NW (and other locations)

Zaytinya: 701 9th Street NW