What Can I Substitute for Tahini? 7 Alternatives

Published Categorized as Food
Monika Adamczyk

Top tahini subs are: 1) Peanut butter, 2) Cashew butter, 3) Almond butter, 4) Sunflower butter, 5) Sesame oil, 6) Sesame paste, 7) Hummus.

If you can’t make it at home, tahini is not the easiest thing to source. But luckily, there are plenty of ways you can substitute tahini.

Some tahini substitutes can be found with little effort, though, some alternatives may be as hard as tahini to find.

Almost all of the substitutes can be used one-for-one with tahini, but some may need a little assistance—or assist other substitutes—to get it just right.

And some of the best tahini substitutes are a bit nutty, as in they are literally made from nuts. So, some of these substitutes are simply not an option.

Plus, there are just some foods you don’t want to add a nutty taste to.

So, be sensible and think about what you want to achieve with tahini before you go mad scientist with these substitutes!

Best Substitutes for Tahini

Here are our top seven subs for tahini. Remember to keep in mind what you’re trying to achieve—don’t just go for the easiest solution, it might not be the most suitable.

Peanut Butter

What makes peanut butter such a great tahini substitute is that you’ll probably have it at home. It’s the best emergency substitute if you just realized you don’t have tahini.

Just like tahini, it has a similar texture, color, and flavor—but it’s not an option for people with nut allergies, and its nut taste may be a bit too much for some.

How to make it work: One-to-one. A peanut butter tahini substitute will work best if it’s smooth, and not crunchy (blend it if necessary). It should also be pourable.

Almond Butter

One of peanut butter’s lesser-known brothers, almond butter, is like peanut butter but made from (wait for it!…) almonds.

Again, almond butter has a similar texture and color to tahini but with an obvious nutty taste. What makes it better than peanut butter is that almond butter is generally smoother.

How to make it work: Almond butter can also be used one-to-one to replace tahini. Again, almond butter is not an option for people with nut allergies!

Cashew Butter

Another butter made of nuts, cashew butter is a creamy beige food spread that closely resembles tahini and has a close texture. Do not use it if people are allergic to nuts!

What makes cashew butter stand out over similar nut-based butter is that its nutty taste is not too overpowering.

How to make it work: In most cases, you can swap cashew butter one-to-one with tahini but only use it in recipes you know a nutty taste won’t be an issue. 

Sunflower Butter

Yes, another buttery option (but this time without nuts!), it is a paste made from sunflower seeds and looks remarkably close to tahini.

Most often used in place of peanut butter as a nut-free alternative, so if you think any of the nut substitutes are best but can’t eat nuts, you should be considering sunflower butter.

How to make it work: You can also substitute sunflower butter for tahini one-to-one with little need to consider other factors.

Sesame Oil

Sesame oil is a bit of a wild card as most obviously, it has a vastly different texture, but both tahini and sesame oil are made from ground sesame seeds.

If you’re looking to make homemade hummus but don’t have tahini, sesame oil is the best alternative—there are many recipes online that explain how.

How to make it work: On its own, sesame oil will not work. It is best used with peanut, cashew, or almond butter to get it closer to tahini. Use only a tiny amount.

Sesame Paste

Sesame paste is tahini’s Chinese cousin, and you guessed it, it’s also made of sesame seeds.

What differentiates sesame paste from tahini is its darker color and stronger taste which is a result of being made from toasted sesame seeds.

How to make it work: You may be able to swap sesame paste for tahini one-for-one, but taste some beforehand—if it is significantly stronger, use less.

Hummus

Tahini is a primary ingredient of hummus alongside chickpeas, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and water.

After peanut butter, hummus may be the second most practical tahini substitute if you have it stored in your kitchen.

How to make it work: You can substitute hummus for tahini one-for-one but note that it may be a little more flavorsome than tahini because of the extra ingredients.

How Can I Substitute Tahini?

You can substitute tahini in several ways. Sure, some of the options may be a bit exotic, but some are not so usual and can be found at home.

But most importantly, you don’t have to make tahini from scratch or combine multiple things to substitute it—many substitutes can be used one for one.

Here’s a quick summary of our top tahini substitutes:

  • Sesame paste is the closest substitute.
  • Peanut butter may be the most practical option if you have it at home.
  • Cashew butter is one of the mildest of the ‘butter’ substitutes for tahini, and almond butter is not far off.
  • Hummus is another practical option as you may already have it.
  • Sesame oil can be used when making hummus or to enhance a nut-based tahini substitute.
  • Sunflower butter can be used in place of peanut butter, cashew butter, or almond butter.

If you’re making something at home for guests, make sure you ask about nut allergies before using any of the nut substitutes!

What Makes a Good Tahini?

An article by Minimalist Baker reviewed several tahinis made solely from sesame seeds (they claim they were not paid for the review) and considers Baron’s Organic Tahini the best.

Inspired Taste sums up the consistency of tahini, saying “It should be smooth, not gritty, and should be pourable.”

Darker tahini is considered healthier as it contains more nutrients, though, some say lighter tahini is nicer tasting and would recommend it over darker variants.

There are a couple of things you can do in the store to make sure you’re getting top-quality tahini.

Check the ingredients label to make sure nothing extra is added than the necessary ingredients.

Check the jar. Is there a thick layer of oil floating on top? Avoid oily tahini as it could mean it was made with oily seeds.

So, to best substitute tahini, it should be smooth and pourable, be made primarily from sesame seeds (if possible), not be too oily, and have no unnecessary added extras.

Light tahini will be easier to substitute than darker tahini aesthetically.

Best Low-Calorie Substitute for Tahini

Tahini is not particularly high in calories and so it’s not too surprising that some of us would prefer a tahini substitute to be the same.

If you decide to use a nut-based substitute, almond, cashew, or sunflower butter will likely be healthier options than peanut butter, though, this will depend on the brand and ingredients.

Sesame paste, as a remarkably close relative to tahini, is believed to have many of the same health effects, such as lowering inflammation, antioxidants, and even anti-aging effects.

Best Nut-Free Tahini Substitute

If you can’t consume any of the tahini substitutes with nuts—or don’t feel like using peanut butter as a salad dressing—your options are sunflower butter, hummus, or sesame paste.

Skip peanut, cashew, and almond butter. Sesame oil will likely not be a good option either as it’s primarily used to boost nut butter.

By Craig Britton

As children, we’re told not to play with our food. But I find that food tastes best when you experiment with it. I love trying out new recipes and cooking techniques almost as much as I love eating the end result.

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