Is Tahini Vegan? Here Is Everything You Need To Know

Moving toward a vegan diet can be difficult at times; you have to watch out for animal-based ingredients in all sorts of products, and you might not always feel sure about whether a product is vegan-friendly or not. With that in mind, let’s find out, is tahini vegan?

Tahini is vegan in almost all cases; this product is made mostly from toasted sesame seeds, and it rarely has anything else in it. However, tahini sauce, which you will sometimes see served in restaurants with many Middle Eastern cuisines, is not vegan, because it often contains yogurt.

We’re going to look at the different kinds of tahini and whether they are suitable for vegans, as well as how you can ensure that your tahini is vegan. We’ll also cover how to buy tahini and how to make your own tahini to ensure it is vegan.

What Is Tahini?

is tahini vegan

Tahini is a kind of paste made from sesame seeds. It is similar to peanut butter or almond butter, but it isn’t often eaten on toast. Instead, it is used in various kinds of cooking, and it’s a core ingredient for things like hummus.

It has an earthy, savory, creamy, and slightly bitter flavor that makes it delicious when paired with many Middle Eastern foods. You can’t make good hummus without tahini, because it lends the chickpeas the creaminess and depth of flavor that they would otherwise lack.

Many people love tahini without even realizing that they are eating it, because it’s so critical for foods like hummus. Although it’s not as popular as peanut butter, some people do spread it on toast, and you will also find it in foods like:

  • Tahini sauce
  • Baba ganoush
  • Tarator sauce
  • Salad dressing
  • Falafel (as an accompaniment)

How Is Tahini Made?

Tahini usually has just one or two ingredients: sesame seeds and olive oil. Some manufacturers do not add oil, and simply use the natural oils in the sesame seeds. If oil isn’t added, the tahini paste is likely to be a little thicker, but still perfectly edible and enjoyable. Tahini is super easy to make, although the recipes and approaches can vary to a surprising degree.

In most cases, sesame seeds are hulled, toasted, and then ground up into a smooth paste using a food processor. Sometimes, the toasting is skipped and the tahini is made using raw sesame seeds. A few recipes do not hull the sesame seeds first, although this tends to result in a coarser, more rustic spread, which won’t suit all tastes.

The secret to great tahini lies in getting the right balance of seeds and oil, and using high-quality ingredients. A low-quality oil will work, but it may make your tahini taste greasy or unpleasant, and it should be avoided.

Is Tahini Really Vegan?

Tahini is vegan in almost all cases, yes. Because it only requires sesame seeds and oil, there is no need for the manufacturers to add other ingredients, and these two ingredients are suitable for vegans.

You won’t see things like honey, dairy, or even borderline ingredients like sugar in tahini recipes. Tahini is naturally suitable for vegans and it’s usually a food you can choose safely.

Additionally, tahini is naturally gluten-free, which is great if you suffer from celiacs or any other wheat-related digestive issues. This makes it ideal for many people who have restricted diets or who are trying to reduce their dependence on animal products.

Tahini is also free from nuts, which means it’s great for vegans who can’t safely enjoy peanut butter or almond butter. It contains a little less protein than peanut butter, but it still packs a decent protein punch, and it’s low in sugar and fairly low in calories.

It’s therefore a great option for vegans with all kinds of dietary restrictions, or simply for those who love a more earthy, unusual flavor than that offered by peanut butter. It can even be used in baking as a way of bumping up protein.

Can You Make Tahini At Home?

You can make tahini at home, but be aware that you will need a high-power blender if you want to achieve that delightfully creamy, smooth texture that most people are looking for in tahini. If you don’t have a great blender, you may be better off buying your tahini in stores.

As you’ll already be aware, you don’t need a lot of ingredients to make tahini at home, and it’s a super easy food to throw together. You should experiment with different recipes to see which variations you prefer, but the most basic essentially involves:

  • Hull your sesame seeds or purchase ready-hulled seeds.
  • Set a skillet over medium heat and add the sesame seeds to the pan. There is no need to oil the pan; the sesame seeds contain natural oils that will prevent them from sticking.
  • Lightly toast the sesame seeds to bring out the flavors. They should take on a little color. Keep stirring them so that they don’t stick in the dry pan.
  • Turn the heat off and allow the sesame seeds to cool, and then blend them thoroughly with oil until you have a smooth paste.

If you would prefer not to use oil, you don’t have to, but be aware that the paste might be slightly thicker than commercial pastes. Many people don’t mind this, and would rather just have blended sesame seeds – which makes this the ultimate simple recipe to make at home.

Some people also like to add a pinch of salt to their tahini during the mixing process. However, most recipes don’t call for this because it’s so easy to add it later, and this gives you more control over how much salt you want for any particular meal. Tahini doesn’t need salt mixing into it. 

How Does Tahini Taste?

Tahini tastes rather like peanut butter but has a slightly more bitter and earthy flavor. It is very distinctive and quite nutty. You may find that it’s a little creamier than peanut butter, which many people love. It goes well with Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine.

Is Tahini Healthy?

Tahini is considered healthy, especially for vegans, who may struggle to include enough protein in their diets. There are many things that make this spread healthy, including its vitamin content. It contains vitamin B1 and vitamin B3, among other B vitamins. It also contains vitamin E.

Furthermore, it is a source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which many vegans struggle to get into their diets in sufficient quantities. These are important for a healthy heart and cell regeneration, so you want to make sure that you are consuming them.

You will also get many important nutrients, including potassium, calcium, magnesium, and more. Tahini has around 17 grams of protein per 100 grams, which is an impressive amount and should help you to achieve your daily intake.

It is also low in saturated fats, and high in unsaturated fats, meaning that it is good for your heart. However, it does have a lot of calories in it and although the fats are healthy, you should only be consuming them in small quantities. Tahini should be enjoyed as part of a balanced vegan diet – so don’t eat too much of it!

Where Should You Buy Tahini?

You can buy tahini in most good grocery stores, although it is not as commonly seen as the other nut butters – such as peanut butter and almond butter. It may also be harder to find, because it is more versatile, so it can be included in a variety of categories. You may find it alongside peanut butter, but you might find it elsewhere.

Some stores will put it in their “world foods” aisle, while others will include it among the condiments. If you aren’t able to find it, ask one of the store staff to help you, because its location can vary widely!

If you can’t get tahini locally, consider sourcing some sesame seeds and making your own at home. It should only take about 15 minutes and it creates minimal mess or fuss in the kitchen.

Is Tahini Dressing Vegan?

Tahini dressing is something that you should watch out for; it often is not vegan, even though the tahini aspect is. That is because tahini dressing (sometimes known as tahini sauce) may contain dairy ingredients, such as Greek yogurt, to thin it and give it a creamier flavor.

If you are eating out at a restaurant and you see tahini on the menu, it is very important to check that this refers to the vegan paste, and not to the sauce, which is not always suitable for vegans. If it refers to the sauce, get a full list of the ingredients to help yourself determine whether it is okay for you to eat.

To be clear, tahini sauce or dressing can sometimes be vegan, so you may be able to eat this in some places. However, you should always check, and not assume that it is vegan. If you want to make tahini sauce at home, choose a vegan recipe or use vegan yogurt as a substitute for the Greek yogurt.

Do You Need To Check Whether Tahini Is Vegan?

If you are just buying a jar of tahini from the store, you should not need to check whether this is vegan or not, because it should just contain sesame seeds, and sometimes oil. However, it is best to check and make sure, just in case.

Tahini should not contain any animal products, but for peace of mind, many vegans will run through the ingredients list anyway. This ensures that the product really does not contain anything that has been derived from animals, and eliminates any risk of an odd ingredient making it unsuitable for vegans.

Some jars of tahini will say suitable for vegans on the front, while others won’t. If the jar doesn’t say this and it’s a brand you aren’t familiar with, it is always best to check the ingredients before you purchase and eat it, just in case something unusual has been added. 

However, you don’t usually need to check whether tahini is vegan, and this is purely for your peace of mind.

Can You Use Tahini Instead Of Other Nut Butters?

Many vegans find that nut butters can be a problem at times – they can be made with just nuts, but they often contain additional ingredients that make them unsuitable for vegans. You may see things like whey powder in them, and if you can’t easily eat your local nut butter offerings, you might be wondering whether tahini is a suitable option.

Tahini can generally be exchanged for other nut butters, yes, but you will get a different flavor. If your recipe calls for peanut butter and you use tahini, you will probably find that the overall taste is more earthy and perhaps a little more bitter. 

However, the consistency will be similar, and many people like this depth of flavor. Tahini is a versatile option and because it is almost always vegan, it may be your safest bet if you are trying to find a suitable nut butter. If you choose one of the other butters, you will need to read through the ingredients list with more care.

If you don’t want to use tahini in a recipe, you can use almond butter, hazelnut butter, or peanut butter in most cases, but be aware that they will modify the flavor and may make it taste less complex. They should work, but they won’t produce the same food – which is why people don’t normally make hummus with peanuts.

Conclusion

Tahini is vegan in most cases, yes; it is very rare to see any ingredients beyond sesame seeds and occasionally oil or salt in the mix. It’s an ideal, protein-packed food for vegans who are looking for something a bit different, and it plays a role in many kinds of cooking.

Alexandre Valente

Hey there! My name is Alex and I've been vegan for more than five years! I've set up this blog because I'm really passionate about veganism and living a more eco-conscious life. Hopefully, I can use this website as a channel to help you out on your own journey!

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