Tahini Sauce With Garlic and Lemon

A flavorful, garlicky sauce tempered by lemon juice.

Photographs: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

Why This Recipe Works

  • Blending whole garlic cloves in lemon juice prevents harsher garlic flavors from forming, leaving the sauce aromatic instead of pungent.
  • Whisking together the tahini and water slowly and thoroughly makes a light, smooth sauce.

The technique of blending whole unpeeled garlic with lemon to make tahini sauce was something I read in Michael Solomonov's Zahav. With this much garlic you'd think it'd be overwhelming, but don't worry, it stays quite mild due to blending it in the lemon juice.

The garlic and lemon mixture gets pushed through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl. You whisk in some cumin and tahini, which immediately seizes up into a clumpy, cement-like paste. Don't worry: As you slowly whisk in cold water, the mixture transforms into a gloriously light and creamy sauce with the texture of yogurt and a savory nuttiness.

March 2016

Recipe Details

Tahini Sauce With Garlic and Lemon

Prep 10 mins
Active 5 mins
Total 10 mins
Serves 16 servings
Makes 2 cups

A flavorful, garlicky sauce tempered by lemon juice.


  • 1 whole head garlic, broken into individual unpeeled cloves (about 20 cloves)

  • 2/3 cup fresh juice from 3 to 4 lemons (160ml)

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (2g)

  • 1 generous cup tahini paste (about 10 ounces; 300g by weight)

  • Cold water

  • Kosher salt


  1. Combine garlic and lemon juice in a blender. Pulse until a pulpy puree is formed, about 15 short pulses. Transfer to a fine mesh strainer set over a large bowl. Press out as much liquid as you can with the back of a spoon or a rubber spatula, then discard solids.

  2. Add cumin and tahini paste to lemon/garlic juice and whisk to combine. The mixture will seize up and turn pasty. Add water a few tablespoons at a time, whisking in between each addition, until a smooth, light sauce is formed. The tahini sauce should very slowly lose its shape if you let ribbons of it drop from the whisk into the bowl. Season to taste with salt. Refrigerate for up to 1 1/2 weeks.

Special Equipment


Nutrition Facts (per serving)
119 Calories
10g Fat
6g Carbs
4g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 16
Amount per serving
Calories 119
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 10g 13%
Saturated Fat 1g 7%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 47mg 2%
Total Carbohydrate 6g 2%
Dietary Fiber 1g 4%
Total Sugars 0g
Protein 4g
Vitamin C 6mg 30%
Calcium 35mg 3%
Iron 1mg 5%
Potassium 113mg 2%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)