If you just looked at the picture and didn't read the title, you probably just thought this was hummus, right? Wrong! While they look superficially similar, hummus is made primarily of chickpeas, while tahina is a puree of sesame seeds seasoned with lemon juice and garlic.
Hummus is well-known in the west, inspiring frightful variations with textures comparable to drywall cement, while tahina's praises go unsung. Which is a shame, because it is easy to throw together, delicious, and very nutritious.
To make matters more confusing, tahina can also be spelled tehineh or tehina, and its main ingredient is tahini. All you have to keep in mind is that tahini is just the pureed raw sesame seeds, while tahina is the prepared sauce.
Once you've made it, which takes all of five minutes, serve your tahina as a simple appetizer with toasted pita and olives, as a sauce with mujadara or falafel, or as one component of a larger meze.
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- 1 cup raw sesame tahini
- 2 cloves garlic, completely crushed into a paste
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- Juice of 3 lemons (or more as needed)
- Optional garnishes (pick any or all): extra virgin olive oil, sumac, paprika, toasted pine nuts, parsley, olives
If the oil has separated in your tahini, stir it back together, then measure 1 cup into a good sized bowl.
Mix the garlic, salt, cumin and lemon juice into the tahini.
Start vigorously beating in cold water, 1/4 cup or so at a time, until the mixture becomes smooth and creamy. You'll see it start to emulsify, lighten in color and become easier to stir. It will probably take about 3/4 cup of water total.
Taste and adjust the seasoning with more salt, lemon juice, or cumin as needed.
The traditional way to serve tahina is in a large, flat bowl. Form a swirl with the back of a spoon, and then apply any of the garnishes listed above.