Although you might not know it, we guarantee you’ve eaten tahini before. The name might not be overly familar, but if you’ve eaten Lebanese food before then you’ve tried it. Tahini has been used in Lebanese cooking since ancient times, and after thousands of years has remained unchanged. Here at Manoosh we use this versatile ingredient across our entire menu, on pizzas and wraps and in dips; even in our desserts. If you’re unsure of what tahini is, let us enlighten you.
Tahini: Nature’s Superfood
Tahini is a paste made from sesame seeds that have been lightly toasted and then ground with oil. It is very popular in Lebanese cooking, eaten as a dip or used as a sauce for falafel or shawarma. It is also the second-most central ingredient in hommus and can be added to baba ghanoush. It has a light, nutty flavour and is creamy and paste-like. The name tahini is borrowed from the Arabic word tahana, which means “to grind”.
This oldest known reference to sesame is from an ancient cuneiform document – one of the earliest forms of writing – dated almost 4,000 years ago that describes the custom of serving the gods sesame wine. The first use of sesame seeds was mainly for cultivating its oil.
A Healthier Choice
Apart from being extremely delicious, tahini is also very good for you. Sesame seeds are nutritious – high in protein, vitamins and minerals – and have similar immune-boosting, cardiovascular-protective properties to other superfoods like olive oil and walnuts. Tahini is also gluten-free and paleo-friendly. Here are some of the other health benefits of tahini:
Healthy Fats, Protein Amino Acids
Sesame seeds have a very high oil-to-weight ratio – much higher than most seeds – with over 55% of their volume being made up of oil, and another of 20% protein. However, this oil is what is known as a ‘healthy fat’. Most of the fat in a tahini is polyunsaturated (with a small amount being monounsaturated and saturated). The majority of the fat content of tahini is made up of two compounds, sesamin and sesamolin, both of which are known for their beneficial health qualities.
Tahini also packs a whole bunch of amino acids – lysine, tryptophan and methion – phenolic compounds, linoleic acid, oleic acid and gamma-tocopherol, and tonnes of protein. All thanks to those virile little sesame seeds.
Vitamins and Minerals
Tahini is a great source of essential vitamins and minerals, many of which are difficult to obtain from other foods. It is a great source of B vitamins like thiamine which are important for metabolic functions, managing stress and different cognitive processes.
Tahini also is rich in minerals such as magnesium, calcium, copper, phosphorus, manganese, iron and zinc. Copper is important for healthy nerves, bones and metabolic and iron is crucial for keeping up your red blood cell count and staving off fatigue.
Sesame seeds are known for their ability to boost nutrient absorption, in particular, tocopherol, the major nutrients in vitamin E that play a role in the prevention of cancer and heart disease. They are also known to enhance vitamin E bioactivity which can help prevent inflammation and chronic disease.
The amino acids, B vitamins, E vitamins and fatty acids found in tahini are all very important for skin rejuvenation and maintaining younger looking skin. Sesame oil has even been known to treat wounds, burns and dryness; it has natural anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties that kill bacteria within your pores, and the healthy fats in sesame seeds help keep skin moist. To top it off, tahini also contains zinc and collagen which help repair the skin and keep it firm.
How Do You Make Tahini?
Tahini is very simple to make, even at home. It requires just two ingredients – sesame seeds and some mild olive oil.
There are different varieties of sesame seeds to choose from, each with their own distinct flavour. Most tahini is made from hulled sesame seeds which gives it a lighter colour, smoother texture and milder flavour.
Unhulled sesame seeds are healthier, richer (this can equate to bitterness) and give the tahini a darker colour. You can make tahini from un-toasted sesame seeds too, however, toasting the seeds gives you that desirable, nutty flavour.
Tahini is made from grinding the seeds together with olive oil to make a paste. This can be done in a food processor (far more efficient than how they did it in ancient times).
There is no set recipe for making tahini beyond this. The quantity of oil used is up to personal preference and depends on what the tahini will be used for – the more oil, the smoother the paste will be – but as a rule, one cup of sesame seeds requires two tablespoons of oil or more.
Here are Manoosh you will find delicious tahini all over our diverse menu, drizzled on our Vegan’s Paradise pizza or dripping from our famous falafel wraps. Of course, we use it in our hommus and baba ganoush too.
If you’re after an authentic tahini experience with some of the best Lebanese food in Sydney, look no further than Manoosh. Simply order from us online or drop by and see us in person – we guarantee you will not be disappointed.