Ask the Experts


by Berkeley Wellness  

Q: What is tahini, and how nutritious is it? Isn’t it very fattening?

A: Tahini (from an Arabic word meaning “to grind”) is a creamy paste made from sesame seeds. It's used in Middle Eastern cooking to flavor hummus (chickpea dip) and other traditional dishes. Typically, the seeds are hulled and lightly roasted first.

Because sesame seeds are high in fat and calories, so too is tahini. One tablespoon has 90 calories and 8 grams of fat, though most of it is healthy unsaturated fat. That’s comparable to peanut butter. Tahini provides some protein, fiber and many nutrients, including iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and some B vitamins. It’s particularly rich in copper and manganese, plus other potentially beneficial compounds, including lignans and phytosterols.

Besides its traditional uses, you can spread tahini on toast, add it to sandwiches, soups, salads and stews, or mix it with olive oil and lemon juice as a sauce for vegetables, meat, fish and poultry.