From the food editor: Tahini brings new flavor to cooking

Almond Tahini Cookies. [MICHELLE STARK   |   Times]
Almond Tahini Cookies. [MICHELLE STARK | Times]
Published Oct. 8, 2018

Sometimes, you discover an ingredient and wonder, "How did I ever go so long without you in my life?"

For me, that ingredient is tahini.

Okay, I didn't really discover it; I discovered Molly Yeh, a blogger and cookbook author who I've written about before. Her cooking sensibilities are very in line with my own, and so I know there's a high chance I will like her recipes and recommendations when I come across them.

One of her favorite things to cook with is tahini, a puree made from toasted, ground sesame seeds. It's probably most commonly known as one of three ingredients in hummus, the other two being chickpeas and oil. Tahini tends to be more common in Middle Eastern cooking than it is in the States.

I first used it outside of hummus in a chocolate cake recipe from Yeh. Yes, cake!

It seems crazy if you're used to tahini in more savory dishes, but it works because the thing you realize about tahini once you start cooking with it is that it's basically peanut butter, but with a nutty sesame twist.

It lends a little something extra, distinct but almost undetectable to a more complicated recipe like cake. But in simpler recipes such as the one below, it really shines.

I came across this recipe while looking for a dessert for my vegan family members. In my experience, cookies are one of the easiest vegan desserts, the standard dairy ingredients easily substituted for other vegan options.

This recipe could not be easier: Mix everything in a bowl, plop dollops of dough onto a baking sheet, bake.

It's very customizable, too. You can stir in just about anything you want into the batter, or gently place on top of the cookies before cooking: almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, chocolate chips (I highly recommend), dried fruit, sesame seeds.

The tahini acts as a binder and fat source here, holding everything together. For the sugar source, you can use maple syrup or honey or even agave nectar. I actually used a combination of all three the first time I made these, because I overestimated my maple syrup stores.

These cookies are a delightfully light dessert or snack to bring to a fall gathering, delicate nutty morsels that burst with flavor despite containing just a handful of ingredients. Thanks, tahini.

Almond Tahini Cookies

2 cups almond meal or almond flour

¾ cup tahini

½ cup maple syrup

½ teaspoon sea salt

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

¼ cup slivered almonds

Chopped pistachios or other nut, chopped, for garnish

Flaky sea salt, for garnish

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place tahini, maple syrup, salt and vanilla in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Heat for a few minutes, stirring constantly until smooth and blended. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 10 to 15 minutes.

Dig in to Tampa Bay’s food and drink scenes

Dig in to Tampa Bay’s food and drink scenes

Subscribe to our free Taste newsletter

Get the restaurant and bar news, insights and reviews you crave from food and dining critic Helen Freund every Thursday.

You’re all signed up!

Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.

Explore all your options

Add almond meal or flour to the tahini maple mixture and mix until a rough dough forms.

Add slivered almonds and stir gently to combine.

Roll about 1 tablespoon worth of dough in the palm of your hands into a ball. Place on the prepared sheet and flatten slightly with your fingertips. Repeat with the rest of the dough.

Press any garnish lightly into the top of the cookie. Bake for about 10 minutes. Turn oven off, and let the cookies brown slightly in the hot oven for another 5 minutes.

Remove, and cool on wire racks. Store in air tight containers at room temperature for up to a week.

Makes about 16.

Source: Adapted from