Tahini is a paste made from ground-up sesame seeds, with a similar consistency and color to peanut butter. Taste wise, however, it might not be as palatable as nut butters to those who are not familiar with the product, but you certainly could spread some on whole wheat toast and have a nice, nutritious start to your day. Yes, tahini is healthy; it’s actually a fantastic plant-based source of calcium, which is why this paste can be an important staple of the vegetarian and vegan diet.

Just two tablespoons of tahini will give you 128 mg of calcium, which is required for muscle and nerve functions and is one of the most important minerals for our bodies. The Food and Nutrition Board at the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies have recommended that men and women get between 1,000 and 1,300 mg of calcium per day, depending on age.

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Tahini is sold in jars in most grocery stores, or you can make your own. For the plant-based eater, this spreadable source of calcium should be a staple in your pantry. There are several ways to use tahini, for both savory and sweet purposes. Check out these five ways to use tahini in your vegan meals.

  1. Hummus

    You may know hummus as the creamy chickpea dip, but this favorite vegan dish also stars tahini paste, which helps gives hummus its delicious, creamy consistency. Most hummus recipes you stumble upon will call for tahini. If you have tahini paste in your home, it’s super easy to make your own hummus and save money over buying the store-bought stuff.


  2. Salad Dressing

    A thin tahini sauce makes for an excellent and flavorful salad dressing. Try the dressing on top of a falafel salad or toss with dark, leafy greens. Mix tahini, olive oil, ginger, pepper, agave nectar and garlic for a tasty dressing to toss with kale, carrots, purple onion and sesame seeds.


  3. Over Falafel

    Tahini sauce and falafel go together like peanut butter and jelly. Make some falafel balls, stuff them in a whole wheat pita or place over some greens, then drizzle tahini sauce all over. Eating crisp, hot falafel is not complete without that cool, creamy tahini to balance it out.

     


  4. On Burgers

    Ketchup, mustard, pickle relish and vegan mayo may be the classic burger sauce, but be sure to give tahini sauce a try, too. It’s very tasty over veggie burgers. Try a lemon tahini sauce over these Baked Quinoa Burger Patties and putting regular tahini sauce on Mayim Bialik’s Big Bang Vegan Chickpea Burger Patty.


  5. Dip

    Hummus is a type of dip you can make with tahini, but you can also use sesame seeds to create a thinner tahini dip that doesn’t include chickpeas. Dunk warm pita bread, pretzels, veggie chips and fresh cut veggie sticks into plain tahini dip. Also use a couple tablespoons of tahini to create bangin’  cheesy dips such as this ‘Vegeeta’ Cheese Dip.


  6. Sweets

    If you were to eat a tablespoon of tahini paste, chances are you probably wouldn’t like the taste alone. But surprisingly, tahini is used to make halva, which is a flour or nut-butter-based dessert popular in several countries such as Argentina, India, Israel, Pakistan, Romania and Turkey. You can also use tahini to give a nice creaminess to other dessert items like Gluten-Free Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate ‘Buttercream’ Icing and Ginger Chocolate Cups with Sesame-Cashew Butter and Caramel.

    Lead image source: Vegan Chickpea Burger Patty