News Ticker

What is Tahini

Tahini is the second most important ingredient in hummus, right after the chickpeas of course. It is eaten by hundreds of millions, everyday, from China to Greek and from Africa to California. Only, in some yet evolving part of the world, it is rear and law in quality

Other resources about tahini:
A quick tahini recipe.
Tahini’s nutritional value.

They say there’s a war between civilizations going on. I’m not sure about that. The way I see it, there is definitely such virtual gap, separating people from one another – but it has nothing to do with politics or beliefs.

To make long story short – when it comes to tahini there are only two kinds of people: those who knows what real tahini tastes like, and those who do not.

Tahini Brands

Israeli and Palestinian raw tahini products.

Tahini: an ancient queen

Tahini, a sesame paste, is a pretty ancient food. Sesame is known to mankind for over 7000 years now – and it seems unlikely we cultivated it just for the sake of bagels. When have we learned to ground the seeds into an oily delicacy? This is a story we’re going to tell in another time.

What I can tell you now, is that you can find Tahini and other sesame products, not only in the Middle-Eastern kitchen but also in Chinese cuisine. And the Japanese one, and in Korea, and in some Mediterranean countries such as Greek, some parts of Africa and maybe more.

Not in all these places Tahini is eaten in such quantities as in Israel and Arab countries, but it is certainly an important member in some of the most fabulous culinary cultures of the world.

The modern decay

Some quick etymology: “Tahini” is a mispronunciation of “Thina”. It is pronounced almost the same in Hebrew (טחינה), and in Arabic (طحينية). It is very similar to the Arabic word for “flour” (طحين). It is almost identical to the Hebrew word for “grinding” (טחינה).

Just think about it: on the down of mankind (or at list of Middle-Eastern man), when words where invented, Tahini stood shoulder to shoulder with wheat and flour.

So how come half mankind today, knows what bread is but have never tasted good enough tahini?

The best tahini: in the holy land

I eat tahini since I was an infant, some 30-somthing years ago. In recent years, I tasted (and sometimes documented) some 30-40 varieties and brands of tahini. Most of theme from Israel and “the territories”, and among them I found the best brands. Most of them were Arab, specifically from Nablus and Galilee.

I also tried several Lebanese, Greek and Turkey brands – which I understand are the only ones you can find in Europe and the states. Some where good, but hardly as good as the Palestinian tahini or even Israeli tahini.

As for myself, I believe that “Yonah” brand from Nablus is the best (I was told the Lebanese Al-Wadi, which can be found in the US and some European countries, is a bit like it – though not as good).

My father who was born and raised in Safed, also likes tahini a lot. And he remembers how his mother used to buy tahini from their Arab neighbors some 65 years ago. I guess most of his ancestors, who had lived here for the last 7 generations, probably did the same. I’m no different I guess.

Until next time…

How to recognize good tahini? What other sesame products worth a try? What brands are best, and how can one make tahini at home? All that will be discussed in the next 58 posts or so… (just kidding. In future posts).

What’s important to remember is that:
a. use the best tahini you can for your hummus.
b. come back for more hummus and tahini stories.

88 Comments on What is Tahini

  1. Ala

    I am in America and reading this blog. It is very interesting to know so many people like hummus. My faily and I have only been eating hummus for a year and I have become quite fond of it.I am waniting to expand my taste buds and make my own hummus using only the best ingredients. I wish there was some way to buy your tahina with all the great reiews I have read so far. Is there any way you ship out of your factory?


  2. This is a most Wonderful Blog..

    i am not a hummus eater , as i eat only raw foods.

    i have not always eaten just raw foods, only for a few years).

    People keep saying that the tahini they have tried is bitter.

    From my experience, when oil of any kind gets rancid or old, it gets bitter.

    I think the tahini you have been tasting is too old.

    It would be nice if we could get this wonderful product made by Ala Tamam and his family.
    Salutations to you ,sir, and thank you for your contribution of excellence in your product and its manufacture.
    Yes, wishing there were more people like you in the world, both in your work ethic and in your respect for all people.!

    Wishing you all the best and many thanks
    this time, from the USA.


    • @Alice – thanks for your kind words. To the point: raw tahini might also be bitter because the sesame wasn’t ripe enough or because it wasn’t fried very well. But basically, yes – if it’s too bitter than it’s not of high quality.

  3. By the wau Tahini, Hummus, and tabbouli are all Lebanese origin, and Lebanon is trying so hard to prove it and there are filing for the trademark of those food. its nothing political but its the culture and the identity that they are trying to defend and keep.Israel exist only from 60 years , Lebanon is one of oldest country in the world, and the first canned hummus was made in Lebanon by a company named Cortas in 1956.

  4. alice i am speachless, i am glad to have peaple like you in this blog, you should thank shooky who found this blog, tomater make this place your next destination in the next vacation and you are invited to the new factory, sandy lebanon syria jordan and palestine was one place borders free, and sorry to ask, what is cortas and to what language does it belonge? i am sure it is not arabic nore lebanees word. yet we found aljebra and someone els found the numerical system. the idea is which is the pest tahini in the world NOW. I think mine is.
    for the peaple in israel and palestine, i am glad to invite you for the exhipition of food, israfood 2009, this november 24th -26th. shooky has a VIP invitation.
    lots of love to you all

  5. I have tried many tahina brands and the best is Karawan tahina!

  6. I have a question regarding Tahini: you can buy the 2 types of Tahini:
    – The sesame butter which is a quite rough in texture an you find in some health stores in Europe
    – The “Karawan like Tahini” which is dehidrataded.

    I always wondered how the “Karawan like Tahini” gets the creamy texture when you mix it with water. Is it something natural? Can you get the same texture making your Tahini at home?


    • @David – different tahini texture has a lot to do with the process of manufacturing – what temperature is used when roasting them, how they are grounded and sieved and so on. Karawan makes hummus for dozens of years, so I guess they do have certain advantage over what you can accomplish at home, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.

  7. Thanks for the answer!

    Where can I we get more details on the process of making tahini?

  8. How will I know that my tahini is expired? I am gonna try to make my own hummus. It is in an airtight container and it has been in the fridge, there is no expiration date as this was packaged from a place that I used to go and make my own dinners once a month and then freeze them…. I don’t want to waste my time making the hummus if I am not sure of the tahini quality it looks like a nutty tan color with a smooth texture when I shake the container. I wouldn’t want to waste it either by just tossing it if I can still use it. If I need to buy a new one which brand is the “better quality” I have been reading the blog and think it might be worth a try. It’s a dumb question and hate to sound ignorant but know that if I don’t ask I will never know :>

    • Maggie – If your tahini is not of the highest quality AND one that is appropriate for hummus – cause not all of them are – you better off buying a new one. I think Al Wadi (a Lebanese brand of good quality) should be rather easy to find in the states (look at Lebanese stores).

  9. I recommend the Israeli Achva brand Tehina. Fairway carries it. I have been making hummus (or “chumus”) at home for years, for family and for friends who love it. I always try to have Achva brand. When that’s impossible, Shoprite carries Joyva, but it’s not nearly as good.

  10. I’m working in hotel industry.Tahini/Tahina was misterious to me.Now I got it.

  11. I want to open a Shawarma resturant in Port St Lucie Fl anyone interested

  12. This has been an absolutely delicious conversation!
    Since the general concensus seems to revolve around the quality of the tehina – what’s the best quality tehina with the strongest hekhsher kashrut?
    I need to satisfy both requirements … and I live in Hevel Lachish – but getting to Jerusalem or Tel Aviv presents no problem.

  13. Kerry Maxwell // November 19, 2010 at 6:49 am // Reply

    I believe the line “it is rear and of law quality” should read “rare and low quality”?

    Thanks for all the info on your blog! You’re obsession is contagious!

  14. Hi Ala,

    I live in Montreal and was wondering whether you have moved on exporting your Tahini in North America. It is truly the best I have tasted.

    I can maybe even put you in touch with people I am friendly with, willing to distribute your wonderful product. I think it would be wonderfully successful as Canadians are very health conscious. I also believe many would be happy to get the hell away from “clic” brands! Awful! We do get Al-Wadi from Lebanon and “Prince” and “Achva” brands…but, well, you know…

    Let me know if you want to hook up!


  15. ■iseman
    we are working on some export peojects, we are not exporting yet.

    i like that

  16. Lee in DC (of USA) // February 13, 2011 at 7:47 am // Reply

    To Ala Tamam,

    I am starting my own little humus business and I want to use your Tahini! I live in Washington DC area, which has a large ethnic population and many ethnic supermarkets of all nationalities. I wish to be your distributor for the US Capital DC market when you decide to export here. I came to this site to research tahini, as I only made humus one time and it turned out great – tasted like the store brands (Tribe, Athenos, Sabra, Cedars) I used a tahini called “Roland” (product of Israel) as that was the only brand I could find at that time. I’m sure it is not the best, haha. Humus is becoming very popular in the US, especially in cities like Washington DC. Would it be possible for me to order a jug of your tahini? Thank You!

  17. I’m truly pleased my “best israeli falafel recipe” search brought me to this website. I’ve copied ALL the vegetarian recipes and intend trying all of them. I like chickpeas but i’m never motivated to cook it because of the soaking/cooking time. I’m tired of the crappy quality of humus sold in our supermarkets. I’ve three 500g packets of chickpeas that i have every intention of converting it into Falafel and Humus. Is it possible to freeze humus or chickpeas and not destroy the texture? . I dont have the time to make it from scratch every week

    This blog is a very HEARTENING. As a South African raised during the turmoil years of our country, i pray and have faith that Insha Allah there’ll be a peaceful solution for Israel & Palestine in our lifetime.

    Shooky & Ala – the two of you (& ariel) remind me of the amazing Israeli and Palestinian people i met when i traveled to Israeli. Your exchanges echoes what i experienced but what the world sees so little of.

    Ala, could you PLEASE include South Africa on your export list. We have HUGE established Jewish, Israeli, Lebanese and Greek communities in South Africa who will most definitely appreciate your product (and lots of Meditarranean Food lovers like myself). There are both Israeli and Palestinian Embassies in South Africa who i am certain would have contacts for local importers of your product. I’ll get contact details for you if you want. I must confess though, when i was in Israel i completely fell inlove with Zatr (not sure of my spelling) eaten with olive oil and pita bread. I tried a packaged version in London which did no justice to the local version i had in Israel.


  18. I came upon this site by “chance” when looking for a good organic hummus recipe. Chance is the way in which Allah/Hashem/G-d speaks to us and through us.

    Not only did I find what I was looking for, I was also blessed with a heartwarming and inspiring look at the developing relationship between some remarkable individuals! Pardon me that the rest of my commentary has little to do with the main topic of the blog, bear with me, please.

    Dear Shooky and Ala- shukran/toda/thanks for sharing (more than hummus and tahini) of yourselves with the rest of us!

    For me, the purest elements and actions for Tikkun-Olam (“World-Healing”) are displayed here before me in this blog. I am inspired and appreciative.

    Born and raised in Montreal, Quebec, I know about the tensions between cultures. We have lived here with a political dispute between cultures foaming around us for more than 40 years.

    Being of the Jewish faith, I attended a “Hebrew” school and was also raised with Habonim-Dror… I spent much time on Kibbutz (near Be’er Sheva) many years ago. I have some knowledge of the complicated energy experienced on your side of the world as well. Add to it that I have a University degree in Religion, I focused on the connection between Judaism and Islam, so I also understand well the many centuries our religions and cultures have shared our knowledge, our land, and our history, in glory and in peace, a history that has little to do with what we perceive about the middle east in modern times.

    All this is to say: G-d bless you! May the world be filled with more “chesed” and may you both continue to live long, healthy, and prosperous lives as examples of human kindness and openness, of sharing the best and forgiving the rest… to experience Tikkun Olam is to “unblock” the purest connections between us all and to encourage everyone to offer up the best we have in all that we do.

    I too have never been able to hold any person I encounter in my life accountable for the fallout created by others’ political decisions.

    We are all ONE, united by our humanity. I have met and loved people from all walks of life, and have had the good fortune to welcome into my home and heart.people who come from many different places, including: Palestinian Lebanese, Quebequois-separtists, Tibetan Monks, Catholic Priests, and many others. Each and every person has added to my life, and each day I live confirms for me that we all come from one place and will return with harmony, never hate..

    To love is to heal, to share in our knowledge with grace is to understand that it is our differences that make this world such a beautiful place! With generosity of heart and spirit, in peace, we can all succeed, grow, and with that in mind we can improve and repair the unfortunate negative conditions of life experienced by too many of our brothers and sisters on this planet.

    Shalom Aleichem!

    Most sincerely,

  19. I came across this site while doing research on tahini production. I am looking to talk to anyone I can on how to make good (vs. bad tahini) and as a part of that am interested to know who the best tahini brands are that are selling in the U.S. and Europe. I’m doing a research project to map the production process and costs along the way. Any information would be greatly appreciated, whether on companies or costs of building out and producing good tahini!

    Also, happy to share my findings once I’m done! Please email me if you have info:


  20. cheryl Weismantel // July 10, 2012 at 9:15 pm // Reply

    Hi…but what is the best? I live in Rural Ohio, Zanesville. Woodstock is what I buy at Kroger’s. We are not a big city and more than an hour away from Columbus. Anything better online? I like this one as it has no salt. Thanks.

  21. Hi,
    What a relieve to find finally a good tehina. I bought this Karawan tehina in Yarka
    and I really took a chance, by not knowing it.
    I am not sorry but delighted to find such a good tehina.
    It is very creamy and tasty and what a difference from what I bought up to the last time.
    I will never change this tehina for anything else.

  22. I just noticed that Al Arz is now available on Amazon

  23. @Lee Roland is re-branded Al ‘Arz (same jar!) which is made in Nazareth and is excellent tahini, much better IMHO than Al Wadi (I’ve eaten it out of the jar). However, I’m not sure that Al Wadi might not be a better choice IN hummus b’tahini because it’s somewhat more assertive in flavor (although I think Al ‘Arz/Roland is definitely better for tahini dressing). As for Karawan/Yonah, we’re talking a higher order of tahini altogether and I consider myself blessed to be able to find it here in NYC. Ala, my compliments, and I hope you continue to work for world peace through gustatory appreciation! And a Happy New Year to all!

  24. Last I saw, they’re still using Al ‘Arz’s jars.

    • Jars are purchased from a plastic jar maker. They are not manufactured by the tahina company. Thus those are not ‘Al Arz’s jars.’

      In any case, tahina is usually imported in bulk and put into jars by the importer/distributor. Do you think they use 16oz jars in Israel? The answer is no.

  25. I’m aware that jars are purchased “outside.” Shoot me on semantics: they used the same jars Al ‘Arz was using (a not uncommon practice in re-branding, not limited to prepared foods). They USED to use Al ‘Arz tahini. Do you have any idea of whose tahini they’re using at present?

  26. . . . I might also add that although Roland treats their suppliers’ identities as “proprietary information,” they DID confirm, when pushed (by me, not long after I posted), that the country of manufacture is (still) Israel.

  27. I’ve no idea who Roland is using now. It was Al Arz told me it’s no longer theirs.

  28. Maybe there’s some financial incentive or legal reason why Al ‘Arz says this, i.e. they prefer buyers purchase their own brand when both are available (the case here in NYC) or that their contract with Roland, at least now but perhaps not formerly, stipulates that they can’t say they’re the same? It’s STILL in the same jars Al Arz uses, with the red-for-regular, green-for-organic theme.

  29. Maybe. Whatever. In any case, the plastic jars used by Roland and Al Arz aren’t even the same shape. (I’d never seen the Roland ones, but a quick Google image search revealed this clearly).

    Maybe after all they are the same and Al Arz is not telling the truth. Why don’t you ask them?

  30. a) I’m not all that interested (I have access to both labeled Al ‘Arz AND Karawan) and b) if they’re contractually obliged not to confirm that their tahini and Roland’s are one and the same, why would they tell me?

  31. All this speculation, and in the end the jar isn’t even the same LOL. Let go of it Karen.

  32. As previously mentioned, I don’t really care; this has exhausted itself for me. Perhaps you might consider taking your own advice.

  33. I live in Japan, where quality humus or tahina are impossible to find. There is only one restaurant I’ve found which imports it’s tahina from Israel, and of course their humus is better than everybody else. Other restaurants range from edible to horrible, and they use greek tahina and other such unholy methods.

    So, all this talk about tahina and quality got the wheels in my head grinding, and I’ve started looking into stone mills and actually considering purchasing a small one and starting a local tahina business right here in Tokyo. The business side, equipment, and logistics I have no problem handling, but I have to admit I’ve never even made tahina before – let alone produce it on a commercial scale.

    The way I understood so far, the quality of tahina comes from several factors:
    1. Quality sesame seeds (Ethiopian humera).
    2. The roasting process – temperature and length. I’m sure every manufacturer has their own “secret recipe” for this, and it’ll probably require some tinkering to get right – but any advice for a starting point?
    3. Low speed low temperature stone milling.

    #1 and #3 are easy, but #2 I’m not so sure about. Also I’m not sure if and how much the hulling process (salt water?) affects quality. Does it?

1 2

4 Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Falafel with Dada, Hummus with Nasrallah : The Hummus Blog
  2. The Hummus Blog » Perfect Baba Ganouj in 6 Steps
  3. Red Pepper Hummus - South Jersey Weight Loss
  4. All roads lead to Hummus | FoodCrafters

Leave a Reply