Hummus & Tahini Knowledgebase

Elliot TG
16 min readSep 14, 2018


This guide is meant for hungry Westerners who would like to dive further into bowls of hummus. This guide was written by a fellow Westerner who has eaten quite a lot of hummus at some very well-liked places in the Middle East. While hummus has spread worldwide and is eaten regularly in the Mid-East region, it originates more specifically from the Levant. The Levant covers the areas known today as Jordan, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, Syria, and parts of southern Turkey.

The first section is the guide to hummus, it begins with a basic recipe that is easy to make and rivals store-bought hummus. A note about store-bought, premade hummus: there is a place for this! There’s no need to be a snob about the stuff, and while the fresh is almost always better, sometimes it’s just not an option. It’s great because it lasts longer than fresh hummus and makes a great dip. However, for hummus eaten as a meal, the store-bought really won’t suffice.

The second section is all about tahini, which is rarely used to its full potential in the West. Frankly, I think there are a lot of options out there that just aren’t that great and people don’t really know how to use it. Its versatility means it can be used in place of everything from ketchup to peanut butter to salad dressing. I’ve even seen it used in drinks. There are so many types of tahini and different ways of preparing it that you’ve probably underestimated exactly how good and useful this magic paste really is.

Second to the number of uses for hummus and tahini are the interchangeable names for them! This just goes to show how popular and useful these ingredients are. In English, chickpeas are also known as garbanzo beans. In Arabic and Hebrew, they’re simply called hummus, which can be confusing. In addition to the basic ingredient in hummus, they’re also the main ingredient in falafel. They truly are a staple of cuisine. Tahini, which is made of processed sesame seeds, can also be referred to as sesame paste and sometimes sesame butter. Tahini/sesame paste are also made into the sweet dessert/snack known as halva. This is typically either a hard paste similar to nougat formed into loaves or small bars, or delicate fibers that can be used as a topping, or baked into sweets.

Follow along in this journey dedicated to preparing chickpeas and sesame seeds for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, meals for one, two, or many. Dishes for nights in or dinner parties, to show off to your friends or experiment with by yourself. Good luck and have fun!

Section 1: Hummus


Hummus in image was larger than it appears

So, here is the recipe for simple hummus. For beginners, you can stop at step 4, that’s the basic and is still very good for a meal, a dip, or as a side. The portion size is enough for a meal, but you can make smaller batches. I’ve also included some more advanced maneuvers below to spice things up a bit.

NOTE: Fresh hummus will last 24–48 hours. Chickpeas alone and tahini alone will last for a few days. but once they are combined, they go downhill fast.


  • Can of chickpeas
  • Half a lemon
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1+ tbsp tahini paste (raw, not prepared)


  • Cumin (½ teaspoon or to taste)
  • 1 clove garlic or garlic powder
  • Parsley (tablespoon finely chopped or to taste)
  • Paprika (½ teaspoon or to taste)
  • Olive oil (good quality, 1–3 tablespoons) — I have stopped adding oil for both flavor and diet reasons. I like the natural chickpea and tahini flavors and don’t need the calories


  1. Drain the chickpea liquid into a bowl or glass, set aside
  2. In a bowl dump chickpeas, 3 tablespoons of liquid, 1+ tablespoon tahini, salt, pepper, optional spices/oil, lemon juice
  3. Using a blender, food processor, or immersion blender, blend till mixed, add more liquid for preferred consistency
  4. Serve in a shallow bowl (optionally) topped with anything from below:

Basic toppings

No need to choose just one of these! Serve on top or on the side

  • Hearty portion of olive oil
  • More tahini (made on the side, see below section)
  • Parsley (on top, for color, flavor)
  • Paprika (always at the end, adds a nice color)
  • Spicy (can also be on the side) — Chunky or thick is nice (such as jalapeño salsa, zhoug/schug, harissa, cilantro chutney)
  • Sauteed/pan fried hot peppers
  • Hard boiled egg
  • Whole chickpeas (mixed in or on top)
  • Pickles
  • Raw onion (good for dipping)
  • Pine nuts


Advanced toppings

Best to choose just one of these, but you can also include any of the basic toppings as well

  • Sauteed mushrooms and onions (especially with shawarma seasoning and/or turmeric, cumin, coriander, parsley)
  • Refried beans (sounds weird, pretty good though. based on another bean topping called ful)
  • Ful (fava beans cooked in spices)
  • Ground beef/lamb (meat hummus is good and hearty, make sure it’s seasoned pretty well, e.g. shawarma seasoning and/or cumin, coriander, pine nuts, parsley)
  • Roasted root vegetables

Main Dish — Hummus Galilee

After you’ve made a hummus you like, try this dish, named for the historic region at the north of the Jordan River

  • Boneless dark meat chicken, chopped (1–2 thighs)
  • Mushrooms (1–2 cups)
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • ½ cup parsley, chopped with some set aside
  • Middle East spices, coriander, cumin, pine nuts, etc., ½ tsp each or to taste
  • ½–1 cup hummus (made in advance)

Stir fry chopped chicken, mushrooms, onions, parsley and spices. Spread your hummus flat on a plate and add the stir fry on top. Top with chopped parsley. Eat as a whole meal or main dish.


After some practice

Now you’re ready to move forward with fresh chickpeas which are soaked overnight, then boiled. While you can have easy hummus ready to go almost any time, this fresh hummus takes more time and commitment. Beans have to be soaked overnight and cooked for a few hours. If you have a pressure cooker, that’s your best option. However, even with the pressure cooker, people still recommend that you soak the beans.

You can look up more comprehensive recipes online or in cookbooks. Fresh hummus is not much more difficult than with canned, just a little bit more balance and care necessary.

Getting the best consistency: Smoothness — DO THIS! —

It is well documented that the best hummus has a great creamy texture. Even if you’re adding chickpeas later for chunkiness, the base should be nice and smooth. At home this is harder to achieve, and it’s got a lot to do with the skins on the chickpeas. There are a few ways to get rid of the skins including agitating the cooked beans and removing the skins, or using baking soda during the cooking process. See the video (and comments) here:

Advanced hummus variations: Masabacha and Mshawashe

Masabaha (mas-ah-ba-kha) and mshawashe (muh-shah-wa-shay) are slight variations that included chunkier hummus (a few whole chickpeas) and more tahini.

  • Masabaha is hummus mixed with a chunky tahini and chickpea mixture
  • Mshawashe is like masabacha, but is served warm (soon after chickpeas are boiled)
Image courtesy Mshawashe restaurant, Pinsker St, Tel Aviv

Mshawashe (left) with hot sauce on top and hummus with tahini, ful, and hot sauce(right). Image courtesy Mshawashe restaurant, Tel Aviv

Section 2: Tahini


You may not know it yet, but this is the moment you’ve been waiting for. First, let’s start with the bad news: you’ve been using tahini wrong your whole life. That’s okay, you’ll be reborn today as someone who actually knows how to enjoy tahini. Okay, now that we got that out of the way, let’s see what you should be doing with your tahini from now on.

Fresh or raw tahini is too thick and rich to have on its own most of the time. The simplest thing you can do to it is thin it out with water. This makes into a much more palatable and versatile accoutrement to many dishes. People do eat it raw, and if you love tahini you may enjoy it. But for most uses, it’s best to thin it out a bit.

Hummus topped with multi-colored tahini, roasted vegetables, parsley and paprika


This everyday tahini recipe is what most Westerners are unaware of: your tahini is a concentrated paste and is best served prepared, at the very least, like the following.


  1. 2 tbsp Raw tahini paste
  2. 2 tbsp Water
  3. Pinch of salt & pepper or to taste
  4. Lemon wedge (for juice)


  1. Put equal parts water and tahini in a bowl with salt & pepper and lemon juice
  2. Start mixing together
  3. After about 20 seconds, the paste will separate into lumps — keep mixing until it comes back together
  4. Mix until tahini is smooth and creamy
  5. Add more tahini for more thickness, or more water to thin it out

That’s it! Use as a dip, topping or salad dressing! The equal parts recipe yields a caesar dressing-like consistency which is great for dipping and dunking. For salad dressing, you can add more lemon juice and water to thin it out. For a spread, such as on toast or a sandwich, a bit thicker is good.


I am not an expert on tahini, but bothered a lot of chefs with my questions about it, tasted different varieties and preparations, and tried to make a few of them myself.

For those of you that don’t know, tahini is sesame paste, and has a flavor and texture similar to a savory peanut butter. The salty and savory flavor means it is typically used in meals. But, its sweetness means it can also be used in desserts, both baked in and as a kind of icing. It is vegan, flavorful, and versatile, which means it can be used as a healthy replacement for recipes that are non-vegetarian or non-vegan.

Buying the stuff

I will be honest, I don’t know much about the tahini that’s sold in the US, such as the Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods ones. Often, I see a jar of “organic” tahini and think: this is not tahini. Growing up we always had a can of Joyva that we never used, partly because my parents found it too rich and thick to enjoy. Much like everyone else, they were unaware that it needed to be mixed with water! Because of this, my experience and recommendations are based on Middle Eastern brands, typically Israeli and Palestinian. These brands often use Ethiopian sesame seeds and have excellent flavor and texture.

I highly recommend reading this article about the relationship between Israelis and Palestinians as it pertains to tahini (or tehina as they call it). You’ll learn about its popularity, uses, and production. It’s so popular, they’ve even created the Google Cloud Hummus API to help feed their cravings. Another good read details how tahini is made and all the work that goes into it.

You can typically find my favorite brands at international supermarkets, mainly Middle Eastern and Asian. Many Jewish markets carry them as well if they carry Israeli products. You can also find them online on Amazon and boutique websites. Alternatively, you can ask around to see if any friends are traveling to that region and ask them to bring it back. The brands I prefer include:

  • Ha Yona (The Dove)
  • El Karawan (Caravan)
  • Al Arz (this is available in the states)
  • Achva (this is available in the states)
  • Har Bracha (this is available in the states)

If you’re able to locate one of these brands I highly recommend it. There do seem to be some premium brands in the US (e.g. NYC) that are marketing high quality hummus, such as Soom or Seed + Mill, but I haven’t tried them. When in doubt, look for Arabic and/or Hebrew text. A good quality tahini is easier to work with, has better texture out of the bottle, and excellent flavor, so if you can find it, use it. But realistically any tahini should do fine with most recipes and the right preparation.

Texture & Consistency

The key distinguishing characteristics of tahini, besides flavor, is the texture and consistency. Overall, the preferred consistency is smooth and not chunky or grainy, this is mostly about the brand you buy. The consistency and thickness should be determined both by your preference and your needs for a dish or serving style. Below I’ll detail a spectrum of consistencies from thickest to thinnest and what they’re used for. As they get thinner, it’s just adding more water.

Hard Paste

  • No preparation
  • Not runny
  • I avoid this

Most tahini comes with at least some hard paste, typically settled at the bottom. I have seen jars that are mostly hard paste and may require the help of a food processor or blender to prepare. Personally I would stay away from these, the more homogenous the tahini the easier it is to use and the better the resulting consistency. Usually hard paste needs to just be mixed in with the remaining paste and oil. But if you really want a strong sesame flavor with no liquid, you could spread it on bread or crackers.

Raw/Thick Paste

  • Stirred til homogeneous in jar
  • Runs quickly

This is what most people in the west associate tahini with: a thick, strong paste that overpowers most dishes. Once you get used to it, you may want to eat it this way, but usually not. This is good for dishes that already have some moisture, so you don’t need to water the tahini down any more. This is what I typically add to hummus, because it’s going to get blended in with the chickpea liquid anyway. But, some people do prefer to make the “standard” tahini first along with its seasonings. It is also typical for desserts, the rich flavor is expected in a dessert and balanced by sweetness. You may also use it for baking.


  • Mix with equal parts water and tahini (and seasoning)
  • Runs slowly or not at all
  • Sticks to surfaces

This is the typical consistency used on most dishes. It should be similar to a homemade mayonnaise or greek yogurt. It is counterintuitive that the standard consistency runs slower than the raw, and there’s a chemical reaction going on behind the scenes. However, it has a lighter texture (and color) and a more refined, delicate flavor. It will stick better to the plate or food it’s on as well. This is good for dipping, salad dressing, toppings for sandwiches, hummus, and desserts.


  • More water than tahini
  • Runny
  • Doesn’t stick well to surfaces

You’ll typically find thinner tahini in bigger batches to make the paste go farther. It’s still useful and, as you would expect, has a lighter flavor. While the standard preparation creates a fluffy paste, this will more easily pour off a spoon. It can also be put into a squeeze bottle. It’s great for serving to guests so they can throw it on top a plate of food at a buffet, like you would any typical salad dressing. If you season this right nobody would ever suspect that it’s tahini, and would go on eating it like any other salad dressing. It’s a great topping for a cooked protein like grilled meat, chicken, fish, or vegetarian alternative.


  • Lots of water
  • Watery
  • You probably made a mistake

If you’ve traversed into water territory, you’ve probably gone a little overboard and need to add some tahini back in. But, I have seen it used in cocktails. It still has some thickness when you drink it, but it works. Any other recommendations for thin tahini? Let me know!

Daily recipes

Fact: putting together a list of recipes for tahini would be like putting together a list for ketchup or mustard. It has infinite uses and people are always going to throw it on whatever they choose. Having some prepared in your fridge means that you can spread it or dip it any time you want it. And the jars of raw tahini last for months, so you can use it just a little bit at a time. What I’ve put down here are a few uses that you may not have thought of and could be added to your typical daily meal. Farther down are more tahini-centric recipes for showing off.


Adding tahini to eggplant and roasted root vegetables is great because the moisture of the veggies means you don’t always need to prepare the tahini in advance. This is one of the easiest ways to add tahini to a dish and propel it to new heights. Trust me when I tell you that the roasted eggplant is so simple, but somehow the taste is just exponentially better than what you would think. It tastes much more complex than it is, and people are always amazed at how simple it is.


  • Eggplant
  • Tahini (standard or thick paste, prepared on the side)
  • S&P
  • Lemon wedge/juice
  • Chopped garlic (optional)


  • Roast a large eggplant about 45 minutes on each side
  • Slice open lengthwise, leaving root intact
  • Pour on tahini, lemon juice, S&P

In addition to eating the eggplant whole, you can make Baba Ganoush by scooping the flesh and tahini mixture into a bowl, and mixing it around until it becomes almost a pudding. The variations of baba ganoush are also a topic of much debate. In particular, the ratio of eggplant to tahini are what distinguish different styles of the classic dish.


Sabich (sah-BEEKH) is a really simple concept: fried eggplant and egg. My wife group in an Iraqi household and called this betza v’babenjan, which translates to, you guessed it, egg with eggplant. While it’s typically served in a pita similar to falafel, any sandwich with these two ingredients qualifies. Really important is to use a soft, fresh bread and fresh veggies, in particular fancy (small) cucumbers and tomatoes. And, of course, fresh tahini, standard thickness. Here’s a nice looking recipe which I haven’t tried yet.

The image here is a beet tahini, where I blended boiled beets in with my tahini paste. My pro tips (which are different from the above recipe) are to have the eggs jammy soft-boiled, and for the eggplant to be sliced lengthwise, not in rounds. You can batter and fry, or shallow fry your eggplant as you prefer! You can also roast it for a lower calorie option.


  • Fresh, fluffy bread (whole wheat, rye, sourdough)
  • Eggplant, ½” sliced lengthwise (optional: battered)
  • Jammy boiled egg, sliced
  • Boiled potato, ¼” slices
  • Fancy cucumber
  • Heirloom or cherry tomatoes
  • Chopped parsley
  • Standard tahini (prepared on the side)
  • S&P to taste
  • Olive oil to taste
  • Optional: thick hot sauce such as zhoug or cilantro chutney


  1. Finely chop cucumbers and tomatoes and combine with chopped parsley, S&P, olive oil
  2. Shallow fry or roast eggplant slices
  3. Spread tahini on bread
  4. Lay tomato, cucumber, parsley combination on tahini
  5. Layer eggplant, potato, and egg (put hot sauce on first if you’re using it)
  6. Top with salt, pepper, and olive oil to taste
  7. You have a sandwich!


Just dip some bread in it. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


Any salad. The thickness can be standard or light and you can have it as plain or as seasoned as you like. Use greens or chopped vegetables and legumes. Some seasoning ideas are:

  • Mashed garlic, cumin, and other pepper (cayenne, Aleppo, etc)
  • Soy sauce (or vegan tamari), rice wine vinegar, ginger, and honey/syrup
  • Extra lemon and garlic
  • Cilantro, parsley, ground fenugreek, cumin, garlic


Definitely one of the simplest and most delicious desserts I’ve tried, as noted by the blurry image, is a banana bread topped with honey and tahini. In general, this is a winning combination. It’s really similar to peanut butter and honey. In this case the tahini was the raw paste, not prepared. The richness is balanced out by the sweetness of the honey and the texture matches more what you would expect from a fancy dessert. One special way to have it is with date honey, also known as silan. But any fresh, sweet syrup will do.

The half-eaten dish pictured was more like a banana cake and also featured creme fraiche. The silan and tahini were drizzled on top, which looked spectacular.

As a matter of fact, I’ve added this topping on a piece of toast for a light dessert or breakfast.


If aesthetics and presentation are your thing, go no further than black sesame. This gorgeous concoction adds contrast to any dish. I’ve tested it a little and there are some pretty easy dos and don’ts to follow. But there’s still plenty to learn!

  1. Not sure about a great brand. The jar I bought was the first one that I saw in an Asian market, so I have no brand recommendations. Unfortunately, the consistency and texture were lacking. It came with a lot of hard paste which was separated from the oil. It took a lot of elbow grease to get it to homogenize even a little. In the end the flavor was just okay.
  2. The raw paste has the best color. Both after baking and after preparing the black turned more to a mud or ash color. Still beautiful, but not nearly as dark.
  3. Unless you can find a brand with great flavor and consistency, I would use this more for presentation, and leave the flavor in the background. Drizzle the raw paste on a dish.

Here’s a good recipe for tahini cookies that you can modify for yourself!



Elliot TG

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