Tahini is a spread made from crushed and ground sesame seeds. It’s an ancient food, having been used for thousands of years in the Middle East.
Tahini, and the sesame seeds it is derived from, is a good source of antioxidants, and is also a potent source of healthy unsaturated fats, including omega-3 fatty acids.
Since it is minimally processed, tahini is a favorite among raw food and whole food enthusiasts. Due to all of these benefits, tahini is an easy way to add an exceptionally healthy and nutrient-dense food to your diet.
To help make this easier, our research team has ranked the ten best tahini brands on the market according to quality.
1. Pepperwood Organic Whole Seed Tahini
Pepperwood Organic Whole Seed Tahini is a perennially popular tahini thanks to its extreme simplicity and purity.
It is sourced from 100% organically grown and certified sesame seeds grown in Ethiopia; aside from this, there are no other ingredients.
Like all natural tahini products, you’ll have to stir it regularly to prevent the oil from separating from the seed, but that’s a result of no additional binders or emulsifiers added.
With this level of purity and simplicity, Pepperwood Organic Whole Seed Tahini is hard to beat.
2. Artisana Organics Raw Tahini
Artisana Organics Raw Tahini are made from totally raw and unroasted sesame seeds, and is produced in the United States.
This makes it a favorite among paleo, raw food, and whole 30 dieters, since it’s got all of the advantages of raw sesame seeds alongside the convenience of an easily spreadable condiment.
The organic certification only adds to its appeal, since it means you don’t have to worry about synthetic pesticides and fertilizers.
3. Trader Joe’s Organic Tahini
Trader Joe’s is a solid brand when it comes to simple and effective organic foods, and their tahini is no exception.
This 10.6 ounce jar is perfect for the occasional user, and the only ingredient is certified organic sesame seeds. For a simple, easy solution for a household of one or two, look no further than Trader Joe’s Organic Tahini.
4. Kevala Organic Sesame Tahini
Kevala Organic Sesame Tahini comes in a large 32 ounce jar, and is made from organically grown sesame seeds, so you don’t have to worry about any contamination from pesticides and fertilizers.
The large plastic jar is BPA-free, and its large size makes Kevala a great choice for entertaining a large number of guests or feeding a big family with tahini-based foods.
5. Okka Organic Creamy Tahini
Okka Organic Creamy Tahini is an organically certified tahini that’s sourced by a company in Turkey, so it’s got a slightly different taste profile than some of its other competitors, reflecting different regional preferences in the taste of tahini.
Users love its smooth, thinner consistency and tender, flavorful taste. Because of this lighter consistency, it’s great for recipes that call for tahini, though it’s less well-suited as a spread in its own right.
6. Soom Sesame Premium Tahini
Soom Sesame Premium Tahini is a high-quality tahini made from Ethiopian-grown sesame seeds that comes in an 11 ounce plastic tub.
While it isn’t organically-certified, the single source sesame seed ingredients will appeal to purists, making it a solid pick for a premium tahini.
7. Haddar by Baracke Tahini
Haddar by Baracke Tahini is a pretty simple and basic tahini. It doesn’t have some of the perks of other brands, like single-source sesame seeds or an organic certification, but one thing that users do like about it is the fact that it’s much thicker than other tahini brands.
This makes Haddar by Baracke Tahini easier to use on its own as a spread, though more difficult to mix in to other recipes with additional ingredients.
8. Lebanon Valley Tahineh Extra
Lebanon Valley Tahineh Extra is grown and produced in Lebanon, where the regional preference is for a richer, stronger tahini flavor with a slight bitterness to it.
This deeper flavor profile isn’t for everybody, but those who enjoy it strongly endorse this tahini product.
9. Pepperwood Organic Tahini Bulk
Pepperwood Organic Tahini also makes a special bulk-sized tahini that comes in an enormous 6.6 pound bucket.
While several companies offer bulk sized tahini, Pepperwood Organic’s is by far the best thanks to its single sourced sesame seeds and the organic certification.
If you’re cooking a huge meal for a big potluck or family get-together, look no further than this bulk tahini mix. Most users, however, would be better served by a smaller size, since it would take most people quite a while to get through this bulk-sized tahini.
Considering the lack of preservatives, and the fact that antioxidants and unsaturated fats don’t stay good forever, it’s probably better to opt for something in a smaller size.
10. Mighty Sesame Co Fine Sesame Tahini
The main advantage of Mighty Sesame Co Fine Sesame Tahini is that it comes in a squeezable bottle, making it simple to drizzle tahini onto flat bread, sandwiches, and other dishes.
Amazingly, it doesn’t require any additional binders or stabilizers, though it’s not always easy to squeeze the bottle. You need to shake up the bottle a good bit to mix up the oil, so this hurts its convenience a bit.
Tahini benefits and side effects
Tahini is an ancient food made by grinding and sometimes roasting sesame seeds, which results in a smooth, creamy spread that’s rich in flavor as well as beneficial antioxidants and unsaturated fats.
It’s prized both for its flavor and for its protein and omega 3 fatty acid content. Further, since many of the best tahini products are made directly from raw sesame seeds, it’s compatible with a wide variety of diets, including the paleo diet and the whole 30 diet.
Tahini is rich in antioxidants. Initial research conducted in 1985 by a team of agricultural biochemists in Japan discovered that tahini contains, among other antioxidants, a unique compound they dubbed sesamolinol, as it had not been discovered in any plant seed other than the sesame seed (1).
Later research published in 2006 in the journal Food Chemistry characterized the antioxidant potential of the sesame seed hull in greater detail, and compared the antioxidant potential of white and black sesame seeds, which create slightly different taste profiles in tahini (2).
The researcher found that black sesame seeds, as you might expect, contained more potent antioxidant abilities, though not to an extreme extent—white sesame seeds, which make a milder, sweeter, and less bitter tahini, still exerts a strong antioxidant effect.
The bottom line from this research is if you want the maximum possible antioxidant content, get a tahini that’s made from black sesame seeds.
It will have a bolder and more bitter taste, so if you prefer something milder and sweeter, a white sesame seed tahini will still have solid antioxidant abilities, and a smoother taste.
Tahini supplies unsaturated fats which can help decrease your risk of heart disease. The caloric profile of sesame seeds, from which tahini is derived, is pretty solid from a heart health perspective.
Most of the calories in tahini come from fat, but the lion’s share is in the form of unsaturated fat. According to research published in the American Journal of Medicine, consuming a greater proportion of your calories from polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, such as those in tahini, is associated with beneficial changes in your cholesterol profile (3).
Specifically, unsaturated fats have the effect of decreasing LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, while leaving HDL cholesterol, also known as “good cholesterol,” unchanged.
The net effect is an improvement in the ratio of HDL to LDL cholesterol, which has a marked effect on your risk for cardiovascular disease. Further research from a randomized controlled trial published in 2005 in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that consuming unsaturated fats can help decrease blood pressure as well (4).
According to the results of that study, substituting carbohydrates in your diet with unsaturated fats, such as those found in tahini, will result in decreases in blood pressure, in addition to the improvements in cholesterol profiles that was demonstrated in earlier research.
This study also computed an ensemble estimate of cardiovascular disease risk, and found that the probability of suffering heart disease over the next ten years was lower when carbohydrates were substituted with unsaturated fats among the people in the study.
Tahini is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. If you don’t regularly eat fish, it can be hard to get enough omega-3 fatty acids in your diet.
While there are some supplements you can take that supply vegan omega 3 fatty acids, tahini is one additional source that provide a good amount of both EPA and DHA thanks to the high content of unsaturated fats in sesame seeds.
Raw tahini, in which the sesame seeds are not roasted, is an especially good source of omega 3 fatty acids, because none of the omega 3 fatty acids are oxidized by exposure to heat.
According to guidelines published in the Medical Journal of Australia, omega-3 fatty acid intake is typically very low in vegetarians and vegans (5).
This could pose a threat to maintaining optimal health if you are on one of these diets, as both EPA and DHA (two key compounds found in fish oil and other concentrated sources of omega-3 fatty acids) are essential for maintaining good overall health.
EPA and DHA have been associated with better overall health, both physical and mental. A 2003 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that looked at DHA and EPA intake and incidence of fatal heart disease in a large cohort study (6).
The researchers measured blood levels of EPA and DHA directly, so there was no uncertainty regarding the actual intake of these nutrients in the subjects.
The researchers found that higher EPA and DHA intake was associated with a decreased risk for fatal heart disease, which they ascribed to the ability of DHA and EPA to prevent problems with heart arrhythmia.
The omega 3 fatty acids in tahini might be able to reduce symptoms of depression. Heart health is not the only area where greater omega-3 fatty acid intake is helpful.
Other research suggests that these nutrients, which are plentiful in tahini and rare in other vegetarian and vegan foods, can help contribute to better mental health too.
There has been a copious amount of research done on the effects of omega-3 fatty acids on treating depression, which was reviewed in a 2013 meta-analysis of 15 different randomized controlled trials (7).
After pooling the results, the researchers concluded that doses of EPA between about 200 and 2000 mg per day, were effective at reducing the severity of symptoms of depression.
In combination with other interventions, the evidence indicates that a diet rich in foods that supply omega-3 fatty acids is an effective way to reduce symptoms of depression.
As a natural food prepared only from sesame seeds, there are essentially no side effects to tahini, discounting the rare chance of a sesame allergy.
The saturated fat content is low, and in the top-quality tahini products, there is no added sodium, so even people on restricted diets aimed at lowering saturated fat and sodium intake can have tahini without causing any problems.
Tahini is a food that’s made from crushed sesame seeds, and is very rich in unsaturated fat, antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids.
It has robust benefits for heart health, and could also be a useful addition to your diet to reduce symptoms of depression, too.
The antioxidant effects are most potent for tahini made from black sesame seeds, but even white sesame seeds contain strong antioxidant abilities.
Given how versatile tahini is as a food, and how compatible it is with even the most restrictive dietary plans, it’s a great way to improve the overall quality of your diet.