This article is part of the Basically Guide to Better Baking, a 10-week, 10-recipe series designed to help you become a cooler, smarter, more confident baker.
My worst kitchen injury can be attributed not to a mandoline or an immersion blender, but to tahini. I had purchased the kind that comes in a metal can. As I was vigorously stirring the tahini, trying in vain to get the oil and the chalky paste to coalesce, my hand slipped, and I sliced my finger open on the sharp edge of the metal lid. There was no hummus that day. Only blood.
Now is not the time to be going to the hospital for tahini-related accidents. If you’re purchasing a jar to make these Tahini Billionaire Bars or another baking project, seek out a brand that requires minimal or no stirring—like Seed+ Mill, Soom, or Beirut.
“Fresh, good-quality tahini will be much more homogenous than an older, low-quality one,” says senior food editor and tahini fanboy Andy Baraghani. “Oil is inevitably going to rise, and you shouldn’t necessarily be put off by separated tahini. But if it’s been processed properly and hasn’t been sitting on a shelf for months, you’ll see less of that.”
For baking, homogeneity is key. “If you’re measuring out half a cup and it’s all oil or all chalk, you’ll get an incorrect result,” says Basically editor Sarah Jampel, who not only developed the recipe for Tahini Billionaire Bars but also wrote an entire ode to Soom tahini. “You either need to buy tahini that is nice and smooth or stir the heck out of it beforehand.” If you’re averse to stirring and find your tahini has separated like Harry Styles and whoever he was last dating, Sarah suggests dumping the whole jar in the blender or food processor.
In addition to texture, flavor is another indicator of tahini’s quality and freshness. “Tahini has a slight bitterness that most other nut or seed butters don’t,” says Andy. “It’s quite savory. You want it to taste earthy, nutty, and rich.” But if that bitterness tips over into astringency—that mouth-drying sensation that you get from a tannic red wine—that is not the tahini for you.
In addition to Soom, Andy and Sarah like Seed+Mill—which, like Soom, is made from Ethiopian sesame seeds and processed in Israel—and Beirut brand tahini from Lebanon. And, luckily for me, all of these come in jars with screw-top lids.
Organic Tahini 16 ozSoom Foods Single-Source Pure Ground Sesame Tahini Paste 11oz (2 Pack) Beirut Tahini Sesame Paste 32 Oz