I love eating tahini-based dishes like hummus, babaganoush and moutabal. These traditional middle eastern dishes fit in extremely well with a plant-based lifestyle. Unless of course you discover that you have developed a serious allergy to sesame, and you are faced with the prospect of either never having the dishes again, or having a tahini-free version that lacks the nutty undertones that made a great dish.
I don’t give up easily – so I was determined to find an alternative to sesame that gave me the hints of nut that I enjoyed about these dishes. Tahini essentially just means crushed nuts, and while it may be most commonly made with sesame seeds, there are plenty of examples of it being made from sunflower seeds. After a bit of research, and some trial and error I arrived at my own version that can easily be made at home. You can easily make it raw or toasted, just like traditional tahini. It keeps for a month in the fridge if stored in an airtight jar and I have found it works as a straight swap in many recipes that call for sesame seed-based tahini.
Equipment – high speed blender is best but food processor, blender or grinder will still work, though might not be as smooth.
- 270g (2 cups) raw hulled sunflower seeds
- sunflower oil
Soak the sunflower seeds in water overnight or for at least 4 hours.
Heat your oven to 180ºC.
Drain the soaking liquid.
Line a rimmed baking tray with greaseproof paper or use a silicon mat
Spread the sunflower seeds in a single layer on the lined baking tray and place in the oven, check after 10 minutes and shake the tray so they toast evenly. Repeat until they are nice and golden, this may take 20 – 30 minutes depending on your oven.
Set aside to cool.
Put the sunflower seeds into a blender of food processor, add 50ml of water and blend.
With the blender running, slowly drizzle in sunflower oil until you have a smooth paste, season to taste.
Store in airtight jar in the fridge, use in recipes where tahini is an ingredient.