A jar of sunflower seed tahini and fresh sunflower seeds on a marble bench

I loved eating tahini-based dips and spreads like hummus, babaganoush and moutabal. These traditional middle eastern recipes fit in extremely well with a plant-based lifestyle unless of course, you discover that you have developed a serious allergy to sesame. Eating store-bought dips is no longer possible and faced with the prospect of never tasting some of my favourite dishes again, I needed a tahini-free version, Sunflower seed tahini. Leaving out tahini is one option but I missed the nutty undertones that tahini imparts.

Tahini essentially just means crushed nuts, while it may be most commonly made with sesame seeds, there are examples of tahini being made from sunflower seeds. After a bit of research, and some recipe testing 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 a food processor, blender or grinder will still work, though might not be as smooth.

Sunflower Seed Tahini


  • 270g (2 cups) raw hulled sunflower seeds
  • Water
  • Salt
  • 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, shake the tray so they toast evenly and repeat until they are nice and golden which may take 20 – 30 minutes depending on your oven.

Set aside to cool.

Put the sunflower seeds into a blender or 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 an airtight jar in the fridge, use in classic Middle Eastern recipes in place of tahini.

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