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BEST Tahini Substitutes + 1 To Avoid

I’ve personally taste-tested a variety of tahini substitutes to find the best one for every cooking occasion.

Whether you’re on the hunt for the closest flavor match, in need of a last-minute pantry substitute, or want a substitute that fits your diet, I’ve got the answers.

Peanut butter is the best substitute for tahini in terms of flavor and accessibility. Try to get a natural, unsweetened version for best results! Other varieties like cashew or almond butter also work. Allergic to nuts? Try sunflower seed butter instead. You can also make tahini from scratch. 

The experiment

I made different batches of (yummy) hummus to try out several tahini substitutes. 

Tahini is a Middle Eastern condiment made from sesame seeds that have been lightly toasted (sometimes) and ground. It boasts an earthy, nutty flavor with a subtle bitterness. It has a super creamy consistency, making it a great condiment or addition to another sauce.

You’ll also find tahini in salad dressing and some baked goods.

Here are the substitutes I tested and my verdicts:

SubstitutesHow to SubstituteVerdict
Peanut butterReplace tahini in a 1:1 ratio8/10
Cashew or almond butterReplace tahini in a 1:1 ratio8/10
Sunflower seed butterUse 3/4 the amount of sunflower seed butter9/10
Chinese sesame pasteReplace tahini with 1/2 the amount8/10
Homemade tahiniReplace tahini in a 1:1 ratio10/10
Black sesame pasteReplace tahini in a 1:1 ratio8/10
Sesame oilStart with a few drops7/10

Quick tip

All the substitutes here will work in any recipe that you use tahini in, the only one you’ll have to make adjustments for is sesame oil. but you can usually find a recipe for whatever you’re making ‘with sesame oil’ that will guide you.

Peanut butter

Good old peanut butter is a really easy substitute for tahini (if you’re not limited by a nut allergy), but there is a flavor difference. Peanut butter is sweeter than tahini and has a more prominent nuttiness. If you can, go for natural, unsweetened peanut butter, and definitely avoid brands with lots of added sugar.

The natural stuff has a similar texture to tahini too, while more commercial brands will have a much thicker consistency (the kind that coats your mouth).

But don’t stress! If you do end up with stodgy peanut butter, simply microwave it for a few seconds to loosen it up. You can even add in a small amount of a neutral oil.

I was worried about how my peanut butter hummus would taste, but I was surprised by how nice it was. And Nigella Lawson agrees with me!

How to substitute: replace tahini in a 1:1 ratio with peanut butter.

Cashew or almond butter 

Not a fan of peanut butter? Why not give cashew or almond butter a shot?

Cashew butter has the mildest flavor of all the nut butters, while almond butter is rich and bold. Neither of them match the distinctive bitterness that sets tahini apart, but nobody’s perfect!

Both have a smooth, creamy consistency that matches tahini, so you can use these alternatives in any recipe — from baked goods to sauces. 

Sadly the luxury of these nut butters comes at a price. They’re usually more expensive than peanut butter, and sometimes even tahini. 

How to substitute: replace tahini in a 1:1 ratio with cashew or almond butter.

Sunflower seed butter

Sunflower seed butter is the best substitute for tahini if you’re allergic to sesame and nuts. 

It’s just as smooth and silky as tahini, and has it’s own distinct flavor. The exact flavour is hard to describe, but it’s earthy and intense. A few of my taste testers didn’t actually like the sunflower butter hummus at first, and it took a few bites for them to get used to the flavor.

Pure sunflower butter can be pretty bitter, so it’s not uncommon to see some sugar listed on the ingredients list. An if you’re up for a little DIY, you can make sunflower seed butter at home. Check out this easy, 23-minute recipe from Alpha Foodie

Pssst… you can also use pumpkin seed butter, especially if you prefer something mellower.

How to substitute: replace 1 cup tahini with ¾ cup sunflower seed butter.

Chinese sesame paste

Chinese sesame paste is tahini’s cousin from the East, but it uses heavily toasted sesame seeds instead of the hulled raw sesame seeds in tahini.

The toasted seeds give it a darker color, and a more robust, nuttier flavor. I would start by using half the amount of sesame seed paste to replace the tahini, and then add more to taste.

The texture is also a little denser, but this can vary by brand. If the denseness is a problem, simply mix in a few drops of a neutral oil or water to thin the paste out.

This went really great with my hummus, but I can’t wait to use it with some noodles and chili oil. Yum! 

How to substitute: replace tahini with 1/2 the amount of Chinese sesame paste.

Homemade tahini

If you’ve got some time to spare, why not have a go at making your own tahini? It’s simpler than it sounds!

My go-to recipe is from Inspired Taste, and it only takes 15 minutes to make. You’ll need sesame seeds, a neutral-flavored oil, and a little salt. 

The only cooking involved is lightly toasting the seeds to give a deeper flavor. A food processor does the rest of the work, just throw everything in, blitz until smooth, and voila – homemade tahini.

One batch can last up to a month in the refrigerator. The mixture will separate over time, but it’s nothing a good stir can’t fix.

How to substitute: swap store-bought tahini with your homemade version in a 1:1 ratio.

Black sesame paste

Welcome to the darker side of tahini! 

Black sesame paste is the same as tahini, but made with black, unhulled sesame seeds instead of the regular kind. It has a similarly rich, nutty taste with slightly more bitterness. Dark hummus certainly isn’t the norm, but it’s a fun way to switch things up (especially at halloween).

You can buy black sesame paste in stores or make it from scratch to personalize it. I Heart Umami has an easy recipe that recommends blending the sesame seeds with honey to balance out the bitter notes.

How to substitute: replace tahini in a 1:1 ratio with black sesame paste.

Sesame oil

Don’t have any of the options above? Don’t worry. Your trusty bottle of sesame oil can come to the rescue.

It doesn’t have a thick, creamy texture. But it delivers on flavor with just a few drops! Because of the different texture, I had to modify my hummus recipe and use different ratios.

The resulting hummus was delicious, with some people even preferred it to the tahini version because it lacked any bitterness.

How to substitute: start with a few drops of sesame oil, and add more to taste. 

Other substitutes to consider

The suggestions above are my top picks for tahini substitutes because they can primarily be used for savory and sweet applications. 

But here are other options worth a shot, specifically for making dips and spreads like hummus and baba ganoush. They’re a departure from the realm of nut butters and pastes, but they still get the job done: 

  • Greek yogurt – this may seem like a curveball, but Greek yogurt’s thick, creamy consistency fills in for tahini in dips and sauces like hummus. Mix it with sesame oil and you have a winner!
  • Roasted or steamed vegetables (sweet potatoes, red peppers, beets, etc.) – I picked up this tip from Martha Stewart! It may seem odd, but soft, caramelized veggies can help smoothen and bring a light creaminess to your sauces like tahini would. As a bonus, they’ll bring a fun color too.
  • Liquid from canned chickpeas – also called aquafaba, this is an especially a good substitute for tahini in making hummus. This starchy bean water will help your hummus blend smoothly, even without tahini. 

Substitute to avoid

I saw someone on a forum suggesting coconut butter as a substitute for tahini, but I have to respectfully disagree. Coconut butter has a prominent sweetness you won’t get with tahini, which limits its versatility.

It’s more suited for desserts and baked goods, unlike tahini, which you can use in dips, sauces, dressings, and more. 

Best Tahini Substitutes + 1 To Avoid

I tested several different tahini substitutes for the best one. I also found an easy homemade version you can try
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate
Course: Ingredient
Cuisine: Middle Eastern
Keyword: substitutes for tahini, tahini substitutes
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 4 people
Calories: 357kcal


  • 1 cup hulled sesame seeds
  • 2-4 tbsp neutral flavored oil
  • pinch of salt


  • In a dry saucepan over medium-low heat, toast the sesame seeds until lightly colored and fragrant. This should take about 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Transfer the toasted seeds into a baking sheet and cool completely.
  • Add sesame seeds into a food processor and blitz until you form a thick paste.
  • Add 3 tbsp of oil then blitz for 2-3 more minutes. Scrape the sides a couple of times. The consistency should be smooth, not gritty. Add another tablespoon of oil if desired.
  • Season as desired and blitz again. Transfer tahini in a jar and store in the refrigerator for a month.


other options: peanut butter, cashew or almond butter, sunflower seed butter, chinese sesame paste, homemade tahini, black sesame paste, sesame oil, greek yogurt, roasted or steamed veggies, liquid from canned chickpeas


Serving: 0.25cups | Calories: 357kcal

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