I’m relatively new to tahini, but that’s mostly because I’m relatively new to any foods you won’t find on the kid’s menu at TGI Fridays. I’m a recovering picky eater who barely touched a vegetable until I was in my mid-twenties. (Do McDonald’s fries count? Don’t answer that.) It’s a fact I felt deep shame about growing up. I always wished I were a more adventurous eater who didn’t nearly panic whenever I was invited to someone else’s house for dinner—what if they served something that wasn’t beige?! So when I made an adventurous move to New York City shortly after college, I decided it was time to start taking food risks, too. I was sick of missing out on, well, the spice of life—literally and metaphorically.
A bite of kale here led to a green smoothie there, and eventually, my daily meals started to regularly feature colors other than pizza-sauce red. But it wasn’t until I roasted sweet potato, broccoli, and cauliflower on high heat—to the point that they were crispy on the outside and tender in the middle—that my relationship with vegetables turned from acceptance to fondness. And it wasn’t until I topped them with crispy chickpeas and velvety lemon tahini sauce that they became some of my very favorite foods (little Cathryne still can’t believe it). I’ve eaten that meal for four nights a week, nearly every week, for the last five years (I make a big batch, sheet-pan style—loosely based on this recipe—on Sundays), and when I really want to treat my taste buds, I use Seed + Mill Organic Tahini.
My weekly lemony tahini sauce is just tahini plus lemon juice, garlic powder, and salt to taste—thinned with water. My dedication to this concoction led me to experiment with a variety of jars, all of which were not created equal. Some were way too bitter, which can be due to over-roasted or unhulled sesame seeds, and others were unpleasantly grainy, another common outcome of leaving the hulls intact. I discovered a few premium brands that were creamy and had a well-balanced taste, but none checked all my boxes as fully as Seed + Mill. It’s not the cheapest option—I also stock my pantry with Trader Joe’s tahini, which gets the job done at a lower price—but in my unprofessional opinion, it’s the very best: It’s incredibly creamy (I would go as far as to say velvety), it has just a hint of pleasant bitterness, and it works equally well in savory and sweet recipes.
Yep, it’s also one of my favorite baking ingredients. If you haven’t incorporated the Middle Eastern staple into your dessert menu, I would get on that. Tahini is perhaps most known in the dessert world for being the star ingredient in many halva recipes, but it also ups the complexity of baked goods (like these deeply delicious brownies) and other no-bake treats (I almost always have this salted tahini cookie-dough fudge in my freezer). And on the dessert note, Soom tahini, my second favorite jar, deserves an honorable mention in this post—it’s also ultra-creamy and it has a slightly nuttier flavor than Seed + Mill’s, making it an excellent option for sweetened treats, too.
I realize that taste preferences vary widely from person to person—I was the plain-with-only-cheese queen for most of my life, remember?—but I’ve gifted Seed + Mill tahini to many loved ones and have multiple foodie friends who have tried it, and I’ve yet to hear anything but praise for its next-level creaminess and balanced flavor. Oh, and the company was founded by three passionate women who are also very kind and down-to-earth—as I learned from working with them on a story at my previous magazine job. In other words, if you like tahini or think you might, I’m pretty sure Seed + Mill’s will go down smooth—as will Soom’s, at a slightly lower price.