Put on your scuba gear, because today we are diving headfirst into the creamy, dreamy, and downright addictive world of Lebanese Tarator! This tahini sauce is not your average condiment, oh no. It's the kind of sauce that will have you licking your fingers, your plate, and anything else you can get your hands on. Please, do not lick anyone's feet, even if they have tahini on them. It is not safe.
Picture this: a dollop of rich, nutty tahini, swirled with tangy lemon juice, and garlic that packs just the right subtle amount of punch. It’s a velvety, smooth sauce that coats everything in its path. It's like a flavor explosion in your mouth, and once you try it, you'll be hooked for life.
Lebanese Tarator isn't just delicious, it's also versatile. You can use it as a dip for veggies, a topping for taboule, or a sauce for my crazy-good seitan kofta. Serve it in a ramekin to dip perfect, hot, freshly grilled homemade pita into, or just eat it straight from the spoon (no judgment here). You can enjoy this tahini sauce on spicy dishes such as my quick and easy Korean cucumber salad as a way to balance and cool off the overall flavor. Plus, it's super easy to make at home, so you can whip up a batch whenever the craving strikes. Literally. This is a five minutes-or-less recipe!
So, grab your sesame paste and your appetite, because we're about to take a deep dive into the delightful galaxy of Lebanese Tarator. Get ready for some serious flavor fireworks, folks!
🥰Why you are going to adore the ever-loving heck outta this recipe
Ughhhh. Let me innumerate the ways:
- Quick and Easy: This recipe takes less than five minutes to prepare, making it the perfect option for busy mornings or as a snack to whip up between meals.
- Just five simple ingredients: this recipe only requires five simple ingredients. Heck, one of them is water. Does that even count!?!
- No Cooking Required: No need to turn on the stove or heat up your whole dang house. Simply mix the ingredients together, and you're good to go!
- Healthy and Nutritious: This recipe is packed with calcium, healthy fats, protein, and fiber, making it a great choice for anyone looking for a healthy and satisfying snack.
- Allergen-Friendly: Like all my recipes, this is naturally gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, nut-free and vegan, making it a great option for anyone with food sensitivities or dietary restrictions.
- Perfect for on-the-go: This dressing is easy to take with you wherever you go. Dipping veggies in it is an easy, quick snack while traveling or at work.
🤷♀️What is tarator?
Tarator is a popular condiment and dip in Lebanese, Syrian, Turkish, and Bulgarian cuisine. The exact origin of tarator is unclear, but it is believed to have originated in the Middle East, where tahini (a key ingredient in tarator) has been used in cooking for centuries.
In Lebanon and Syria, tarator is typically made with tahini, lemon juice, garlic, and water. In Turkey, it is made with yogurt, cucumber, and garlic.
Meanwhile, in Bulgaria, tarator is a cold cucumber soup made with yogurt, fresh dill, thin-skinned cucumbers (such as English or Persian cucumbers), and walnuts. The ingredients are either blended or run through a food processor to be smooth and creamy. This simple Bulgarian dish makes for an easy, refreshing cold soup to serve during the summer, and is 20,000% different from the Lebanese and Turkish versions.
Despite the differences in ingredients and preparation, all variations of tarator share a creamy texture and tangy, nutty flavor. Tahini-based tarator is often used as a dip for falafel, grilled meats, or vegetables, while the yogurt-based tarator is often served as a side dish or condiment for main courses.
Listen, normally I don’t do this (write about every single ingredient in the recipe). But because I love ya, (and because there are so few ingredients in this dressing) I am going to tell you about each ingredient because it will help you make this tahini sauce perfectly!
Tahini is a paste made from ground sesame seeds and is a staple ingredient in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine. Tahini is known for its nutty flavor, creamy texture, and is super-high in calcium. However, not all tahini brands are created equal.
I make my tarator with a very smooth, pourable tahini paste made from toasted sesame seeds. If your tahini is thicker than what you can pour, you will probably need to add a little extra water to this recipe to get it to the desired consistency.
Tahini is made from ground sesame seeds which naturally contain small amounts of saturated fat. However, tahini is also high in unsaturated fats, which are considered healthier fats and can help lower cholesterol levels when consumed in moderation. Because this recipe is plant-based, it also is completely cholesterol-free!
Using fresh lemon juice in this recipe will give the tarator a bright, tangy flavor that perfectly complements the nutty taste of the tahini. Sesame paste has a slight sweetness, and the acidity of the lemon juice balances and neutralizes that flavor.
A small amount of raw garlic gives tarator its signature savory flavor. Here’s the thing, since this recipe is easy to make in a bowl, and we don't need to use a blender, I am going to share my method with you in the step-by-step instructions below on how to turn the garlic into a smooth paste. That way you don’t end up with spicy little bits of garlic ruining the smooth consistency of the tahini sauce.
If you follow a sattvic diet, just omit the garlic, and spend some time enjoying all my sattvic recipes while you are on the site.
Cumin’s subtle earthly flavor is essential to making an authentic tarator. As long as it is not 200 years old, (read: older than four months), you can just use already ground cumin. My personal preference is to use whole cumin seeds (the wild mountain cumin from Burlap and Barrel is some of the best cumin I have tasted anywhere in the world). I lightly toast the cumin seeds in a dry pan before grinding them finely in a spice grinder.
Cumin has been shown to improve digestion by stimulating the production of digestive enzymes. It may also help to alleviate digestive issues such as bloating, gas, and indigestion. It contains compounds that have anti-inflammatory properties. These compounds may help reduce inflammation in the body, which is associated with various chronic diseases.
Salt is not only in this dressing for it’s flavor. I use salt as an abrasive to help turn the garlic into a smooth paste. For that reason, slightly larger crystal salt, such as kosher salt is ideal. But look, despite what people say, salt is salt. Any salt you have laying around will totally work.
Yeah, actually water is an ingredient. Deal with it! But seriously, the reason I am bringing it up is: the amount of water you use in this recipe will dramatically affect the thickness of the sauce. Some people like tarator to be thick like a loose hummus. And some people like it to be really thin, like some Lebanese places use on their falafel. Me, I like it somewhere in between - a thick creamy sauce. But add water little by little as you whisk the sauce together. You can always make it thinner by adding more water, but you can’t take the water away once it’s added!
Optional ingredients for garnishing
I love to garnish a bowl of tahini sauce with a splash of good quality extra virgin olive oil, and a bit of chopped flat leaf parsley. If you want some spice, swirl a small spoonful of shatta sauce into this.
See the recipe card at the bottom of this page for the complete list of ingredients and their quantities.
One of my favorite things about tarator, is that it is such an open canvas for creative variations. Here are a few ideas to get you excited about your new life as a tahini-obsessed maniac who wears an empty bucket of sesame paste as a hat…
👉Green goddess tahini sauce: Add a handful of fresh herbs like parsley, cilantro, or mint, and green ingredients like spinach, kale, or avocado to the traditional tahini sauce to create a vibrant green sauce that is both flavorful and healthy. Blend the sauce to make it smooth.
👉Spicy tahini sauce: Add some spice to your tahini sauce with ingredients like cayenne pepper, or chili flakes. If you want to diversify the spice flavor, it’s nice to add a pinch of baharat too (Lebanese 7-spice blend). This variation is perfect for adding some heat to falafel, grilled tofu, or my similarly flavored baharat roasted oyster mushroom shawarma.
👉Maple tahini sauce: Hold the garlic, and add a touch of sweetness to your tahini sauce with maple syrup, coconut sugar or agave nectar. A tiny pinch of cinnamon is nice in maple tahini too. This variation is perfect for drizzling over fresh fruit, pancakes, or waffles.
👉Turmeric tahini sauce: Add some turmeric powder to your tahini sauce for a boost of anti-inflammatory properties and a bright yellow color. This variation is perfect for drizzling over roasted vegetables or using it as a dip with crackers or chips.
Start by mincing the garlic as finely as you can. I like to make very thin slits with the tip of a knife in the garlic, the butt end intact to hold the thin slits.
From there, it's easy to mince the garlic into uniform tiny bits pretty darn quickly.
Sprinkle the minced garlic with salt. The salt will act as an abrasive to pulverize the garlic further.
Using the side of a knife, mash and scrape the garlic and salt together until it forms a paste. It should take a minute or two to get the garlic to become a smooth paste.
Next, whisk together the tahini and lemon juice in a small bowl until smooth. Add the garlic paste, cumin, and a pinch of salt, and whisk to combine.
Gradually add water to the mixture, whisking continuously until the dressing reaches the desired consistency. Keep in mind that the dressing will thicken as it sits, so you may need to add more water later on.
Taste the dressing and adjust the seasoning as needed, adding more salt, lemon juice, or water to achieve the desired flavor and consistency. If desired, garnish the tahini with extra virgin olive oil and parsley. Serve it over some mercimek kofte or cig kofte, or dip Turkish stuffed cabbage rolls into it for crying out loud!
Yes, tahini is gluten-free as it is made from ground sesame seeds, which do not contain gluten. However, if you have a severe gluten sensitivity, you should check the label on your tahini to ensure it isn’t made in a facility that also processes gluten. Always read the label carefully or contact the manufacturer if you have any concerns about gluten or other allergens.
Whether tahini is kosher for Passover depends on a few factors, including the type of tahini and the specific Passover dietary restrictions observed by the individual or community.
In general, plain tahini made only from sesame seeds and oil is considered kosher for Passover, as it does not contain any chametz (leavened grains) or kitniyot (legumes and some other ingredients that are prohibited by some Ashkenazi Jewish communities). However, if the tahini contains additional ingredients, such as spices, flavorings, or additives, it's important to check whether those ingredients are kosher for Passover.
It's always best to consult with a rabbi or trusted Passover authority to determine whether a specific brand or type of tahini is appropriate for Passover, especially if you are uncertain about the Passover dietary restrictions.
In general, tarator is considered halal as it is made from permissible ingredients and does not contain any haram (forbidden) ingredients. However, whether tarator is halal or not can depend on the specific ingredients and preparation methods used.
For example, if the tarator contains any haram ingredients such as alcohol (which could be the case if you used lemon extract rather than fresh lemon juice), or animal-derived products that are not halal, then it would not be considered halal. Additionally, if the tarator is prepared in a non-halal kitchen or with utensils that have come into contact with non-halal substances, it may not be considered halal.
Tahini sauce can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. If the sauce has thickened too much after being refrigerated, simplyin a bit of water to thin it out before using.
It is not recommended to freeze tahini sauce as it may change the texture and consistency of the sauce once thawed. It's best to make tahini sauce fresh and enjoy it within a week. If you have leftovers that you won't be able to use within a week, you can try making a half recipe to make a smaller batch.
✌️Some of my favey dishes to serve with Tahini:
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Lebanese Tarator (Arabic Tahini Sauce)
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup tahini
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cumin
- ⅓ cup of water or more as needed
- Optional to garnish: extra virgin olive oil and flat-leaf parsley
- Place the minced garlic on a cutting board, sprinkle with a pinch of salt, and use the side of a knife to mash and scrape the garlic and salt together for two minutes until it forms a smooth paste.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the tahini and lemon juice until smooth. Add the garlic paste, cumin, and a pinch of salt, and whisk to combine.
- Gradually add water to the mixture, whisking with the tines of a fork continuously until the dressing reaches the desired consistency. Keep in mind that the dressing will thicken as it sits, so you may need to add more water later on.
- Taste the dressing and adjust the seasoning as needed, adding more salt, lemon juice, or water to achieve the desired flavor and consistency.
- Serve the tahini sauce immediately with olive oil and parsley to garnish, or refrigerate for up to a week until ready to use.