Do you prefer sesame butter or tahini? Both are made from sesame seeds. Both are very popular alternatives for those with nut allergies. So what differentiates one from the other?
Two very popular and yet different sesame products are sesame butter and tahini.
Sesame butter is made from unhulled or hulled heavily roasted sesame seeds. It is dark in color and has a robust flavor reminiscent of toasted sesame oil. Comparatively, tahini is made from raw or lightly roasted always hulled sesame seeds. It is light in color with only a slightly bitter, nutty flavor.
This seemingly minor difference makes a huge impact on flavor and, therefore, the way the two products are used in cooking. Sesame butter is widely used in Chinese cuisine. Tahini, on the other hand, is very popular in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines. In many cases, sesame butter and tahini can be used in similar dishes or even substituted for each other. The flavor is considerably different, however. Sesame butter, with its strong roasted flavor, works best in savory dishes, whereas tahini, with its much lighter flavor, is equally suitable for sweet dishes as savory.
Tips for Making Sesame Butter
Just like any homemade nut butter or seed butter, this sesame butter requires only one ingredient:
- Sesame seeds: when buying sesame seeds, you have two options – black sesame seeds and white sesame seeds. Black sesame seeds have their hulls intact and are very rich in nutrients. However, they also have a quite bitter taste. White sesame seeds are available unhulled and hulled. Unhulled white sesame seeds have a tan/brown color and a slightly nutty flavor. Hulled white sesame seeds are white with a mild, sweet flavor. White hulled sesame seeds might not be as nutritious as the unhulled varieties but yield a sweeter and smoother sesame butter. I recommend using white hulled sesame seeds for this recipe.
I know that many recipes call for additional oil to be added to homemade seed butter, but I prefer to keep the sesame butter clean and simple. There really isn’t any reason to add oil to homemade sesame butter.
How to Make Sesame Butter
If you’ve ever made nut butter, you’ll notice that it’s practically the same process. The steps are detailed below:
- Roast the sesame seeds. Assuming you’re starting with raw sesame seeds, you’ll need to roast them first. Roasting releases the seeds’ natural oils, which helps with the blending process. Place the sesame seeds in a dry skillet and roast them over low heat, stirring constantly, until slightly golden and fragrant, about 5 minutes, depending on the size of the skillet. The seeds will start popping and flying off the pan. If you’re unsure if the seeds are done, take them off the heat a bit earlier because they can burn quickly.
- Let the sesame seeds cool. This step is really important. If the sesame seeds are too hot, they will melt the Vitamix container. This is not an issue when making hot soup in which the water prevents the blend from going above 212°F/100°C. But seeds are dry, and with enough friction of the blade, they can go above 250°F/121°C where the container starts to melt.
- Blend. Add the roasted sesame seeds into a high-speed blender – I use my Vitamix – and blend on high until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute. The seeds will go from whole to crushed to powdered to clumpy to pasty to creamy. Use the tamper to push the seeds down into the blade as you’re blending. Make sure you do not reduce the quantity of sesame seeds if using a Vitamix. You need a minimum amount of seeds in the blender container to ensure the blade works properly.
Note: you can use a food processor to make sesame butter, but the process is much longer and requires the addition of oil to deliver the same creaminess as a high-speed blender.
How to Serve Sesame Butter
Sesame butter is just as versatile as any other nut butter or seed butter. However, the most frequent uses are sauces for stir fries, noodle bowls, hot soups, sesame peanut sauce, and salad dressings.
Some people love the slightly bitter flavor of sesame butter and use it in hummus and other dips instead of tahini.
How to Store Sesame Butter
- Refrigerating: transfer the sesame butter into an airtight container and refrigerate it for up to 1 month. (The natural oils from the seeds oxidize when exposed to elements like air, light, and heat, which will eventually turn the seed butter rancid if not stored properly. Also, roasted seeds turn rancid faster than raw seeds).
- Freezing: transfer the sesame butter into an airtight container and freeze it for up to 6 months.
More Nut Butter & Seed Butter Recipes
Ever since I got my Vitamix, I make nut butters and seed butters exclusively at home. I really like the idea of creating my own blends – have you ever tried almonds-hazelnut-pecan butter? – and adding mix-ins.
You can find some of my favorite nut butter recipes on this blog:
- Almond butter: making almond butter at home is just as quick and easy as making any other nut butter in a Vitamix blender. The final result is smooth, creamy, and absolutely delicious homemade almond butter.
- Coconut butter: have you ever wondered how to make coconut butter at home? Creamy, rich, coconutty… It’s easier than you may think, and the entire process takes less than a minute.
- Mixed nut butter: coming soon!
If you try any of these recipes, please, leave a comment and rate the recipe below. It always means a lot when you do.
- 4 cups sesame seeds *
- Roast the sesame seeds. Place the sesame seeds in a dry skillet and roast them over low heat, stirring constantly, until slightly golden and fragrant, about 5 minutes, depending on the size of the skillet. The seeds will start popping and flying off the pan. If you're not sure if the seeds are done, take them off the heat a bit earlier because they can burn quickly.
- Let the sesame seeds cool. This step is really important. If the sesame seeds are too hot, they will melt the Vitamix container. Ideally, the seeds would be warm.
- Blend. Add the warm roasted sesame seeds into a high-speed blender - I use my Vitamix - and blend on high until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute. The seeds will go from whole to crushed to powdered to clumpy to pasty to creamy. Use the tamper to push the seeds down into the blade as you're blending. Make sure you do not reduce the quantity of sesame seeds if using a Vitamix. You need a minimum amount of seeds in the blender container to ensure the blade works properly.
- Store. Leftover sesame butter keeps well in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month. For longer-term storage, freeze in an airtight container for up to 6 months,