Tahini Pasta Recipe (Vegan Pasta with Tahini Sauce)


Can you put tahini on pasta? Absolutely! This pasta tahini recipe proves that you can make a delicious and creamy dairy free pasta that’s completely vegan. You’ll love this tahini pasta sauce with a hint of garlic and lemon flavors. You can serve lemon tahini pasta as a side dish, or add tofu or chicken to make it the main dish.

tahini pasta recipe

This pasta with tahini sauce recipe is an easy weeknight dinner idea in under 30 minutes! The smooth and velvety creamy tahini pasta sauce is a crowd pleaser that’s perfect for pasta night.

I think you’ll find that this is the best garlic tahini pasta because we’re balancing the bitterness with a bit of sweetener. An issue with many creamy vegan tahini pasta recipes I’ve seen is that they don’t have anything to counter the natural bitter flavor of the tahini. IMHO, it’s fine to skip sweeteners when you’re using a little tahini to sauce falafel or in hummus.

But when you’re saucing noodles with a larger amount of tahini, a little added sweetness is a good thing. Some brands of tahini are quite a bit more bitter than others. With the wrong recipe, you could end up with some seriously bitter tahini noodles.

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But let’s back up a bit and begin at the beginning. Exactly what is tahini?

Jump to:

🍋 What is tahini sauce made of?

Tahini is a paste made of ground sesame seeds that have been toasted and hulled. It is a popular ingredient in Middle Eastern cuisine, where you’ll find it in foods like hummus, halva, and baba ganoush. Tahini is also used for a sauce for falafel.

Ottolenghi has a popular tahini sauce recipe combining tahini, honey, lemon juice, and garlic. The ingredients in my pasta tahini sauce are the following:

  • Tahini
  • Toasted sesame oil
  • Reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • Freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Peanut butter
  • Maple syrup
  • Fresh garlic cloves
  • Lemon zest
tahini pasta ingredients

Specific quantities of ingredients are in the recipe card at the bottom of the post! The recipe makes enough to cover half a box of pasta (8 ounces or 227 grams dry). Double or triple the recipe as needed.

Joyva, Mighty Sesame Co, and Ziyad tahini sesame are popular tahini brands. I love this squeeze bottle Mighty Sesame comes in. It’s so easy to use.

I’m using maple syrup instead of honey to balance the bitterness of the tahini but keep things vegan. Using a combination of peanut butter and tahini is another way to make the sauce less bitter. I think you’ll find this is a better tahini sauce for picky eaters than most options.

Toasted sesame oil and lemon zest give an extra boost to the sesame and lemon flavors. We’ve also got the garlic you’ll find in classic tahini sauce.

Reduced-sodium soy sauce brings a little salty kick to our sauce. Make sure to use a lower salt variety, to keep your sauce from getting too salty.

The kitchen equipment you need includes a pot, a colander or slotted spoon to drain the pasta, and a mini chopper. The mini chopper is very helpful to make the tahini sauce smooth, especially if the tahini you’re using is clumpy.

🍝 Tahini Pasta Sauce Recipe

Here are step-by-step instructions for making pasta tahini:

  1. Boil and drain the pasta in a large pot of water according to the package directions while you prepare the sauce. You want the pasta al dente and ready to add to the sauce. (Hot tip! Reserve a little of the pasta water in case it’s needed later.)
  1. Put the tahini, toasted sesame oil, reduced-sodium soy sauce, lemon juice, peanut butter, maple syrup, garlic cloves, and lemon zest in a mini chopper. Blend until smooth. You can also whisk the ingredients together, but you’ll need to mince the garlic cloves first.
  1. Taste the sauce and decide if more sweetener is needed to balance the bitter tahini. Some tahini brands are more bitter than others, plus different people have different tolerances to bitterness.
  1. Add the tahini sauce to the cooked, hot pasta and toss to coat. You can thin the sauce with a little pasta water if needed. I don’t find this necessary most of the time.
  1. The pasta is about the same color as the sauce (it’s hard to see in the pics). Garnish with sliced scallions and red pepper flakes for color. A sprinkle of sesame seeds is a nice way to add more texture to the dish.
tahini sauce pasta

Tip! Olive oil can be used in place of the sesame oil, but you’ll lose out on flavor.

🌡 Does tahini need to be refrigerated?

Tahini typically does not need to be refrigerated. You can keep it in a cool, dry pantry for storage, same as you do for peanut butter. Tahini pasta does require refrigeration, and cannot be kept out at room temperature for more than 1-2 hours.

Store tahini pasta leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. Tahini pasta also freezes well.

Reheating is easy! To reheat tahini pasta, put a serving in a microwave-safe bowl and cover with a paper towel. Microwave on high for 1 minute, until warmed through.

How do you know when tahini has gone bad?

Tahini often has a best buy date printed on the label, but may be fine beyond that date. One of the most obvious indicators of bad tahini is the smell. Tahini develops an undesirable odor when the oils in this seed paste have gone rancid.

Can you make tahini sauce ahead of time?

Yes, you can make tahini sauce ahead, and keep it covered in plastic wrap for up to 3-4 days in the fridge. The sauce will likely thicken as it sits. You can use the hot water from cooking pasta to thin the sauce and warm it back up.

pasta with tahini sauce

🤔 What do you serve tahini sauce pasta with?

What goes well with tahini sauce and pasta? I recommend balancing your meal by adding protein and vegetables.

If you add foods to this recipe, you’ll essentially have a tahini pasta salad. You may want to double up on the tahini pasta dressing if you do this.

Here are some proteins that go with tahini sauce:

Some add nutritional yeast or Parmesan cheese to tahini sauce, but I feel they don’t go with this recipe.

Here are some veggies to serve with tahini sauce:

  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Roasted eggplant
  • Zucchini
  • Asparagus
  • Snow peas
  • Onion
  • Corn
  • Bell peppers or roasted red peppers
  • Artichokes
  • Wilted spinach
  • Mushrooms
  • Tomatoes
  • Fresh herbs, like basil

You could also serve veggies on the side, for example this Vegan Spinach Salad. You could also serve the tahini sauce on quinoa or on a cauliflower rice bowl instead of on pasta.

📋 Calories, Protein, Net Carbs

One serving of tahini pasta has 466 calories, 60.4 grams net carbohydrates, and 13.3 grams protein. Tahini pasta is not a gluten free, low calorie, keto, or low carb food. Use sugar free maple syrup if you want tahini pasta with no sugar added.

💭 Expert Tips from a Dietitian

This is a level 3 recipe (weight maintenance and active lifestyles). Is tahini paste fattening? It is maintaining a calorie excess over time that makes you fat, not specific foods.

Tahini has some protein, but not a lot relative to its calories. It’s best thought of as a healthy fat. Sesame seed paste also provides calcium and contains some fiber.

Because tahini is a high fat food, it’s portion size is quite small. That said, I’d argue that tahini is easier to practice portion control with than peanut butter. IMO, tahini is too bitter to be freely eaten out of the jar.

Tahini pasta can be a great snack choice for growing children, picky eaters, and athletes. This recipe packs a lot of calories in a small volume, without much protein or fiber to keep you full.

pasta tahini sauce

You can use a whole grain pasta for higher fiber, but this won’t have a big impact on the calories of the recipe. Legume pastas may be a better choice, since they provide more protein and more fiber.

If you have a weight loss goal, a good general nutrition tip is to cut back on ultra-processed foods. Also, limit added oils and added sugar, as well as high fat/high carb meal combos (including tahini pasta). In their place, include plenty of protein and non-starchy veggies, because they tend to be more satisfying.

Recipe FAQ

Where can I get tahini paste?

Most regular grocery stores carry tahini in the US, even Walmart. Check the international foods section or with the nut butters. You can also find tahini at Thrive Market, Trader Joe’s, Lidl, Whole Foods, and on Amazon.

Is tahini Middle Eastern?

Yes, tahini is a Middle Eastern condiment. It’s commonly used in the Eastern Mediterranean and Levant, South Caucasus, and parts of North Africa (source).

How do I make tahini thicker?

Tahini sauce will often thicken with rest time. A little lemon juice will initially thin tahini, but will cause it to thicken as it sits (source). A large amount of liquid will thin tahini, as expected.

Why is my tahini sauce separating?

The oils in tahini like to separate, similar to what happens with natural peanut butter. You can fix tahini sauce that has separated by blending it in a mini food processor. Hand whisking may also work, but can take quite a bit more effort.

How to make gluten free tahini sauce?

To make this tahini sauce gluten free, simply substitute the reduced-sodium soy sauce for gluten free tamari or coconut aminos. You’ll also need to use gluten-free pasta, such as brown rice pasta or lentil pasta.

What’s a good alternative to tahini?

Some tahini alternatives include cashew butter, almond butter, and sunflower seed butter. Peanut butter can also be used, but has a stronger flavor.

Does tahini sauce have dairy?

Tahini sauce does not typically have dairy, including this tahini sauce. However, I’ve seen recipes where yogurt or other dairy products is used in tahini sauce. Check the ingredients of the recipe or product to make sure you’re getting no dairy tahini sauce.

👩🏻‍🍳 More Tahini Recipes

Looking for more recipes with tahini? Don’t miss these:

These can easily be made into vegan recipes with tahini using simple swaps (e.g., nondairy yogurt in place of regular). If you want more vegan pasta recipes, try my Tempeh Bolognese Sauce.

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The Disclaimer…

All recipes on this website may or may not be appropriate for you, depending on your medical needs and personal preferences. Consult with a registered dietitian or your physician if you need help determining the dietary pattern that may be best for you.

The nutrition information is an estimate provided as a courtesy. It will differ depending on the specific brands and ingredients that you use. Calorie information on food labels may be wildly inaccurate, so please don’t sweat the numbers too much.

For more information on how the three recipe levels may help with a weight management goal, refer to my overnight oats no sugar post. Let’s get cooking!

📖 Recipe

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tahini pasta

Tahini Pasta Recipe (Vegan Pasta with Tahini Sauce)

Summer Yule

This pasta tahini recipe proves that you can make a delicious dairy free pasta that’s completely vegan.

Prep Time 5 mins

Cook Time 10 mins

Total Time 15 mins

Course Dinner

Cuisine American, Middle Eastern

Servings 3

Calories 466 kcal

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces pasta, dry 227 grams
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice, fresh squeezed
  • 1 tablespoon peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup (plus more, if needed)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • sliced scallions and sesame seeds (optional, for garnish)

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Instructions

  • Cook and drain the pasta in a large pot of water according to the package directions while you prepare the sauce. You want the pasta al dente and ready to add to the sauce. (Hot tip! Reserve a little of the pasta water in case it’s needed later.) 

  • Put the tahini, sesame oil, soy sauce, lemon juice, peanut butter, maple syrup, garlic cloves, and lemon zest in a mini chopper. Blend until smooth. You can also whisk the ingredients together by hand, but you’ll need to mince the garlic cloves first.  

  • Taste the sauce and decide if more sweetener is needed to balance the bitter tahini. Some tahini brands are more bitter than others, plus different people have different tolerances to bitterness. 

  • Add the tahini sauce to the cooked, hot pasta and toss to coat. You can thin the sauce with a little pasta water if needed. I don’t find this necessary most of the time. 

  • The pasta is about the same color as the sauce. Garnish with sliced scallions and red pepper flakes for color. A sprinkle of sesame seeds is a nice way to add more texture to the dish. Serve.

Notes

This is a level 3 recipe (weight maintenance and active lifestyles). Is tahini paste fattening? It is maintaining a calorie excess over time that makes you fat, not specific foods.
Tahini has some protein, but not a lot relative to its calories. It’s best thought of as a healthy fat. Sesame seed paste also provides calcium and contains some fiber.
Because tahini is a high fat food, it’s portion size is quite small. That said, I’d argue that tahini is easier to practice portion control with than peanut butter. IMO, tahini is too bitter to be freely eaten out of the jar.
Tahini pasta can be a great snack choice for growing children, picky eaters, and athletes. This recipe packs a lot of calories in a small volume, without much protein or fiber to keep you full.
You can use a whole grain pasta for higher fiber, but this won’t have a big impact on the calories of the recipe. Legume pastas may be a better choice, since they provide more protein and more fiber.
If you have a weight loss goal, a good general nutrition tip is to cut back on ultra-processed foods. Also, limit added oils and added sugar, as well as high fat/high carb meal combos (including tahini pasta). In their place, include plenty of protein and non-starchy veggies, because they tend to be more satisfying.
Nutrition information is for one serving without garnishes.

Nutrition

Calories: 466kcalCarbohydrates: 64.8gProtein: 13.3gFat: 19gSaturated Fat: 2.1gSodium: 407.6mgFiber: 4.4gVitamin C: 4.3% DVCalcium: 1.7% DVIron: 16.2% DV

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