Garlic Lemon Tahini Dressing

This quick and easy garlic tahini dressing (and variations) takes tips and tricks from the many authentic tahini recipes I’ve tried and combines them to make a perfect sauce or dressing for pasta, salads, couscous… you name it!

Peach Cobbler

Sadly, I’d be lying if I said I always liked tahini… Heck, I’d be lying if I said I always knew what tahini WAS. I grew up with hummus always in the house, as my mom loved it, but I never really questioned what was in it. I just knew that if you gave me a fresh container of Sabra hummus and a stack of store-brand flour tortillas, you could consider me fed for the evening. I mean this all in the most American way possible, may I add. I was never very picky as a kid when it came to food. I’ve always loved to eat, and I can still count on one hand all of the foods I don’t like, and if under duress, I would still eat all of them, anyway. Well… all of them, that is, except one. My all-time least favorite food, spanning twenty years and always prevailing as the #1 still-refuse-to-eat, you-can’t-make-me food villain. Sesame seeds. Unfortunately for anyone reading this, I can continue ad noseeum about my profound distaste for all things sesame seed. Even sitting here now, recollecting my first run-in with them, my stomach still does a little backflip, and I swear I can almost smell them as if I were toasting some as I type. To set the scene- it was the dead of summer in the early 2000s—end of July, early August. The hottest time of year, at the hottest time of day. Roughly midafternoon. A doctor had recommended my mom start a pro-biotic diet, and this day happened to be the day she chose to start it out. My mom was never much of an air conditioner person, and she ended up giving birth to an I-need-an-air-conditioner person. However, at the ripe age of 10, I couldn’t quite relay that information (that would come around 12), so we had a few fans in the bedrooms, but that was it. So, suffice it to say, I was miserably hot, sitting on the living room floor.

Now, I’m all for trying new things- but when the new thing leads you to make hot soup in the dead summer heat, I won’t pretend I wasn’t weary. I was right to be weary, as it was seaweed soup, and one of the main ingredients was sesame seed oil. The minute the smell of toasted sesame seeds hit my nose, I was done for. No-go. Terrible. I don’t know if it was the weather, the idea of soup, the idea of seaweed, or all of the above combined with the sickening smell of sesame seeds that did me in… but still, to this day, I have an internal battle with anything related to sesame. If you’d asked me a few years ago, I think I probably still thought that day in a hazy 2000s summer was the last time I’d consumed anything of the sort. That was until I was educated on the core ingredients of hummus, something I’d eaten weekly for years, one of which being: tahini.

Tahini is the paste made when you crush and combine hulled sesame seeds; not much different than the process of making peanut butter or almond butter. It’s sold in a jar and everything, LOL! As time passed and I started experimenting more heavily with making my own scratch recipes, hummus seemed like a great card to have in the stable, so I picked up some tahini and chickpea and decided to give it a go. Now, hummus is a story for another day (lucky you), but with my first jar of tahini paste, I started venturing out into what else it could be used for.

For whatever reason, tahini paste escaped my cursed hatred for sesame. By some kismet, it just doesn’t remind me of sesame seeds. And look, I’m just as confused as you are, but we’re rollin’ with it… We love tahini over here. I won’t be taking any further questions at this time.

So, my friends… that’s how we got here! Tahini dressing and tahini sauce! This is the most straightforward and delicious garlic lemon tahini dressing recipe I’ve put together, combining all of my favorite tips and tricks of the trade from the plethora of authentic recipes available online that I’ve tried, failed, and tried one more time. My twist serves as a beautiful creamy pasta sauce, a warm topping for your stuffed acorn squash, or served cold from a bottle as a tangy, light salad dressing.

A vegan food journal with fresh, delicious recipes.

Hello, I'm Denise.

I love to eat, garden, travel, and do yin yoga! I make plant-based recipes and photograph them from my 1920’s, remodeled apartment in Rhode Island. I've always loved fresh basil. Put some fresh basil leaves on a piece of cardboard, drizzle on a little olive oil and sea salt, and I'd be tempted to eat it! ❤️

Peach Cobbler

Reasons You’ll Love Garlic Lemon Tahini Dressing

    • Three ingredients! You only need three ingredients aside from water and salt! And it comes together in ten minutes – fresh and delicious!
    • Super cheap and versatile – It can be expensive when you buy tahini sauce at the grocery store. However, Whole  Foods 365 brand is $8.29 (at the time of this writing) for 16 oz. You can make four entire batches (roughly two cups) for around $2.10 inclusive at that price. When you buy store-bought tahini sauce, it’s more than quadruple that for two cups.
    • You can buy tahini paste or make your own! As I said, you can buy tahini (paste) at a good value, and our favorites are Whole Foods 365 brand and Sesame King (the least expensive.)
    • It stores perfectly for later use as a sauce, dressing, or dip. This tahini sauce recipe stores quickly and lasts up to two weeks, but it rarely lasts that long!
Peach Cobbler

Garlic Lemon Tahini Dressing Ingredients and Equipment

So simple you’ll wish you’d made it sooner.

    • Tahini Paste: Although an entirely separate investigation altogether, there are a wide variety of store-brand tahini paste options to choose from. I usually stick with ole reliable, AKA Sesame King Tahini, AKA the cheapest available. Don’t follow my lead, though, as there is an incredible variety to choose from, and it’s true, they do all have their own flavor! I highly recommend reading Minimalist Baker’s guide to the best tahini paste brands to get a feel for what you might like best!
    • Garlic: I’ve already drug you down the crushing-garlic rabbit hole, so I’ll spare you here, but remember that ‘two’s company and three’s a crowd’ regarding raw garlic. Always pick two if you’re wavering between adding two cloves or three. Raw garlic’s bite can sneak up on you, and I’m guilty of making this mistake more than once.
    • Lemon or Lemon Juice: Fresh squeezed lemon juice rocks, but you might not always have a lemon on hand! No worries, lemon juice and lemon juice from concentrate works just as well… and I won’t tell anybody if you don’t!
    • Salt: The most important ingredient in any and (almost) all recipes. Don’t skimp on the salt, but remember that you can always add more later!
    • Water: The amount of water you decide on comes down to the consistency you’re looking for. I recommend only three or four tablespoons of water if you want a thicker, more creamy sauce or dip… but if you’re going for a killer salad dressing or something to drizzle on top of your rice, I’d lean more toward that half-a-cup mark.
    • Food processor or Blender: Either will do! And in my opinion, blenders are easier to clean.


How To Make Garlic Lemon Tahini Dressing

With a few easy steps, and in ten minutes, you have fresh tahini!

    • Crush the garlic! I’ve always been told this, always read it, and therefore I’ve always crushed my garlic… but had never known why. I assumed it had to do with… oils being released? Maybe? Well, upon further inspection, and to quote the American Chemical Society, “[…Crushing or chopping garlic releases an enzyme, alliinase, that catalyzes the formation of allicin, which then breaks down to form a variety of healthful organosulfur compounds. The researchers believe that crushing garlic before cooking may allow alliinase to work before cooking inactivates the enzyme.” Apparently, the crushing is good for you! The more you know!
    • Juice your lemon if need be. Or break out that trusty green bottle we all have in a cupboard somewhere! Lemon juice from concentrate, of course, isn’t the freshest option, but hey, we work with what we got! And sometimes life doesn’t give you lemons- it gives you lemon juice concentrate.
    • Combine all ingredients! Add everything to a food processor or blender, and blend until it’s just right for you! Slowly add water to reach your desired thickness. More water will lead to a more dressing consistency, whereas less water will lead you toward a hearty pasta sauce.
    • Transfer to a fridge-safe bottle or container and enjoy at your leisure! Or if you’re anything like me… right now, hehe.
Peach Cobbler

Lemon Garlic Tahini Dressing Tips & Tricks

    • Don’t forget to crush the garlic! Let me re-iterate again… this will make all the difference! Frequently, uncrushed raw garlic has a much less pungent taste and is on the sweeter side. More subtle- which is lovely mixed in a salad or for garlic bread, but not so much tahini! We want our garlic flavor to be distinct, as it’s a staple characteristic of any tahini sauce!
    • Taste along the way! It’s never a good feeling to finish up a dish and realize you have absolutely no idea what it TASTES like… Especially when it comes to undersalting, underseasoning, or undercooking! Regarding tahini, it’s best to taste after pulsing and as you add small amounts of water! You don’t want to water anything down and not realize it!
    • Garlic powder works, too. Hey, no shade to those of us who aren’t buying fresh garlic on the regular and still wanna give this tahini dressing a go! I’ve used garlic powder in place of fresh garlic cloves before myself and can attest: it will still turn out wonderfully! Of course, fresh raw cloves are preferred, but we have to work with what we got. For this recipe in specific, I’d substitute 2 teaspoons of garlic powder for the 2 garlic cloves.
    • Let your tahini paste sit out for a bit. Like peanut butter, tahini separates, making the oil sit on top and the butter sit on the bottom. The colder it is, the harder it will be to mix the oil and butter together, and even harder still will be scooping and measuring it. If you don’t already keep your tahini in a cupboard, I’d recommend taking it out of the fridge for about 30 minutes before using it.
Peach Cobbler

   Frequently Asked Questions:

    • How long before it goes bad? Similar to other dressings, I’d be comfortable storing them in the fridge for up to two months.
    • Can I use lemon juice from concentrate? Yep, you sure can! It isn’t my first recommendation, but it works well, and your dressing won’t suffer.
    • Can I use garlic powder? You can, and I talk a bit more about it in the section above, but it also wouldn’t be my first recommendation. Garlic powder doesn’t have the same bite or fragrance as raw garlic, but it will work just fine in a pinch!
    • Can you heat it on the stove or bake with it? Yes! It’s saucepan safe and will heat up perfectly with some freshly made pasta or bake flawlessly into a seven-layer dip.
    • Can I make variations? Yes! Lemon garlic tahini easily accommodates variations such as:
      • Fresh Parsley and Dill Tahini – This is my personal favorite! I love fresh herbs, and I can’t seem to get enough of this variation! I use it on everything! 
      • Pomegranate – Yes! Pomegranate adds a mild sweetness to your lemon garlic tahini. My daughter Riann especially LOVES this variation.
Peach Cobbler

Serving Suggestions for Lemon Garlic Tahini

As the years have continued and my sesame seed battle waged on, one product amongst them all managed to slip through the cracks and prevail victoriously. Tahini paste is such a dependable core ingredient of so many excellent cultural dips and sauces, and paying homage to those recipes is very important. I did my best to do just that with this basic and easy garlic lemon tahini sauce to showcase some of the best tips I’ve learned along the way, and admit that maybe- just maybe- sesame seeds aren’t so bad after all.

Lemon Garlic Tahini

Lemon Garlic Tahini

Denise Keniston - Basil Lover
This quick and easy garlic tahini dressing (and variations) takes tips and tricks from the many authentic tahini recipes I’ve tried and combines them to make a perfect sauce or dressing for pasta, salads, couscous… you name it!
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
10 minutes


  • 1/2 cup tahini*
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 6 tbsp cold water, plus more as needed
  • 1 clove garlic, grated or pressed
  • 1/2 tsp salt


  • In a small food processor, stir together the tahini, lemon juice, water, garlic, and sea salt. Season to taste. If it's too thick add water a bit at a time until you get the desited consistency.  If you find the tahini sauce too bitter, add a bit of maple syrup or honey to balance the flavor. If it’s too sharp, add a bit of extra-virgin olive oil to mellow the flavor.


Riann and I often use Sesame King Tahini Paste because it's the least expensive. However, for taste, I prefer Whole Foods' 365 brand. 
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!


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