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Food for Friends: Tahini Cookies

Tahini Cookies fresh from the oven

Tahini Cookies are tender and melting; almost shortbread-ish if it weren’t for the sesame seeds that pop and crackle between your teeth. They are sweet with sugar and honey but somehow savoury and salty too. A generous proportion of tahini lends a warm, spicy richness that is mysterious and yet totally comforting. They are liable to crumble a little with each bite, but you will find that your tongue chases each escaping fragment and that your fingertips, indented with sesame seeds, will be licked, rather than brushed, clean. 

Preparing tahini cookies - rolling little balls of dough in sesame seeds

wrote about Tahini Cookies over three years ago when I first tried them, but at the time I simply linked to the blog where I had found the recipe. Since then, I have made them many times. I’ve taken them to potluck dinners and garden parties, and shared them frequently with colleagues at work. I once made a triple batch for a fundraising bake sale where they were one of the first items to sell out. Small bags of cookies have found their way into friend’s handbags or been stashed outside neighbour’s front doors. Colin has been known to raid the biscuit tin to take samples to his friends. 

Tahini Cookies - rolled in sesame seeds then baked until crisp

This generosity originates in the conviction that Tahini Cookies are good, and that such goodness must be shared – hence this post, Round Two for the promotion of Tahini Cookies. I must confess that I’m not entirely altruistic though. For every one I’ve given away, I’ve probably eaten five or six myself.

Tahini Cookies freshly baked 2

Tahini Cookies look humble and unassuming. There’s no flash, no wow; they’re simply small, brown and rustic – until you eat one. For those used to seeing tahini in savoury iterations only, the thought of sweet tahini can be somewhat distasteful. However, think halva; the sweet, sesame confection that is made with tahini. When fresh, the cookies have a texture that is reminiscent of halva.

Tahini Cookies cooling - monotone

Tahini Cookies are delicious served with coffee, but crumble them over vanilla ice cream and you will find yourself in heaven as the warm, salty-sweet cookie melds with cold, vanilla creaminess. If you want to win friends, then these cookies are for you. Each time I make them, I am asked for the recipe, and if there is ever a way to objectively quantify the success of cooking, then this could be it.

Tahini Cookies for morning tea 3

I am by no means the first to wax lyrical about the joys of tahini and tahini cookies. Ailsa Ross considered tahini (including tahini cookies) to be the highlight of her kibbutz experience. Annelies Zijderveld writes of tahini that “it’s not often that I give myself over to an ingredient so completely” and of tahini cookies, that “they will be the first cookies to be eaten up even when a chocolate cookie is also on the plate”. Tahini cookies also inspired Annelies to write this stellar poem and Edwina Shaw has used Tahini Cookies to overcome procrastination. It is strange to think that a brown, sludgy paste could inspire such intense emotions, but there it is. Make these cookies and taste for yourself.

Tahnini Cookies for afternoon tea - monotone

Tahini Cookies

  • Servings: makes about 20 cookies
  • Print
From A Sweet Spoonful

1 1/4 cups plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
115g unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup tahini
1 Tbsp runny honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp sesame seeds
About 1/4 cup in total of white and/or black sesame seeds, for coating the cookies

Measure the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl and whisk to combine and aerate.

Beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the tahini, honey, vanilla extract, and 2 Tbsp sesame seeds to the bowl and beat to combine. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture in 2 batches, mixing until the flour is fully incorporated.

Remove the dough from the bowl and place it on a sheet of plastic wrap. Gather the plastic together, press it into a disk and chill in the fridge until firm, at least 1 hour. You can skip the chilling step; however, the cookies will spread more during baking, forming a flatter, slightly drier cookie. Both are good, but the chilled dough produces a slightly better result, in my opinion.

Preheat the oven to 180°C / 350°F and prepare a large baking tray with parchment paper. Pour the 1/4 cup sesame seeds into a small bowl (or bowls, if using both black and white seeds). Using a teaspoon, break off enough dough to form small balls about 2cm in diameter. Roll the balls in the sesame seeds and use your palms to press the seeds firmly into the dough. Place the balls of dough on the baking tray about 5cm apart. Bake until the cookies are golden and deeply cracked on top, about 12 to 15 minutes. The cookies are very fragile when hot, so leave them to cool on the tray for about 10 minutes before transferring to a rack to cool completely.


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  2. Michele

    Lyrical praise of the humble sesame indeed Chez! And the beautiful photographs show something more than ‘small brown and rustic’ bikkies. And now I have the recipe (very patietly awaited, as you know), I put it to the test yesterday. I would like to write as poetically as you have, but my response to these great flavours is one of gluttony. As one of the seven deadly sins it somehow doesn’t permit the reviewer to tinker with delicate words. It wants to voraciously declare ….” eat every single one of these little treats. who cares about the guests you cooked them for!”

    Tahini always gets the better of me and I can never resist ‘overusing’ it. Hence my dough was very crumbly. But if anyone else has this problem, its easily solved by coating your hands with sesame oil when rolling the little balls of dough.

    Thanks again for your delightful blogs. Looking forward to what the festive season will entice you to share with us.

    • I’m glad that you enjoyed them so much, second time around! Maybe the extra tahini is a good adjustment, even if it makes the dough difficult to work with? And yes, Christmas is soon upon us. I currently have a new experiment brewing and if all goes well this weekend, it might be revealed on Wednesday!

  3. Pingback: Food for Friends: Tahini Cookies | Heba vs Reason

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