Does Tahini Go Bad

So there’s this half-open jar of tahini in your fridge or pantry. It’s sitting there for quite some time now. You gathered all the ingredients for homemade hummus and noticed that the tahini is past the date on the label. Does tahini go bad? You really need that bowl of hummus for the party tonight, but you also don’t want anyone to get sick. If you’re unsure if you can use that leftover tahini, read on to learn more about shelf life, storage, and going bad of this sesame seeds paste.

Light tahiniImage used under Creative Commons from Phil Campbell

How to Store Tahini

You should store tahini in a dry and cool place, away from sunlight and sources of heat. The pantry or a cabinet in the kitchen are the best options for an unopened jar.

Once you open the jar of tahini, the first thing to remember is to keep it tightly closed when not in use. When it comes to where you should keep it, it depends. While it’s generally suggested that opened tahini should be refrigerated, many people still keep it in the cabinet just like they do with peanut butter. In short, chilling the sesame seeds paste in the fridge after opening maximizes its quality and shelf life. If you, however, plan to use the contents of the whole jar in like a few weeks, refrigerating isn’t really necessary.

Keeping the paste in the fridge makes it thicker and often ice cream-like in terms of consistency. That’s not helpful in using the paste, but you can’t avoid it. Fortunately, you can revive it by blending it with a bit of water or sesame seeds oil. Scoop as much tahini as you need, add a teaspoon of water or oil and blend it with an immersion blender. Don’t add the oil or water to the jar unless you’re going to use the rest of the tahini right now.

Since tahini is basically a butter made from sesame seeds, it has some similarities with nut butters such as peanut butter. One of the similarities is that tahini, especially one without any additional ingredients, tends to separate over time. So it might come as a creamy paste, but after some time it will separate, and the oil will be on top while all the solids will remain at the bottom. It’s a perfectly natural process, and you can easily fix separated tahini. Again, a hand blender or a food processor would be quite helpful. A few minutes of blending and the paste will be back to its creamy consistency. Of course, you can always stir it with a fork or a whisk, but that will take much longer.

Last but not least, check out the product’s label for storage information. Some producers are adamant about storing their tahini in the fridge after opening. And if they are, you should oblige.

Simple Hummus and Veggies
Image used under Creative Commons from Vegan Feast Catering

How Long Does Tahini Last

Since tahini paste is mostly sesame seed oils, it has a fairly long shelf life and it’s difficult to determine how long will it last exactly. Like nut butters, tahini degrades in quality over time. Because of that, you will more likely decide to throw it out for quality purposes, not because it is unsafe to eat. Jars of tahini usually come with a best-by date. That date informs us for how long the product should maintain freshness. Of course, that date is a rough guess and tahini can easily last a few months longer. But as mentioned earlier, it’s impossible to say how long exactly. Plus some manufacturers add stabilizers and preservatives to the paste, which make it last even longer. In short, if you opted for organic tahini, it won’t last as long as one with a few additional ingredients.

Once you open the jar, the process of quality degradation starts to speed up. That means that ideally, you should be able to finish the jar within a few months.

Pantry Fridge
Tahini (unopened) Best by + 6 months
Tahini (opened) 1 – 2 months 6 months

Please note that the periods above are rough estimates and for best quality only.

How To Tell If Tahini Is Bad

Tahini consists mostly of oils from sesame seeds. Such an environment makes it quite difficult for most bacteria and fungi to grow. Because of that, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll ever find mold or any type of growth on the surface of tahini. Of course, if you find anything suspicious in the jar, you should discard the taste.

Tahini, similarly to oils, can go rancid. Rancidity is a type of spoilage that’s pretty much harmless when it comes food safety, so there’s virtually no health risk if you eat rancid tahini. However, rancidity also affects the taste and smell of the oil. Because of that, most people opt into discarding rancid oils, as foods made with those are usually unpalatable. The most important factors when it comes to going rancid are time and access to oxygen, but access to light and the temperature play a role too. So if you open a jar of tahini and it smells rancid, you probably should get rid of it. If it looks and smells okay, try tasting it. If it tastes rancid or somewhat off, throw it out too. Otherwise, it’s most likely perfectly fine to use in your hummus, even if it’s a year past the date on the label.