King Condiment: Tahina-Harissa Sauce (Paleo/Vegan)

A small glass jar of tahini-harissa sauce with a bottle of tahini in the background a tube of harissa paste in the foreground. Marble countertop with tiled backsplash.

Sometimes you just have A DAY and do not feel like cooking (yes, even I have those days). In the past, this has sometimes looked like “ok let’s order food,” but that habit is not particularly conducive to my health or my overall quality of life. Instead, on those days when everything feels a bit shit and you just aren’t in the mood to cook, we’ve learned to keep meals super simple and put all the work into condiments.

A bottle of date syrup, jar of tahini, tube of harissa paste, and a lemon on my kitchen counter.

Y’all should already know by now that I’m a very saucy lady. In that… I love condiments. Mayonnaise, ketchup, doña, steak sauce, BBQ sauce, I love them all. While this one is a fairly recent addition to my repertoire (concocted in the fever dream that was the first months of coronavirus sheltering), it is not any less loved. This creamy, tangy, sweet-and-heat tahina and harissa creation makes a great marinade and an even better finishing sauce. Most recently I dumped it on my fave Default Wings and that’s when I knew, I had to share this with you.

Tahini /təˈhiːni, tɑː-/ Arabic: طَحِينَة‎ or tahina /-nə/ is a condiment made from toasted ground hulled sesame. It is served by itself (as a dip) or as a major ingredient in hummus, baba ghanoush, and halva.

Tahini is used in the cuisines of the Levant and Eastern Mediterranean, the South Caucasus, as well as parts of North Africa.

An overhead shot of all the ingredients needed to make my tahini-harissa sauce. A cup of ice water, harissa paste, tahini, date syrup, garlic powder. In the center of the image there is a glass measuring cap with all of the ingredients in it - they have not yet been mixed together.

You will need:

  • A measuring cup or bowl
  • Food scale or measuring spoons
  • Spoon or small silicone spatula
  • Container with lid, for storage

Ingredients:

Combine all ingredients (excluding the water), starting with just 2 tbsp of harissa paste, in your vessel of choice – I went for a measuring cup because of the pour spout, even though I used a scale to actually measure everything out.

Nifty Conversion Tips:

  • One tablespoon is roughly 15 grams.
  • Two tablespoons is 30 grams or 30 ml, which is about one ounce.
  • There are four tablespoons in a quarter cup, and three teaspoons in a tablespoon.

An overhead shot of a small glass jar of tahini-harissa sauce and a tube of Entube harissa paste on a marble countertop.

Now, onto the ice water. Yes, I really mean ice water – a cup of water with ice in it to make it colder. Just cold water from the tap is not going to do what we want it to do. I don’t know why this makes such a difference, but I absolutely will not make this sauce – or anything else with tahina – any other way, and neither should you.

So, using no more than one tablespoon at a time (10-15g), add the ice cold water to your sauce and stir vigorously. We want it to be well-combined and start thinning out. I usually like my sauce to be a bit more “runny” as it’s better for drizzling onto prepared dishes! When it is at the consistency you are happy with, give it a taste and adjust any ingredients to taste. If it needs to be a bit more “punchy,” consider adding a pinch of salt, more harissa paste, or even a splash of lemon juice. If you want to mellow it out, a bit more tahina or a drizzle of date syrup should do the trick. Stir again and, if needed, add more water to thin it out. I typically find myself using about six tablespoons of ice water, maybe up to eight, but unless I am making a huge batch, have never needed more than half a cup.

That’s it! Really! Transfer to a container or jar with lid, seal, label, and store in the fridge for up to two weeks. When ready to use, let sit at room temperature for a few minutes to loosen up.

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