This Lebanese tahini sauce, also known as tarator, is creamy, bright, and so flavorful! It is traditionally served with beef or lamb shawarma, falafel, and fried fish. But it is absolutely perfect with grilled or roasted veggies and so much more. You only need 4 ingredients and a few minutes to make this easy and delicious vegan sauce. Thin it out with more water and you have yourself an amazing salad dressing!
Tarator is to shawarma and falafel what toum is to chicken. You simply can't have them without their sauce. And it's always extra sauce for me.
This Lebanese tahini sauce would pair well with my slow roasted salmon using this recipe for the sauce instead. And although we like to eat toum with chicken and tarator with beef, I see nothing wrong with dipping this chicken and potatoes in some lemony garlicky tahini sauce.
- Tahini: you can find tahini at most grocery stores nowadays, but make sure you buy a high quality tahini with only one ingredient - sesame seeds.
- Garlic: a little bit goes a long way, and we don't want to overpower the tarator.
- Lemon juice: it brightens it up and makes it tangy and delicious.
- Water: it's needed to thin out the sauce.
- Salt: enhances all the flavors in the tarator.
To make Lebanese tarator, combine the tahini, pressed or minced garlic, lemon juice, and salt in a bowl.
If you don't like sour flavors, start with half the amount of lemon juice.
When tahini is mixed with a little liquid, it seizes up and turns into a very thick paste. This is normal, don't worry. As you add more liquid and continue whisking, it will smooth out into a beautiful, creamy sauce.
If you used up all the lemon juice and the sauce is still very thick, add one to two tablespoons of water at a time and mix very well. Repeat until you reach a consistency that can be drizzled.
At this point, the tarator is ready for use. Can you believe how quick and easy that was? If you want to take it a step further, you can add a handful of chopped parsley or mint to add a nice herby flavor. I like to do this especially when serving it with fish.
Substitutions and Variations
This Lebanese tahini sauce is naturally vegan, gluten-free, and dairy-free. Yay! If you are serving it with shawarma or falafel, I highly recommend following the recipe exactly as stated for the best, authentic flavor. But if you are using it as a sauce or dressing for other things, feel free to play around!
- Spicy - add some heat with hot sauce or crushed red pepper.
- Sweet - add some honey or maple syrup for a touch of sweetness. So good on veggies!
- Herbs - mix in a handful of chopped fresh herbs.
- Spices - add some cumin, turmeric, or other spices of your choice for a fun twist.
- Lime juice - if you want more of an acidic punch, juice limes instead of lemons.
Tips for Making the Best Tarator
- Fresh lemon juice: Don't use pre-bottled lemon juice, it won't be as good.
- Fresh garlic cloves: Do not use pre-minced garlic that comes in a jar.
- Use your judgement: The thickness of tahini can vary from brand to brand. If your tahini sauce seizes into a very thick clump, you will need to keep adding liquid and mixing until it's just right, even if it's more than what this recipe calls for.
- Make it your own: I like tahini to be extra zingy because I love sour flavors. But you can use half the amount of lemon juice if you prefer. But remember, you're not eating it straight, so the flavor won't be as concentrated when you drizzle it over other food.
Frequently Asked Questions
Tahini is a Middle Eastern condiment made from raw, hulled sesame seeds. Chinese sesame paste is made with toasted sesame seeds, making it much darker and stronger in flavor. You should use Middle Eastern tahini for this recipe.
It is normal for tahini to be slightly bitter. But an overly bitter tahini could be due to using low quality sesame seeds or a tahini made with over-roasted sesame seeds. You can try to remedy it by adding more lemon juice to mask the bitterness. If that doesn't help, you'll need to buy a higher quality tahini.
Yes. Just like nut butters, the fat can separate and rise to the top of the tahini jar. Just give it a good stir until the tahini is homogenized before following the recipe.
It is completely normal for tahini to seize up and turn into a very thick, cement-like mass when you add a little bit of liquid. I don't know the exact science, but all you need to do is continue adding and mixing in liquid, whether it's lemon juice or water, and it will eventually thin out into a sauce.
In Lebanon, tarator is traditionally served with shawarma, falafel, and fried fish. But it is an extremely versatile and delicious sauce that you can drizzle on top of roasted veggies, grilled chicken, burgers, grain bowls, regular and sweet potatoes, and so much more! You can even use it to dip fries or carrots and celery. The options are truly endless.
Place the tarator in an airtight container in the fridge for up to two weeks.
See My Latest Recipes for More Delicious Ideas
- Lebanese Red Lentil Soup (Instant Pot & Stovetop)
- Two-Ingredient Pita Bread
- One-Minute Homemade Mayonnaise (Immersion Blender)
- Cucumber Mint Yogurt Salad (Cacik)
- Smoked Tomato Confit
If you’ve tried making this vegan Tarator (Lebanese Tahini Sauce) or any other recipe on Forks & Foliage, then please don't forget to rate the recipe and leave a comment below! I would be so happy to hear how it turned out for you. And if you took any photos or videos, please share them with me on Instagram @forksandfoliage so I can see the deliciousness you made!
Tarator (Lebanese Tahini Sauce)
- In a medium bowl, combine the tahini, garlic, lemon juice, and salt. If you don't like a strong lemony flavor, start with half the amount of lemon juice.
- Whisk everything together. The mixture will seize and become very thick. Add more lemon juice or water, per your taste, and continue mixing. It is best to thoroughly mix in one to two tablespoons of liquid at a time before adding more.
- Once the sauce is smooth and creamy, taste it and adjust it to your liking. Optionally, mix in a handful of chopped parsley or mint.
Nutrition information provided is an estimate and may vary.