The allergy challenge: My husband and I really love a good falafel sandwich, full of crispy chickpea fritters, crunchy marinated vegetables and a tangy tahini sauce … but our daughter is so allergic to sesame we can’t allow even a speck of tahini in the house.
The allergy-free hypothesis: We can get that same rich, garlic-lemon tang found in tahini sauce by substituting one of our safer seed or nutlike butters.
The verdict: This quick and easy tahini sauce substitute has all the flavor—and none of the fear—of the original. My picky husband gave it a big thumbs up. The kiddo didn’t actually eat much herself (she preferred the pita bread and salad) … but at least we could safely devour it at the same table as her.
Safer/cheaper sourcing notes:
- I tested this recipe with SunButter sunflower seed butter and Barney Butter almond butter — which, at the time of this writing, is made in an almond-only facility free of peanuts and other tree nuts. (Almonds are my daughter’s one safe tree nut.)
- Both can be quite expensive here in Brooklyn (as much as $11 a jar!) so I buy 6-packs of SunButter and 3-packs of Barney Butter almond butter via a recurring Amazon Subscribe & Save subscription every few months, bringing the price closer to $5 or $6 a jar. I get an additional 20% off by making sure I have at least 5 items for any monthly order.
Recipe inspiration: I adapted this recipe from a not-safe-at-all one in my well-loved copy of Tess Mallos’ Middle Eastern Home Cooking.
Allergen-friendliness: This recipe can be made free of all of the top 8 allergens (dairy, egg, nuts, peanuts, fish/shellfish, soy and wheat) depending on your choice of tahini substitute. It’s also vegan, gluten-free, sesame-free and mustard-free.
Enjoy your faux-hini—and please let me know if you try it!
- 2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed finely
- ¾ cup sunflower seed butter or other smooth seed, soy or nutlike butter (I like SunButter or Barney Butter almond butter—almonds are our daughter's one safe tree nut)
- ½ cup lemon juice
- ½ cup water
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Mix minced garlic with salt in a small bowl until it forms a paste.
- Slowly beat in all sunflower seed butter or other tahini substitute with a spoon.
- Begin to beat in the water and lemon juice, alternating a bit of each at a time until you reach your desired consistency and tartness. (You may need additional liquid if your seed or nutlike butter is thick or hardened).
- Food processor option: Puree garlic, seed/nutlike butter and salt in a food processor briefly until well combined. Alternately add water and lemon through feed tube until desired consistency and tartness is reached.
- Enjoy with falafel, rice or sesame-free pita bread.
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