Tahini is an oily paste made from toasted ground hulled sesame seeds used in North African, Lebanese, Armenian, Greek, Israeli, Cypriot, Iranian, Turkish, Iraqi, and Levantine cuisines. Tahini is served as a dip on its own or as a major component of hummus, baba ghanoush, and halva.
The oldest mention of sesame is in a cuneiform document written 4,000 years ago that describes the custom of serving the gods sesame wine. The historian Herodotus writes about the cultivation of sesame 3,500 years ago in the region of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in Ancient Iraq. It was mainly used as a source of oil.
Tahini is mentioned as an ingredient of hummus kasa, a recipe transcribed in an anonymous 13th-century Arabic cookbook, Kitab Wasf al-Atima al-Mutada. Sesame paste is an ingredient in some Chinese, Korean, and Japanese dishes; it is used in some versions of the Szechuan dish Dan dan noodles. Sesame paste is also used in Indian cuisine. In the United States, sesame tahini, along with other raw nut butters, was available by 1940 in health food stores.