Tahini easily keeps for at least a couple of months past the printed date. Possibly much more if you store it properly.
So if you have an open jar that’s been sitting in storage for a couple of months already, it’s most likely still fine. Check it for signs of spoilage, and you should be good to go.
Interested in learning more about the shelf life, spoilage, of storage practices for tahini?
That’s what this article is all about. Read on.
How Long Does Tahini Last?
Tahini comes with a shelf life of one to three years and lasts for at least a couple of months past the printed date. Once you open the jar, you can still use it at least up until the printed date, and possibly much longer.
If you make homemade tahini, refrigerate it and use it within 4 weeks. It’s not pasteurized, so storing it for a prolonged period is not safe.
That’s the gist of it. Let’s get into the details.
Opening a tahini jar introduces fresh air to the sesame seeds paste. That speeds up the quality loss process, but not by much.
That’s why some brands suggest you use your tahini within a year of opening, while others recommend simply going with the printed date. Overall, breaking the seal isn’t that big of a deal in terms of tahini shelf life.
Also, tahini is quite stable because it contains all the antioxidants found in sesame seeds. Those antioxidants both help the spread retain quality and stay safe to use for months.
If you want to retain the quality for as long as possible (think more than a year), consider refrigerating open tahini. The only downside is that it gets a bit thicker in the fridge. I talk about the issue in detail later in the article.
So, you might be wondering how long open tahini will stay good for.
Unfortunately, I cannot give you an exact answer. It differs between brands, and it also depends on what quality you find good enough. However, at least a couple of months past the printed date is a pretty safe bet.
Different brands sell their tahini with different shelf lives. Some go with a relatively short one of a year or maybe 18 months, others with more extended ones like two and a half or even three years.
You need to keep in mind that the date printed on the tahini jar is a best-by date, not an expiration date. It’s about food quality, not safety.
In other words, the brand informs you only how long the product is supposed to retain best quality. It doesn’t say anything about if or when tahini will spoil. It’s similar to peanut butter in that matter.
And just like open tahini, it’s impossible to tell how long your unopened tahini will keep quality. It’s most likely going to be more than a year, and possibly even more.
If you grab a bag or two of sesame seeds and make tahini yourself, things are a bit different.
Store-bought tahini is free from bacteria because it’s heated up to a specific temperature that destroys any microbes that we don’t want. That’s called pasteurization, and you probably don’t do it at home.
Because of that, you should store your homemade tahini in the fridge and use it within 4 weeks of making.
It might stay okay for much longer if you didn’t introduce any bacteria by accident, but you never know. Better safe than sorry.
Do You Refrigerate Tahini?
You’re free to refrigerate store-bought tahini, but that’s not a requirement.
You can store both unopened and open tahini at room temperature, like in the pantry or a cupboard in the kitchen. Both are fine.
If you make your own tahini, you should refrigerate it.
That said, there are certain pros and cons of refrigerating tahini. Let’s talk about those.
Fridge vs. Pantry
If you refrigerate your tahini, it becomes much thicker. That’s okay if you don’t mind thick tahini, but if you’re using it as a spread or trying to swirl it into a bowl of oatmeal or a cup of yogurt, that might be an issue.
If you’ve ever refrigerated olive oil, you know how it goes. It’s perfectly runny at room temperature but much slower in the fridge.
A similar thing happens to tahini, only that it’s a bit more pronounced.
Of course, you might leave your tahini jar on the counter for a few hours so that it warms up and becomes thinner, or heat it in a bowl of hot water, but neither is ideal.
Long story short, if you like convenience – no warming up, long stirring, and so on – you probably should leave yours at room temperature.
That said, refrigeration helps keep the quality of the sesame seed paste for longer. So if your main goal is to retain its quality for as long as possible, or you expect to have it opened for more than a year, refrigeration might be for you.
Tips for Storing Tahini
Store your tahini away from any sources of heat and make sure it’s always sealed tight when not in use. Those rules apply to all food products prone to rancidification, and tahini is no different.
Also, always use clean spoons so that you don’t accidentally introduce any microbes or water into the sesame seed paste. I know it’s tempting to use the spoon you have within reach, but double-dipping is never a good idea.
Does Tahini Go Bad?
Tahini doesn’t easily go bad, but sooner or later, it either goes rancid or dries out. The latter is most likely to happen if there’s only a little tahini at the bottom of your jar.
In addition, if your tahini is quite old (like more than six months past its date), you might no longer be comfortable eating it. That doesn’t mean it’s spoiled, but the result is the same – you discard it.
Last, even if your tahini seems quite okay, its quality might not be good enough anymore. It doesn’t necessarily have to be completely dry, but it might just be too dry for the way you usually use it.
That’s the lowdown on tahini spoilage. Let’s talk about how various spoilage signs might look like.
Signs of Spoilage?
When checking if your tahini is safe to use, do the following:
- Look for mold. Mold on tahini isn’t a common occurrence, but it might happen. If you see some on yours, throw it out, no questions asked.
- Give it a good sniff. If it smells sharp or it reminds you of chemicals like petrol or maybe paint, it’s rancid. Now, rancid tahini isn’t necessarily super unsafe to use, but I’m pretty sure you’d toss it out even if I said it was fine to eat. Discard it.
- Taste it. Before you use the tahini, it’s best to eat a small amount to check its flavor. If it’s strong or sour and not sesame-seeds-like, it’s most likely rancid. Again, that’s when you let it go. As usual, if you’re not sure if your tahini is safe to eat, err on the side of caution and discard it.
That said, there are a couple of things that you might find a bit disturbing but are totally fine for tahini. Let’s discuss those.
Tahini is made of sesame seeds and sometimes a bit of salt and oil. It contains a ton of fat (and oil), and that’s why it separates.
If you’ve ever seen a layer of oil on top of peanut butter, you often find a similar layer on tahini. That’s normal and perfectly safe. Discarding that separated oil is a terrible idea, unless you like dry tahini. Instead, you need to stir that oil back into the paste.
(Want to see how separated tahini looks like? Check the the photos near the beginning of the article.)
In general, stirring your tahini before using helps keep its consistency homogeneous, so that you don’t enjoy a rich and oily top but end up with a super dry bottom of the jar.
If your tahini is separated, but the bottom is too dry and thick to stir the oil back in, try warming up the sesame seed paste. Place the jar in a pot of hot water, and try stirring it after 20 to 30 minutes. If it’s not soft enough yet, replace the water and try again after another 10-15 minutes.
If you find a couple of dark specs in your tahini, don’t panic. No two sesame seeds are exactly the same, and their colors differ. Your black specs are most likely part of the hull that wasn’t ground properly.
Also, dark specs don’t impact the taste or quality of the product, so they’re mostly a visual nuisance, if anything.
But if there are a few of those on the surface, and you could swear they weren’t there before, assume it’s mold and discard the tahini.
Tahini has a viscous oily texture. If it sits untouched for a long time, the bottom dries out a bit, and the separated oil ends on top.
That’s what you should expect when buying tahini.
That said, tahini from some brands is runnier than from others, and that’s perfectly normal. Plus, some brands roast the seeds before grinding them, while others don’t. The same is true for adding extra oil to make it smoother.
I’m writing that mainly as a heads up – if you switch from your favorite tahini brand to a different one, its texture and taste might be a bit different. Maybe it’s a bit more viscous or kind of salty, and that’s okay.