Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 12 November 2019

Open sesame: Waitrose says interest in tahini has spiked by 700 per cent

The sesame seed paste is a key ingredient in Middle Eastern cuisine

Tahini, a sauce made from sesame seeds, is used as a condiment as well as in dishes such as hummus. Getty Images
Tahini, a sauce made from sesame seeds, is used as a condiment as well as in dishes such as hummus. Getty Images

It's been a cornerstone of Middle Eastern, and particularly Levantine, cooking for centuries, and tahini is still just as in demand as it's ever been. In fact, its popularity is spreading: the sesame seed paste has been touted as one of the year's trendiest foods by British supermarket chain Waitrose.

The upmarket grocery company, which has stores in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai, has named tahini as one of 2019's most popular foodstuffs in its annual Food and Drink Report.

The condiment, which is made from toasted and ground hulled sesame seeds, was listed as a trend-leading food with a trajectory that's set to continue in 2020.

Describing tahini as a "core" component of hummus, Waitrose revealed: "It’s now a popular ingredient in its own right, with searches for tahini paste on waitrose.com up more than 700 per cent on last year."

The supermarket's 2019-2020 report is based on "millions of" sales figures from its branches and website over the past 12 months, as well as a poll of 2,000 adults who shop across a range of retailers.

Tahini, which is used in baba ganoush, as a salad dressing and as a dip for meats and falafel, is also used in Asian and African dishes.

Home-made celery juice. Photo: Scott Price
Celery juice has been one of the year's newest trends, celebrated for its nutritious content. Photo: Scott Price

Joining the condiment in vogue this year, according to Waitrose, were crumpets, sales of which were up 27 per cent, and celery juice, with sales of the organic vegetable rising by 30 per cent at the supermarket chain.

Vegan ready meals, seaweed and soba noodles were also named as foodstuffs rising in popularity throughout the year.

Waitrose highlighted Middle Eastern cooking in general as a growing trend, noting that its customers appear to be making plenty of dishes from the region. "Waitrose Cookery School courses in Middle Eastern mezze, Moroccan kitchen and chicken shawarma are currently sell-outs, while rising sales of sumac, baharat and zaatar show that we’re cooking increasingly ambitious dishes," the report stated.

Updated: November 7, 2019 02:50 PM