Does Tahini Go Bad? The Complete Guide

I have to be honest – until a friend introduced me to my first taste of hummus, I had no idea what tahini was.  After tasting it and researching it, I learned that tahini was the condiment of choice in the Middle East.

Tahini is derived from toasted sesame seeds that have been hulled and then ground into a smooth paste. It can be served by itself or used as an ingredient in dishes such as baba ghanoush. Tahini is also a primary ingredient in hummus.

After ‘discovering’ it, I now make sure that I always have some tahini to hand! But, does tahini go bad? How long can you keep it for?

Keep reading to learn more!

Does Tahini Go Bad?

So, does tahini go bad?  The short answer is no. Store-bought Tahini will not go bad in the traditional sense of the word.  However, Tahini tends to go rancid and will dry out considerably over time.

Tahini typically has a shelf life of between one to three years. It can last for a couple of months beyond the date on the container once the jar has been opened.

Can You Use Expired Tahini?

Tahini is high in fat content, similar to peanut butter.  Foods high in fat content can and do go rancid over time.

When food goes rancid, it experiences a form of spoilage that, in most cases, is considered harmless when considering food safety overall.  With this said, there is no known health risk involved if you choose to eat Tahini that is rancid.  But, at the same time, we don’t suggest it.

It’s important to remember that although expired Tahini may be safe to eat, the taste and smell will be affected.  The rancidity is caused by exposure to oxygen, light, and heat, which all play a significant part.  Making sure to control these factors in the storage of your Tahini will extend its shelf life.

How Long Does Tahini Last?

When opening a jar of tahini, you are introducing the contents, the sesame seed paste, to fresh air.  This exposure can often cause the loss of overall quality in the product to speed up, however not as much as in other packaged foods.

This loss of quality is why many manufacturers of tahini strongly suggest that once the container has been opened, the contents be consumed within a year.  Yet others advise following the printed use by date instead.

No matter which suggestion you choose to follow, opening the container of tahini isn’t that big of a problem when it comes to its overall shelf life.

There are no hard and fast guidelines for how long tahini is “good” after opening. However, the general rule is that it’s good to go for at least a few months after the use-by date on the container. 

Shelf life can often also be dictated by the brand of the tahini.  Some brands put the shelf life of their product at a shorter time, that of maybe a year to eighteen months.  Yet others advertise their product to be shelf-stable for up to three years.  It all comes down to what one person considers “good enough” another person may not.

How to Tell if Tahini Has Gone Bad

When trying to determine if your container has gone bad and needs to be tossed or is still acceptable for consumption, there are a few signs that you will need to look for. Here are the key ways to tell if you have spoiled tahini:


Although mold development on tahini doesn’t usually happen, there is still the outside chance that it can.  If you observe mold on the contents of your container of tahini, throw it out.  No ifs, and, or buts.

The Sniff Test

When you open your container of tahini, give it the good ol sniff test.  Your nose can most often clue you into many things that your eyes will never see. 

If your tahini has a sharp odor or smells like paint or fuel, you can rest assured it’s gone rancid.  Although rancid tahini isn’t unsafe to use or consume, I’m pretty sure that you’re going to want to toss it out.

The Taste Test

If you don’t see any mold and the container of tahini passes the sniff test, the last method to determine its viability is to give it a taste test. 

Take a small amount of tahini on the end of a spoon and taste it.  You are checking for the overall flavor here.  If it tastes sour or strong, lacking in its usual sesame seed taste, chances are good it has gone rancid. 

If you’re not sure one way or the other, err on the side of caution and throw the container out.

How to Store Tahini

Although it is not required, you can refrigerate your container of tahini.  tahini is perfectly safe, whether opened or unopened, to store on the shelf in your pantry or in your kitchen.  

However, if you make homemade tahini, you will need to refrigerate the container.  Because homemade tahini doesn’t have the preservatives found in store-bought tahini, it will not be safe for pantry storage.

Fridge Vs. Pantry

If you choose to refrigerate your tahini, be prepared for it to take on a much thicker consistency.  Although the thicker consistency is not, as a rule, a problem, if you enjoy the condiment spread onto toast or your favorite crackers, or added to your morning bowl of oatmeal, then this may not be the number one storage option for you.

There is always the option of storing your tahini in the fridge, and then when you plan to use it, allow it to sit on the counter for a few hours to thin down.  You also have the option of warming it up by placing the container in a bowl of warm water.  However, neither of these methods is the most ideal.

The primary benefit of refrigerating your tahini is that it will go a long way to keeping your sesame seed paste at its best quality for as long as possible.  Also, if you plan on having the container open for a year or more, refrigeration may be the best choice for you.

Storage Tips

Make sure that no matter where you decide to store your tahini, you keep it away from any heat sources.  Also, at this point, make sure that the lid is secured on the jar tightly.  These rules apply to any food product that is known to be susceptible to going rancid, and tahini is no different in this respect.

When spooning your tahini out of the container, make sure that you always use clean spoons or utensils.  Being diligent about this step will prevent any unwanted introduction of microbes or moisture into the paste.

Can You Freeze Tahini?

It is perfectly safe to freeze tahini.  You can even freeze it in the jar it came in, as long as there is enough room for the tahini to expand during the freezing process.  Ensure that the container is not full when choosing to freeze it.

Freezing In A Jar

To freeze the tahini and prevent any possibility of freezer burn or unsightly odors that may affect the flavor, place a piece of plastic wrap over the partially full jar of tahini.  Then, screw the lid onto the jar, securing the plastic wrap.  Finally, wrap the entire jar in another piece of plastic wrap, and place it in the freezer.

Freezing In A Bag

If you prefer not to freeze your tahini in a jar, you can remove it and place it in a resealable air-tight plastic freezer bag.  Again, you will need to make sure to leave enough room in the bag for the tahini to expand while freezing.  You will want to make sure to double-bag the first bag, as this will make sure to prevent any odors or moisture from your freezer from getting to your paste.

When you are ready to use the tahini, you only need to defrost or let it sit until it reaches room temperature and add as required into your favorite recipe.

Freezing As Cubes

Place any leftover tahini into ice cube trays and place in the freezer until frozen.  Once the tahini is frozen, remove the cubes from the ice cube tray and transfer them to a resealable, air-tight plastic freezer bag.  Ensure that the bag is sealed tight, and return the cubes to the freezer.

This method is excellent for when you find you only need a small amount, as you can remove as many cubes of tahini as you need at a time.

Freezing In Rolls

To freeze your tahini into rolls, you will start by placing a sheet of plastic wrap out on the counter.  Spoon and then place an adequate amount of tahini down the center of the plastic wrap in a solid line.  Gather the long side edges of the plastic wrap and roll it around the center portion of the tahini.  Repeat this process until you have sufficiently wrapped all of your tahini.  You will then place the rolls of tahini into resealable, air-tight freezer bags and store them in the freezer.

Rolled tahini is another excellent option when only a tiny amount of paste is required.  When needed, take a roll of the frozen tahini out of the freezer, unroll the wrap and break off the amount you need.  You can then put the remainder back into the freezer for use later.