Marinate Your Next Grilled Chicken With Tahini For A Burst Of Flavor

There's no method that infuses chicken with a deep, smoky flavor quite like grilling it. Yet, before it reaches the rack, marinating it is the key to flavoring chicken. While you may be tempted to spring for bold, zesty flavors like chili lime or barbecue sauce, using a simple tahini marinade will give your grilled chicken a surprising burst of flavor. Made from hulled, and often toasted, sesame seeds ground with oil, tahini is an essential part of cuisines ranging from the Middle East and Mediterranean, to North Africa and South Asia.

The paste is rich and quite nutty; though it's often mentioned as an ingredient you should try in place of peanut butter, it lacks the sweetness and is much earthier. Tahini's savory flavor makes it the perfect candidate to use with chicken. So, in her tahini-marinated grilled chicken dish, recipe developer Ashley Altan employs a mix of earthy and bright aromatics like lemon zest, coriander, mint, and sumac to elevate the tahini without altering it too much. "The versatility of this dish is what makes it so appealing," she notes, and we agree. Tahini-marinated chicken can be enjoyed on its own or stuffed into a pita alongside your favorite roasted veggies.

Use tahini to marinate these other types of protein

Tahini's own versatility complements other types of meat as well, making you want to put it to use again and again. As another staple of Mediterranean diets, pairing lamb with tahini just makes sense. The meat's grassy, savory nuances are the perfect match to tahini's nutty taste. Blend herbs into tahini sauce and use the marinade to smother cut lamb before skewering the pieces to make kebabs. Serve over a warm bed of lemon rice pilaf with a side of Greek salad.

Speaking of lemon, a bit of the citrus juice mixed with tahini makes the perfect marinade for shrimp. Squeeze a small amount of lemon juice (or use zest, as the juice tends to thicken tahini) into the sauce and stir well. Marinate the shrimp with the lemon-tahini dressing and, once cooked, add them to a bowl of herby tabouli, complete with nutty bulgur, rich tomatoes, and mild English cucumbers.

Red meat lovers may want to douse beef in tahini before whipping up this Middle Eastern-spiced beef shawarma bowl. Tahini is already an important component of the dish — but with the beef marinated in it, it gets infuses with that delicious earthy flavor. Sprinkle salt, pepper, paprika, minced garlic, and za'atar into the tahini before rubbing it onto the beef.