This simple tahini salad is the perfect way to enjoy fresh summer tomatoes. It packs the zesty, nutty, refreshing flavours of the Mediterranean and Middle East.
The chopped salad is super simple and requires just a handful of staple ingredients – tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, and flat-leaf parsley. And it takes less than 15 minutes to make.
What brings this salad together is, of course, the creamy tahini dressing. This Middle Eastern-style dressing of tahini paste, lemon juice, and garlic is a deliciously creamy and tangy dressing that will elevate any salad.
Why you’ll love this tahini salad
This tomato cucumber tahini salad is a deliciously refreshing salad packed with Mediterranean flavour. Think of juicy tomatoes, crisp cucumbers, and crunchy red onions all brought together by a creamy, lemon tahini dressing.
And, if you need more convincing, there are plenty of reasons to love this refreshing salad:
- Gluten-free and vegan: This simple recipe is also naturally gluten-free and vegan, making it an easy win for any dinner party.
- Customisable: Add your favourite chopped vegetables, fresh herbs, cooked grains or legumes for a satiating lunch or dinner. Or top it with roasted chickpeas for a plant-based protein boost.
- Flavourful dressing: The deliciously creamy and tangy tahini dressing balances the tomatoes, cucumbers and onions.
- Easy to make: The tomato cucumber tahini salad recipe is straightforward and easy to make. Plus, you don’t need any special equipment or fancy ingredients.
What is tahini salad?
Tahini salad is a typical Mediterranean and Middle Eastern-style salad made with tahini sauce and freshly chopped vegetables.
The base of the salad is a classic Israeli-style salad (or Jerusalem salad) of vegetables like cucumbers, tomatoes, onions and chickpeas. And a generous splash of extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and a creamy tahini sauce turns the simple salad into a luscious side.
Tahini salad ingredients and substitutes
This Jerusalem salad with tahini is a perfect mix of crunchy vegetables, fresh herbs and a creamy tahini dressing. But it’s also a flexible recipe you can easily customise to fit your pantry and tastebuds.
Israeli-style chopped salad ingredients
- Tomatoes: I use Roma tomatoes for this salad as they’re fleshy, sweet and easy to find. But you can use any tomato you like, including small tomatoes.
- Cucumber: To cube the cucumber, I quarter it lengthwise, scrape out the seeds and cut it into cubes. You can use English cucumber or the smaller Persian variety.
- Red onion: Red onion adds a mild onion flavour and a pop of colour. You can use diced white onion or shallots or finely sliced green onions. Or, why not give the salad an acidic boost with sumac onions?
- Fresh parsley: Finely chopped flat-leaf parsley adds freshness and flavour to the salad. You can use curly parsley too. But you can also use any other fresh green herb, like dill or mint.
- Salt and black pepper: Use it to season the salad to taste. Kosher salt or sea salt is perfect.
- Extra virgin olive oil (optional): Olive oil and Mediterranean food just go together. But you can use your preferred salad oil, like avocado oil. Or omit the oil altogether if you prefer an oil-free dressed salad.
- Aleppo pepper (optional): I like a little pinch (or sometimes a big one) of Aleppo pepper flakes. It adds some spicy savoury heat to the salad. You can substitute it with chilli flakes or fresh diced chillies (or try another Aleppo pepper substitute). Or omit it altogether if you prefer.
Lemon tahini dressing
- Tahini: Use a good quality tahini paste for the best results. If you don’t have tahini, why not try your hand at homemade tahini by blitzing hulled sesame seeds in a food processor?
- Lemon juice: I adore fresh citrus in salad dressings. You can also use lime juice. Or substitute it with apple cider vinegar for a tangier dressing.
- Cold water: The magic ingredient that turns thick tahini paste into a smooth and creamy pourable dressing.
- Garlic: Mince fresh garlic cloves or grate them with a microplane for a smoother dressing. Or substitute the raw garlic with half a teaspoon of garlic powder for a subtle garlic flavour.
- Ground cumin: A pinch of ground cumin adds a hint of earthiness. But feel free to omit if you don’t have any. Or add your favourite ground spice to liven things up.
How to make tahini salad
This creamy chopped salad is a fresh, vibrant, and crunchy Middle Eastern side. It’s a delicious accompaniment to any meal.
But best of all? It’s super quick and easy to make.
Step 1: Prep the vegetables
Start by prepping the vegetables. Grab a large mixing bowl and add the chopped vegetables as you go.
Cut the tomatoes into cubes. I like mine about half an inch (1 cm) big. Then quarter the cucumber lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Cube the cucumber into the same size as the tomatoes.
Finely dice the red onion. And chop the parsley.
Gently mix the vegetables and season with a pinch of salt and a generous grind of black pepper.
Step 2: Make the lemon tahini dressing
Whisk together the tahini, lemon juice, cold water, minced garlic and cumin in a small bowl. The mixture will seize up and then loosen as you continue to whisk. Add more cold water if needed, but just enough for a smooth yet thick sauce.
Add salt to taste – I add roughly a quarter teaspoon. The dressing should be nice and thick to avoid a soggy salad.
As the vegetables release their juices, they will loosen the dressing.
Step 3: Assemble the salad
Pour the tahini sauce over the salad and mix well to combine.
Let the salad sit for 10 minutes for the flavours to meld (if you have the time and patience). Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more lemon juice or salt as needed.
Transfer the tomato cucumber tahini salad to a salad bowl. Drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle a pinch (or more) of Aleppo pepper flakes for a bit of heat.
Can I make the salad ahead?
You can make the lemon tahini sauce well ahead. It is a very versatile sauce to have on hand to boost midweek meals. So, why not make double?
And while the salad is best served fresh, you can refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to three days.
During refrigeration, the cubed veggies lose moisture and crunch. But luckily, thanks to the tahini magic, the sauce thickens and needs that extra moisture to loosen.
Bring refrigerated salad back to room temperature before serving.
Tahini salad serving suggestions
This Middle Eastern tahini salad, with its vibrant mix of ripe tomatoes, crisp cucumbers, and zesty lemon tahini dressing, is a versatile side. Whether you’re preparing a casual weeknight dinner or hosting a lavish feast, here are some serving suggestions to get your creative juices flowing.
Falafel: The earthy, herby notes of crispy Israeli falafel (or try this baked falafel recipe) are a terrific match for this salad. Typically falafel is served with lemon tahini sauce and fresh vegetables, but in this case, you have an all-in-one salad ready to go. Try a falafel pita sandwich with tahini salad or see this falafel plate recipe for more ideas.
Rice or bulgur pilaf: Tahini salad is a light accompaniment to a hearty and fragrant pilaf. Try it with this plant-based harissa barley pilaf.
Mezze platter: Serve the tahini salad as part of a mezze platter that includes more salads and dips, like Israeli couscous salad, herbed potato salad with preserved lemon, Lebanese muhammara, sumac onions, garlic and herb labneh balls, and zhoug (spicy cilantro sauce).
The salad is also a great side dish for grilled kebabs (meat, chicken, vegetable, halloumi or tofu), baked fish or seafood dishes, or any heavy meal that can do with a light and creamy, zesty salad.
Frequently asked questions
Tahini salad typically contains freshly chopped vegetables, like tomato, cucumber and onion, with a dressing of tahini paste (made from ground hulled sesame seeds), lemon juice, garlic, olive oil and water.
It is best to use cold or room-temperature water for tahini-based sauces and dressing.
It is important to stir tahini before using it in recipes. Tahini paste is a natural product of ground sesame seeds. Without added emulsifiers, separation occurs that floats the oil to the top. Stir this oil into the hardened paste for a smooth and creamy texture.
Tahini is a great addition to salads. Mix it with lemon juice and olive oil, then season with salt and pepper. Drizzle the tahini sauce over your favourite greens. Add more flavour with maple syrup, garlic, fresh herbs and spices.
Try more recipes with tahini
Tahini is a deliciously nutty Middle Eastern condiment of ground sesame seeds. You can make your own tahini paste at home. Or look for a good-quality shop-bought tahini – it should contain only sesame seeds.
- 2 cups cubed tomatoes, about 4 medium-sized Roma tomatoes
- 2 cups cubed cucumber, about 1 English cucumber
- ½ red onion, finely diced
- 1 cup flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
- salt and black pepper
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, to serve (optional)
- ½ teaspoon Aleppo pepper, or more to serve (optional)
Lemon tahini dressing
- ¼ cup tahini
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons cold water
- 1 small garlic clove, minced
- pinch of ground cumin
- In a large salad bowl, combine the cubed tomato, cucumber, and red onion with ½ teaspoon of salt and a generous grind of pepper.
- Whisk together all the lemon tahini dressing ingredients in a small bowl. The mixture will seize up and then loosen as you continue to whisk. Add salt to taste – I add roughly a ¼ teaspoon. The dressing should be nice and thick.
- Pour the tahini sauce over the salad and mix well to combine. Let the salad sit for 10 minutes for the flavours to meld.
- Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more lemon juice or salt as needed. Transfer to a salad bowl, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with Aleppo pepper flakes.