Your question is a little like one of those grade-school tests – which word does not fit in the following list ?

traditional B. organic C. tahini D. None of the above

The correct answer is B. Well, the answer is A or B. It's not that tahini has not been organic – the sesame seeds from which it is made were cultivated organically for the first 48 centuries or more. But the advent of certifiably organically grown sesame seeds is new, not traditional.

Now, beyond the simple test that may or may not help you get into college, your question is fraught with riddles. Tahini, like a nut butter, will separate as it sits, so – organic or not – you will probably have to stir it vigorously to make the oil and solids come together. We know of one person who dumps a jar of it into the food processor, whizzes it for a while, then puts it back in the jar, vowing that it does not separate before he has the chance to use it all up.

The oil in tahini is as susceptible or more susceptible to turning rancid as the oil in most nuts. Refrigeration seems like a good idea, then. But refrigerate tahini, and it becomes as hard as premium ice cream. If you don't mix it thoroughly before putting it in the refrigerator, you'll have a mighty challenge doing so when it's cold.

Some manufacturers of tahini do not want you to store it in the refrigerator or freezer; some do; others sell their organic, raw tahini from refrigerated cases. And there appears to be no clear pattern in their recommendations:

  • Ziyad wants its tahini stored in a cool, dry place
  • Arrowhead Mills wants its organic tahini refrigerated
  • Krinos and Joyva do not tell you what to do
  • Artisana says to refrigerate its organic tahini for longer life

We suggest you do what the manufacturer of your tahini suggests. Most organic tahinis do not have preservatives or stabilizers. In general, we find they keep for about six months, but at least one manufacturer says its tahini will keep for a year once opened.

The spoilage issue you would be dealing with in any event is rancidity, and you should be able to tell right away if your tahini has gone rancid. It will not smell good and it will not taste good. It will almost certainly still be safe to consume, but you won't want to eat it. So no matter what the manufacturer says, if your tahini smells bad, it's time to open a new jar.