Samak bi Tahini – Fish with Tahini Sauce

First of all a cookbook update to your wonderful subscribers of my newsletter! I have heard from the printers that my cookbook will be ready in December! I will do my best to make sure that it is available in time to order for Christmas!

Now onto a recipe so easy you can eat it any day of the week, yet so fancy you can serve it at your next dinner party, involving my favorite condiment, tahini. While people are used to the concept of tahini sauce  in their felafel or shawarma sandwiches, many are unfamiliar with the myriad of other uses for this nutty paste. My mother used to eat tahini and grape molasses sandwiches as a child, comparable to the ubiquitous peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Arab home cooks also use tahini to make salad dressings,  the sweet confection called halva, or sauces for lamb and even seafood. Tahini sauce is to the Middle East what peanut sauce is to the Asians, a creamy nut or seed based sauce that enhances the flavor of the dishes without using dairy. Tahini makes a harmonious cream sauce for fish in particular, in a special dish called Samak bi Tahini. 



While this dish is very popular in Lebanon, I remember eating this specialty many years ago in a Palestinian restaurant in Jaffa during the summer, where the fish was quite fresh and smothered with caramelized onions, toasted pine nuts, and a lemony tahini sauce. I am not sure if this restaurant even exists anymore, but one thing I did know: this dish was too delicious to forget and I had to find a way to recreate it at home.  The three simple spices of sumac, cumin, and coriander add tangy and smoky elements to the white fish, and the caramelize onions add a sweetness to tahini paste, which has slightly bitter undertones. While this dish makes an excellent low carb meal, feel free to pair with a my  VERMICELLI RICE,   POPULAR GARLIC TURMERIC RICE,  or roasted potatoes for an extra hearty touch.  Who said white fish is boring? With all of these textures and flavors, mundane white fish takes on an elevated status worthy of any holiday party.

Check out the easy technique in the video below:


  • 2 8 ounce fillets of fish (haddock, rockfish, or petrale sole)
  •  1 teaspoon sumac
  •  1 teaspoon ground cumin
  •  ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  •   1 tablespoon olive oil  plus 1 tbsp butter
  •   Salt and pepper to taste 
  • Caramelized onions:
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced 
  •  ¼ cup olive oil 
  • Garnishes:

  • ¼ cup pine nuts or sliced almonds, toasted in  olive oil 
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley  or cilantro 
  • ¼ cup pomegranate seeds (optional) 
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley or cilantro
  • Tahini Sauce 

  •  1/3 cup tahini, diluted with ¼ cup water if too thick
  •  1 garlic clove,  finely minced
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon



Brush the fish with olive oil. Sprinkle the fish with cumin, coriander, sumac and salt and pepper and leave for 30 minutes for the flavors to  marinate. Sauté the onions in ¼ cup of olive oil until browned and caramelized then set aside. 

Heat 1 tbsp olive oil and 1 tbsp butter in a skillet. Pan fry the fish until browned on both sides, about 3 minutes each side. Conversely you can put the fish in a 13×9 casserole dish and bake for 10 minutes at 375 degrees. For the tahini sauce, whisk the tahini, garlic, water, and salt and pepper to taste if desired. You can heat the sauce in a saucepan if you like it warm. Once the fish has finished cooking, top with the caramelized onions and toasted nuts. Drizzle with tahini sauce, then garnish with chopped parsley or cilantro, pine nuts, and pomegranate seeds. Serve immediately. 


4 thoughts on “Samak bi Tahini – Fish with Tahini Sauce

  1. Hello Blanche, I hope your doing well. Bridget and I just had an addition to our family. Bridget’s middle son just got married last week. (see photo) Carlos and his wife Rachel are both graduates of the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. Both have head chef positions in San Francisco. They are truly amazing. I’m so proud of Carlos he turned his life around. I’d like us all to meet up soon. Just to meet maybe share some recipes. Just a thought….

    All The Best,

    John Asenso

    It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men. ~ F. Douglass


    1. Wow John congratulations! You are the youngest and coolest grandfather around, sending much love your way. Sounds like Carlos and Rachel are above my league, wow!

  2. I remember my mother making this delicious dish. It was the only way I would eat fish. 😉 Thanks for bringing it back to life!
    My mother’s family was from Lebanon and my father was from Ramallah Palestine.

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