Roasted Vegetables with Tahini, Lemon & Za’atar

Roasted Vegetables with Tahini Sauce and Za'atar

Tired, pale, wrinkled — it’s a sad lot of vegetables gracing the farmers’ market tables these days.

But I’m not judging. Those very three words came to mind as I looked in the mirror this morning. I could use a little help right now — some sun, some fresh air, spring — and so could those vegetables. And I’ve got just the thing.

I had read about this tahini sauce in Jerusalem, where it’s used in various places, most notably in a recipe for roasted butternut squash with pine nuts and za’atar, but I never felt compelled to make it until I read this note under my friend’s Instagram photo: “I will never tire of this: roasted CSA root veg and squash, tahini with lemon and za’atar.”

I have since been making the dressing, a combination of tahini, olive oil, lemon juice and garlic, every few nights and roasting everything I can get my hands on from cauliflower to broccoli, carrots to parsnips, onions to cabbage. And when I’ve run out of vegetables to roast, I’ve exhumed what’s left in my vegetable drawer — an endive head, a grapefruit, some pea shoots — and drizzled it on those, too.

I find this dressing, especially in combination with the za’atar, to be irresistible but I know tahini is not everyone’s favorite flavor. In the preface to the tahini sauce recipe in Jerusalem, in fact, Ottolenghi warns that for some people the flavor of tahini spoils everything it touches, from a juicy kabob to a fresh salad.

If you share this feeling, this sauce might not be for you, but if you are on the fence, I highly recommend giving it a go, because once you discover how this tahini dressing awakens those languishing vegetables, you might stop worrying about spring’s arrival altogether. And once you see how the lemon brightens those roasted roots, you might find yourself heading back to the market on a mission for carrots and parsnips or anything looking especially tired, pale and wrinkled. And once you see how the za’atar enlivens those caramelized cabbage wedges, you might find yourself rubbing the sauce all over your face, hoping it might work similar miracles there, too.

I have not, to be clear, tried this. Hoping one of you might for me? Just a thought.

PS: Making the most of your CSA | A few ideas for using those CSA vegetables


veg on sheet pan

tahini sauce ingredients

tahini sauce

Roasted Vegetables with Tahini, Lemon & Za’atar

Inspired by my friend, Emily Teel; Recipe adapted from Jerusalem


  • a mix of the saddest vegetables you can find at the market: cabbage, carrots, parsnips are all great options; onions, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, cauliflower, broccoli — anything, really — could work here
  • olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • freshly cracked black pepper
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp. tahini
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. lemon juice (about 1/2 a lemon)
  • 2 Tbsp. water
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 to 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup or honey (optional)
  • za’atar (to taste)
  • nice sea salt (like Maldon) and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Preheat the oven to 450ºF.
  2. Peel vegetables if appropriate. Cut them into uniform pieces — sticks or cubes or whatever you like. Cut cabbage into wedges keeping the core intact if possible.
  3. Spread vegetables onto a sheetpan. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle with olive oil (2 to 3 tablespoons should do it) to coat. Toss gently, then spread in an even layer. Roast for 20 minutes. Check, and give them a stir if you wish. Roast for another 15 to 20 minutes or until nicely caramelized. Note: If your cabbage is getting too brown, you can always remove it after 30 minutes or so, then return the pan to the oven to allow the carrots and parsnips or whatever else you are roasting finish cooking.
  4. Meanwhile, make the dressing: In a small bowl, stir together the tahini (being sure to stir the tahini itself first to make sure it is emulsified), olive oil, lemon juice, water, salt, and garlic. Taste. Add the maple syrup or honey if desired. (I like this dressing with a touch of sweetness.) Taste. Adjust with more salt, if necessary, and thin out with more water if necessary, too — the sauce should be pourable or the consistency of a traditional dressing.
  5. Transfer roasted vegetables to a platter. Taste one. Sprinkle vegetables with a pinch of nice salt if necessary and more pepper if desired. Spoon dressing overtop — depending how many vegetables you made, you likely won't need all of the dressing. Sprinkle za'atar to taste overtop if using.

roasted vegetables with tahini sauce and za'atar

Here is another one to help you through these last few months of winter veg: Bon Appetit’s parsnips with chili butter. They are SO good:
roasted parsnips


  1. Terry says

    Thank you for these ideas! I’ve about had it with roasted vegetables but I know the spring goodies are weeks away from arriving. Love tahini!

  2. sarah says

    I have had my eye on that Jersusalem recipe for awhile now. Will be making this soon! Can’t say I’m still not excited for spring, however :)

    • says

      Tracy, me too, until now. I made these again tonight — we are addicted to them — but I totally understand just using olive oil, salt and pepper. I think we are liking this especially because by this time of year we have roasted so many vegetables and just need a little something to spruce them up. This sauce is just the job.

  3. Shelley says

    Love your blog. I’ve never cooked with or eaten za’atar, but would definitely like to try it. Do you make your own or buy it? Do you have a recommended recipe and/or suggestions for where to buy? Thanks!

  4. Lisa says

    What a great idea . Just what we needed to liven up our veggies.

    I find the Joyva Sesame Tahin to be too overwhelming . Seems like the seeds have a darker roast. Krinos Tahani is much better suited for my palate.

    • says

      Very interesting, Lisa — perhaps that’s why I’ve felt the need to add a teaspoon of maple syrup or honey? In Jerusalem, too, I noticed that the sauce is almost white whereas my sauce is always on the brown side, and the authors do specify “light tahini paste” and note that they favor Lebanese, Palestinian and Israeli brands. I would love to try a different brand of tahini. I will look for the Krinos. My mother adores the tahini sauce she gets from her kosher market, which she describes as lighter in color and almost whipped in texture.

  5. says

    That platter is just gorgeous for these roasty vegetables! Still loving every minute of your Middle-Eastern flavor obsession :) Keep it coming! Is this one of the very first recipes in the Jerusalem book? I think we ate this over the holidays. You would think I would remember, I know, but I was so smitten with the date/pita/spinach salad at the time! I don’t remember reading that chile-butter roasted parsnip recipe you posted earlier… that will have to be attempted very soon indeed :)

  6. says

    Ooooh, this sounds really good. So far I’ve loved every-single-thing I’ve cooked from Jerusalem. (Have you tried the roasted cauliflower & hazelnut salad (pg 62)? It’s delicious.) I don’t have tahini in the house or za’atar for that matter (just had to look up what za-atar actually is), but I’m going to keep my eye out for both in the hopes that I can spice things up a bit around here. Fingers crossed that spring finds it’s way to you soon!

  7. says

    I practically sleep with this book! Love tahini but I will admit that it took me years to really enjoy it. Now za’atar ia another thing. Loved it from day one. So happy we can finally get it here. Smuggled it from Israel several times. Great recipe even with sad vegetables!

  8. mary beth says

    I have discovered over the years that one tahini does not taste like the otherr. There are significant differences . . .in my mind ? ? ? FWIW – I am not a huge fan of the brand you show in your picture – but rather ADORE the Mid-East brand . . . . I know there are people out there that just plain do not like it – period. . . .but I would suggest perhaps some may be “throwing the baby out with the bathwater” . . .and encourage them to try other brands.

    • says

      Mary Beth, I will look for the Mid-East brand. I have to say, when I taste it from the tin, I am not the biggest fan either, but somehow with the olive oil, garlic, lemon and splash of maple syrup, it transforms. I still would love to try other brands. I am sure I could eliminate the maple once I find the tahini I like on its own. THanks!

  9. Lola says

    Thanks for the recipe. I bought a big bag of za’atar, my grocer had it as a close out item. There were 3 bags left and now I wish I’d bought the other bags. I use it mostly on chicken, make a marinade of za’atar, apple cider vinegar, olive oil, S&P. And when I remember, garlic. I just got a jar of tahini and had no idea what to do with it. Luckily my hubby is pretty cool about trying new things. Can’t wait to try this.

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