Food & Drink

Tahini and chicken salad is the perfect pairing

Chicken salad with a tahini-mayo dressing.
Chicken salad with a tahini-mayo dressing. For the Washington Post

When I came across the recipe for chicken salad with a tahini-mayo dressing in Alon Shaya’s new cookbook, clouds parted to reveal golden rays of sun, the perfect pairing of peanut-butter chocolate came into focus and the denouement of “When Harry Met Sally” replayed in my head: Huzzah, naturally, of course! Two great foods, made greater together.

The New Orleans chef-restaurateur poaches a skinless whole bird with garlic, salt and fresh oregano, thyme and sage, which he says infuses the meat with even more flavor. I tested it his way and with the meat from a fresh rotisserie bird; in keeping with the ease of recipes in this column, I can say the latter will do your sesame seed paste proud. And you’d be looking for a good-quality tahini – preferably one you can see in a jar, that already looks well blended.

The real genius of his recipe, which I have doctored with carrot and chopped dates, lies in the addition of dukkah, a savory nut-and-spice blend you can buy or DIY. Stir it in at the last minute so it stays crunchy, and you, too, may have a happy moment.

Tahini Chicken Salad

Yield: Makes 4-6 servings

You will have about half the tahini mayonnaise left over, which can be refrigerated for 3 to 5 days. Stir before using.

Serve with warm flatbread or atop a pile of salad greens.

1/4 cup dukkah (nut and spice blend: see tip below)

3 ounces pitted dates, chopped

1 large carrot, scrubbed well and grated (about 1 cup)

6 or 7 scallions, thinly sliced

3 cups cooked chicken (light and dark meat; from 1 whole rotisserie bird, preferably simply seasoned)

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon water

1 teaspoon finely grated zest and 4 tablespoons juice from 1 lemon

1/4 cup good-quality, thick tahini, such as Soom or Camel brands

2 large egg yolks

Combine the egg yolks, tahini, 3 tablespoons of the lemon juice, the water and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt in a blender; puree until smooth. With the motor running, gradually add the oil to form a thick, ultra-smooth mayonnaise. The yield is about 1 cup; reserve half for another use.

(Alternatively, you can whisk the first 5 ingredients by hand, quite vigorously, then add the oil as directed above.)

Cut the chicken into bite-size chunks, placing them in a mixing bowl as you work. Pour in the half cup of tahini mayo, the lemon zest and the remaining tablespoon of lemon juice, the scallions, carrot, dates and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, then toss until well incorporated.

Just before serving, stir in the dukkah (so the nut-spice blend stays crunchy). Taste and add more salt, as needed.

Tip: Dukkah is a savory nut-and-spice blend, available at Trader Joe’s, some Middle Eastern markets and through online purveyors including Or you can make your own; find the recipe at

Nutrition | Per serving (based on 6): 330 calories, 23 g protein, 16 g, carbohydrates, 20 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 95 mg cholesterol, 160 mg sodium, 3 g dietary fiber, 10 g sugar