What Are Sesame Seeds?
Sesame seeds are harvested from the flowers of Sesamum indicum - a plant that is native to India and Asia. Sesame seeds impart a unique flavour and texture to many culinary and medicinal dishes. They can be used in snacks like sesame squares, homemade granola bars and in many savoury dishes like Asian stir frys.
Sesame seeds come in three distinct varieties—black, white and yellow. What's more, these small but mighty seeds boast a naturally-derived umami flavour that brings a distinctive savoury note to dishes. They’re useful as a condiment in meats, vegetarian dishes and desserts.
When purchasing sesame seeds, you can choose between raw hulled or unhulled varieties. Unhulled are encased in an extra layer that is dull and light brown (though some may be darker). These have a crunchier texture than the shelled alternative which has a very pale white hue with a translucent and glossy shine.
These little seeds have a wealth of health benefits, too. The sesamin and sesamolin content in sesame seeds accounts for their health-giving properties. Sesame seeds have a delightful, nutty taste and are full of healthy unsaturated fats, protein, dietary fibre and essential minerals like iron, magnesium, calcium and phosphorus.
According to some scientific studies, sesame seeds have been shown to help with cardiovascular and metabolic conditions, osteoarthritis and even cancer. In fact, the research on black sesame seeds is very compelling in the scientific community and is worth including in your everyday diet to reap their health benefits.
What makes toasted sesame seeds so delicious?
There's an intensity of flavour that comes from toasting, frying or oven-roasting nuts and seeds. It's a great way to get maximum flavour impact with minimal effort.
Toasting sesame seeds is a great way to bring out their naturally nutty flavour. The heat of the toasting process causes an enzymatic reaction that releases fragrant oils and enhances the nutty flavour of the seeds. This process also creates a richer, more complex texture and a wonderful depth of flavour to many dishes. When toasted, sesame seeds become crispier and make a great addition to salads, stir-fries, or any other type of dish.
Toasting also helps keep the texture of the sesame seeds intact, helping them from becoming too soft, wet or sticky. Additionally, toasting can make sesame seeds easier for your body to digest by breaking down some of their carbohydrates into simpler forms that are easier for digestion.
How To Toast Sesame Seeds: 2 Ways
First, prepare your sesame seeds. Begin by pouring your sesame seeds into a bowl and inspecting them for any debris. Then transfer the seeds to a strainer, shaking off any bits of husk or other residues. Now, you're ready to toast your sesame seeds. Here are two quick and easy ways to get it done.
Oven-Toasted Sesame Seeds
This method is an easy, hands-off technique to get deliciously nutty, warm and fragrant toasted sesame seeds. Here's how to achieve it.
- Preheat oven to 180°C and spread a single layer of sesame seeds on a baking tray lined with baking paper.
- Set a timer for 8-10 minutes, and bake your sesame seeds. Give them a gentle stir every few minutes to make sure they get an even toast, with a golden brown colour all over. Watch for any hot spots or potential for burning in the oven.
- Pro tip: Rotate the baking tray halfway through cooking. You'll know when they're done as the kitchen will be perfumed with an irresistible toasted sesame aroma.
- Once they're toasted, remove them from the oven and allow them to cool completely before using or storing them in an airtight container.
Pan or Skillet Toasted Sesame Seeds
This method of toasting sesame seeds requires a bit more attention. However, the results are well worth it for an evenly browned, fragrant and delicious batch of freshly toasted sesame seeds. Here's how to do it.
- Bring a large skillet or frying pan to medium heat. Place the sesame seeds in a single layer in the frying pan, stirring them occasionally as they heat.
- The process to toast sesame seeds should take 3-5 minutes. It's best to keep an eye on them, just as you would with the oven-toasted method. Look for an even, golden brown colour throughout the batch of sesame seeds. You'll know they're ready by their toasty smell!
- Once toasted, transfer them to a plate or bowl and allow them to cool completely.
- Use your toasted seeds immediately or store them in an airtight container.
Whichever method you use, once you've finished toasting the sesame seeds, remove them from the heat as quickly as possible. These little seeds are full of natural oils, which can quickly burn and oxidise if exposed to high, intense heat.
Transferring them to a flat surface like a plate will help them to cool quickly and will prevent any residual heat from continuing to cook them. Once cooled, you can add the toasted sesame seeds to a variety of dishes or just enjoy them as a snack.
Now you know how to toast your own sesame seeds to perfection, here's some recipe inspiration to get you cooking with them!
Enjoy Your Homemade Toasted Sesame Seeds
Toasting sesame seeds is quick and easy. It adds textural interest to many dishes and is a perfect complement to both sweet and savoury meals. Try both toasting methods to find the perfect balance of nutty flavour, crispiness, and colour. Once you learn how to toast sesame seeds, you’ll be able to experiment in the kitchen. Enjoy!
How To Store Toasted Sesame Seeds
Toasted sesame seeds are a tasty and nutritious addition to any meal, but they can lose their flavour if stored improperly. To ensure maximum freshness and taste, it’s important to store them correctly. The best way is in an airtight container or jar in the refrigerator for up to 6 months. If you plan on using them within a month, you can also keep them at room temperature in a cool, dry place like the pantry or cupboard.
Another important point to remember, is to ensure your toasted sesame seeds are away from excessive heat and light during storage. Exposure to these elements can cause the oils that give sesame seeds their unique flavour and aroma to degrade more quickly. The same applies for almost all nuts and seeds. These foods have delicate monounsaturated fats that are vulnerable to oxidation, which makes them turn ‘bad’ or rancid. Not only does this produce an undesirable and bitter taste, but it changes the chemical composition of them into trans fats, which are inflammatory and unhealthy to consume in large amounts.
With these tips in mind, you’ll be able enjoy your favourite dishes with delicious, freshly-toasted sesame seeds!
Sweet & Savoury Recipes Using Toasted Sesame Seeds
These are just a few examples of dishes that you can use toasted sesame seeds in. With their delicious nutty flavour, these tiny seeds make a great addition to salads, soups, stir-fries and more. So don’t hesitate to get creative with how you use them in your cooking.
Easy Hummus - Toasted Sesame Seed Spread
- ½ cup toasted sesame seeds
- ¼ cup tahini
- 1 can rinsed and drained chickpeas
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- Juice from 1 lemon
- Salt and pepper to taste
- In a food processor or blender, combine the toasted sesame seeds, chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, garlic and lemon juice. Blend until smooth.
- Taste and season with salt and pepper as desired. Enjoy on toast, crackers or use as a tasty dip.
Homemade Tahini Honey Spread
- toasted 1 cup sesame seeds
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ⅛ tsp. Salt
- 2 tablespoons honey
- Place the toasted sesame seeds in a food processor or blender.
- Add olive oil, salt and honey
- Blend until the mixture is smooth and creamy, scraping down the sides as needed.
- Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one month. Enjoy.
Sesame Chicken Stir Fry
This classic Chinese dish is incredibly easy to make and tastes great too. It's a wonderful way to celebrate the depth of flavour and intense nuttiness you can only get with toasted sesame seeds.
- 200g of mixed veggies (red capsicum, baby corn, carrot, broccoli, bok choy)
- 250g chicken breast, sliced into strips
- 1/4 cup oyster sauce
- 1 tbsps. water if needed
- Cooked white jasmine rice, to serve
- Heat a wok or skillet over medium-high heat with a tablespoon of sesame oil
- Add the vegetables followed by chicken strips.
- Cook for 4-5 minutes until everything is cooked through, stirring regularly.
- Add oyster sauce and water if needed to deglaze the pan, combining everything gently.
- Finish off with a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds on top.
- Serve with rice and enjoy.
Sesame Roasted Veggies
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- 1 teaspoon of soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons of toasted sesame seeds
- 2 cups of your favourite veggies (eg capsicum, baby corn and mushrooms)
- Begin by preheating your oven to 200℃.
- Mix olive oil, soy sauce and toasted sesame seeds together in a small bowl.
- In an oven-safe dish or baking sheet, toss veggies with the sesame oil mixture until evenly coated.
- Roast for 15-20 minutes or until lightly browned and tender, stirring once during cooking.
- Serve as a side dish to slow cooked lamb, or alongside rice or bread and enjoy.
Sesame Seed and Veggie Wraps
- ¼ cup sesame seeds
- 2 large spinach tortillas (or corn tortillas for GF option)
- 2 tablespoons of hummus
- 2 cups of mixed sliced veggies (carrot, cucumbers, capsicum and tomatoes)
- To make the wraps, start by toasting sesame seeds in a dry pan over medium-low heat until lightly golden and fragrant. Set aside.
- Then, spread two large spinach tortillas with 2 tablespoons of hummus each.
- Top each wrap with 2 cups of fresh veggies.
- Sprinkle with the toasted sesame seeds and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Finally, roll up the wraps tightly, cut them in half before serving.