Spotlight Spice: Sesame Seeds

Sesame (Sesamum indicum) is a flowering plant known for its rich, nutty, edible seeds which have an extremely high oil content. The seeds grow in a pod that naturally splits open to reveal them, hence the term “open sesame.” Cultivated varieties of sesame originated in India thousands of years ago, but the plant’s wild cousins are native to sub-Saharan Africa.

Two common varieties of cultivated sesame seeds are white and black. During processing they can be left with their hull or have the hull removed (hulled). At AllSpice, we carry two varieties: Black Sesame Seeds and Hulled White Sesame Seeds.

The Hulled White Sesame Seeds are the more commonly seen variety – you regularly spot them on hamburger buns. This variety has a nice nutty flavor and light crunch. Our Black Sesame Seeds have their hull intact and have a mild, slightly sweet flavor. They add a delicate crunch to dishes and have a slightly nuttier flavor than the Hulled White variety. While just fine raw, toasting either variety of the seeds enhances their nutty flavor and crunch.

We recommend using both varieties to garnish salads, stir-fried veggies, and noodle dishes. They are also great for adding to cakes, cookies, and breads. Use them in place of peanuts for a unique twist on your recipe. Try lightly crushing sesame seeds and using them to flavor soups and stews.

Sesame seeds are often pressed to produce sesame oil and can also be crushed into a paste called tahini, a cornerstone ingredient in hummus and many salad dressings.

One of our favorite eats is falafel (Friday is international falafel day, y’all, and our beans are already soaking!). We use sesame seeds in the falafel and then enjoy them with a simple tahini sauce made with tahini (more sesame seeds), garlic, cumin, lemon juice, and salt.

What’s your favorite recipe featuring sesame seeds? Share with us in the comments.