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Spices Unearthed: Sesame Seeds

what is the difference between white and black sesame seeds?

Open Sesame!

When Ali Baba uttered this now famous phrase, to enter the cave full of hidden treasures, it most certainly related to the characteristic of sesame seed pods 芝麻 bursting open when mature. But the comparison in the story of treasure and the tiny seed also alluded to the importance of the spice in Middle Eastern culture.

5,000 years ago, the Assyrians were already using the seeds for oil and wine, and believed the gods drank sesame wine the night before they created the earth. In the Middle East now, white sesame seeds are primarily used in making tahini – a ground sesame seed paste used as an ingredient in many local dishes.

In Western culture, you’ll most likely find the white seeds on baked goods, like breads and bagels. And of course on top of hamburger buns made famous by one of the biggest purchasers of sesame seeds in the world – McDonalds.

In the Far East, where white & black sesame seeds are most commonly used, you will find them in both savoury and sweet dishes. Can you imagine Chinese cooking without sesame oil and seeds?

do white and black sesame seeds taste different?
White (Hulled) & Black (Unhulled) Sesame Seeds

Packed with nutrients such as Vitamins B1 & E, calcium, and iron, sesame seeds - from the pod of the tropical sesame plant - have a pleasant, oil-rich, nutty flavour. The taste is enhanced when toasted, but unfortunately, the high concentration of healthy fats (polyunsaturated fats) are damaged when the seeds are heated. A good reason to toss the seeds on any dish, after cooking.

Sesame seeds vary in color, but are generally sold in white or black form. The white seeds are usually sold hulled (the very thin, edible outer shell removed), like you would find on top of hamburger buns. Black sesame seeds, primarily used in Asia, are black from the hull itself (the seed inside is white), so they are always sold in unhulled form, and are therefore slightly crunchier. No matter what color, the seeds are from the same tropical plant and taste almost identical.

The two most important words to remember about sesame seeds? Simple & Dynamic. Add them as a cooking ingredient to any dish, or place them next to the salt and pepper shakers, and sprinkle the seeds on top of a cooked meal for additional taste, texture, and look.

Actually, there are two words even more important to remember – which Ali Baba’s greedy, older brother forgot when he tried to leave the cave full of treasures (and was subsequently chopped up into four pieces) –

Close Sesame!

For a taste of sesame seeds, try one of these excellent recipes:
how to make sesame seed brittle?
Panna Cotta with Sesame Seed Brittle - Dulce Delight
japanese recipe spinach gomaae sesame seed sauce spice
Spinach with Sesame Sauce - Just One Cookbook
black sesame cake recipe malaysian asian dessert
Black Sesame Chiffon Cake - The Sweet Spot
Rasa Malaysia recipe for Sticky Rice Balls with sesame seeds
Muar Chee (Malaysian sticky rice balls) - Rasa Malaysia
thai pomelo salad with shrimp
Pomelo Salad - Season with Spice
sesame soba ramen noodles with sesame seeds
Easy Sesame Noodles - Season with Spice

where to buy black sesame seeds online? season with spice shop


Nami @ Just One Cookbook said...

Hmmm! I love sesame seeds, both black or white. Beautiful photos of sesame seeds as well as nutrition info! All the recipes look delicious too. Wonderful post!

seasonwithspice said...

Thank you Nami. Especially love all your Japanese recipes with sesame seeds. Would be wonderful to read a post on Just One Cookbook about the spice in Japanese dishes.

Cakebrain said...

I love black sesame. It's supposed to be good for your hair and excellent for expectant mothers.

seasonwithspice said...

Thanks Cakebrain for sharing the interesting bits of black sesame. Apparently, Chinese believes that any black seeds/ beans are good for our hair.

how to cook lamb said...

I never cooked in my mother’s kitchen growing up. Cooking Chinese food, to be honest, feels a lot less natural than making a Thai coconut curry. Did I feel an ethnic rekindling with this strange, foreign cuisine with its exotic ingredients like dark soy sauce?

Silvia said...

This was revealing. I thought black and white seeds come from different sesame species. There's always something new to learn from you.

Sue Chien Lee said...

Gorgeous post Mark & Reese. And gorgeous blog. Now to hunt for pomelos...

Season with Spice said...

Thanks so much for your comment, Silvia. The world of spices is sure a fascinating one..

Season with Spice said...

Thanks Sue! Now that I am in the States, I will need to hunt for pomelos too..

Season with Spice said...

Once you get comfortable with the ingredients, cooking Chinese or Asian will come really easy.

Gin said...

Hi I'm curious. I've learnt from school that black and white are basically varities of hulled sesame , and that there's an unhulled type called brown sesame. do you know anything about this?

Season with Spice said...

Hi Gin great question. The white sesame seeds generally sold in the US are hulled, therefore they have a very clean white look. You can also find unhulled white sesame seeds, which are usually marketed under the name "Natural Sesame Seeds". They will have a kind of earthy tan color.

Black sesame seeds are actually unhulled. If they were hulled, they would lose that striking black color.

I have no doubt there are unhulled brown sesame seeds being cultivated somewhere, since sesame seeds can come in a variety of colors after thousands of years of domestication and hybridization.

Hope this helps!





I am from Sri Lanka exporting Sesame seeds even in small qualities for sales
Please contact 0094 754662572 or email to micaexports@outlook.com

SeasonWithSpice said...

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SeasonWithSpice said...

sesame seeds are very importants for health. It contain Vitamins B1 & E, calcium, and iron. These vitamins are good for health.
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SeasonWithSpice said...

Thanks for clearing up the fact that the difference between the black and white is hulled and unhulled. I was wondering about the toasting factor? You can't really tell by looking at the black ones, if they are toasted. I'm hoping it tastes toasted...

SeasonWithSpice said...

Hi Casey, glad we could help! Regarding toasted black sesame seeds, the look and flavor depends on the brand. Some have a slightly puffier look, but you're right, it's not always easy to tell.

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