Sesame seeds have been used for over 5,000 years as a source of edible oil, and cooking ingredient. Sesame seeds are commonly used in many worldly cuisines for flavor as well as medicinal uses. From savory to sweet, the love we have for this seed’s rich nutty flavor, knows no limits.
If you’ve ever tried anything with sesame you’re sure familiar with its rich nutty and semi-sweet flavor. The seeds are sometimes added to breads, bagels and even baked into crackers. They can also be found in many salads, sushi, and in soups.
Overall sesame seeds can be found in just about every cuisine. used and prized for their variety and oils. These seeds also have a rich nutritional value and medicinal properties.
Sesame seeds come from a flowering plant known as Benne. These plants originate from Africa but have been naturalized to many different worldly tropical regions. India and China are leaders in global sesame production. In 2013 India led the world production with 4.2 million tons of this desirable ingredient.
Black vs White Sesame Seeds
There are two different varieties of sesame seeds, white and black. Both varieties are delicious and nutritious though they do have different flavor profiles. The hulled white seeds are typically used in baking and sweets because of their delicate and not overpowering flavor.
The black variety has a richer flavor and even stronger aroma. The black sesame seeds are best used with other bold ingredients.
Hulled vs Unhulled
Sesame seeds have an outer protective cover commonly referred to as the hull or husk. This part of the seed is completely edible but it can be removed before consumption. Sesame seeds can be bought with or without the hull.
The hull removal process involves adding whole sesame seeds into a machine which spins and mixes the seeds with water. Imagine a large kitchen aid on spin using a paddle. The pressure from the spinning paddle and the water help remove the hulls. The seeds are then strained and dried.
Toasted vs Raw Sesame Seeds
While sesame seeds are known for the rich nutty and slightly sweet taste, these flavors are enhanced by toasting them. Though for us, the black variety tends to be a bit bitter when toasted. Raw sesame seeds taste still rich in flavor but in comparison to when toasted, the flavor is not as pronounced. Also once toasted the texture changed from soft to a bit crunchy.
How to Toast
It’s easy to toast sesame seeds at home. Toasting adds a complex nutty flavor. It’s the same process you would follow for toasting nuts.
- Bake in the oven at 350 °F for 10-12 minutes on a cookie sheet until golden brown .
- Toast over medium heat in a pan while occasionally stirring till golden brown.
Sesame seeds are 40%-60% oil. It’s no wonder humans used sesame seeds as their first oil seed crop. The oil extracted from sesame seeds are used extensively in asian and middle eastern cuisine. It has a longer shelf life due to being rich natural antioxidants such as sesamol.
There are generally two types of sesame oil, light and dark. The light oil is clear or has yellow tint. This light oil is good for cooking. It has a high smoke point of about 410 °F making it good for frying. It is even suitable for deep frying.
Dark sesame oil come from first toasting the seeds. It has a more nutty flavor and best used to finish a dish. It has a lower smoke point. It can be used for pan frying but not deep frying. It’s flavor best suited for drizzling on top after the food has been cooked. Dark sesame oil is wonderful in salad dressings. Try adding a drizzle of dark sesame oil to our Chickpea Salad Filling.
Sesame Use in Dishes Around The World
In the middle east, ground sesame seeds are used to make a product called tahini. Traditional tahini can be made using sesame seeds that are grounded into a thick paste, along with lemon juice, water, salt and additional spices like garlic powder or others.
Tahini can be made into different consistencies as well from a thick syrup like consistency to a smooth semi-liquid similar to that of a ranch dressing. Tahini is typically an important ingredient when making hummus as well. Who knew, some lemon juice, chickpeas, sesame seed paste and spices would do the soul a whole lotta good.
The Benne wafer, a sweet made from sesame seeds and sesame flour is popular in South Carolina. The sweet named bene after the flowering plant it originates from, was introduced to colonial america in the city of charleston by slaves from west africa.
Binangkal is a type of doughnut from the Philippines made from deep fried sesame coated dough balls.
Luna’s absolute favorite sesame seed treat is Jian dui. It is a chinese pastry made with rice flour coated with sesame seeds and filled with a lotus or sweet red bean paste.
Sesame in Ethnic Spice Mixes
It is also common to find different spices mixes containing sesame. In Japan, Furikake, a blend of sesame, sugar, salt, chopped and dried seaweed, is typically sprinkled onto vegetables, rice or meats. Japan also has a rāyu paste, which is a chili-infused sesame oil commonly added to rice or noodles.
Similarly za’atar, a middle eastern spice used on everything from meats, crackers, popcorn and hummus, consists of sumac, oregano, dried thyme and sesame seeds.
Health Benefits of Sesame Seeds
In the Ayurvedic medicine, a healing methodology originating in India, the oil extracted from the sesame seeds is used with other herbs to help balance out bodily systems. Sesame oil can be ingested or applied topically.
Sesame oil is said to be very effective in alleviating dry skinsss, wrinkles, joint pain and even psoriasis. The black variety in ayurveda are used to help UTIs and even strengthen the gums and teeth due to their high calcium content.
Seeds cycling is a common naturopathic remedy that claims to regulate estrogen in the first half of the menstrual cycle and progesterone in the second half of the cycle. Although there is a lack of scientific evidence regarding boosting fertility and help with menopausal symptoms.
That said, there is plenty of anecdotal claims for usefulness in balancing women’s hormones. Homeopathic use of sesame seeds include:
- During the first 14 days of the cycle, 1 tablespoon of grounded flax and pumpkin are consumed.
- During the luteal phase, the second half of the cycle, 1 tablespoon of ground sunflower and sesame seeds are consumed daily till the start their period and then after bleeding the cycle starts again.
Nutritional Data for Sesame Seeds
Sesame seeds are an excellent source of plant powered protein. Three tablespoons of sesame seeds supply five grams of protein. Protein, as we all know, is essential for proper function for hormones to muscles.
Sesame seeds in raw or cooked form are rich in calcium, zinc, manganese, and magnesium. These nutrients are great for bone health, though a higher percentage of these nutrients are found in the hull. As stated earlier, sesame seeds contain antinutrients that hinder the effectiveness of the absorption of nutrients.
Hulled or roasted sesame seeds are best to maximize protein availability. The process of hulling and roasting seeds reduces the amount of oxalates and phytates. These are antinutrients, compounds that can block or interfere with how nutrients are absorbed.
A study of the processing effects on sesame’s nutrients by Makinda and Akinoso was published in The International Food Research Journal of 2013. The study found that sprouting sesame seeds reduce antinutrients concentration in both unhulled and hulled seeds by 50%. To limit the effect of these antinutrients it’s best to roast, soak, or even sprout the seeds.
Sesame seeds are a good source of thiamine, niacin and B6. These are important vitamins for metabolism and cell function.