We are all familiar with sesame seeds on a bagel, but these little tasty seeds are also used in cuisines around the world, from Asia to the Middle East. Available in two varieties—black sesame seeds and white sesame seeds—they are used in different ways when cooking. Black sesame seeds are usually used for desserts, soups, or fillings while white sesame seeds are most often made into white sesame paste, or used to coat desserts or deep-fried foods, as well as garnish finished dishes.
What brings out the sesame seeds' natural flavor is toasting them. Toasted sesame seeds have a nuttiness which adds another layer of flavor and crunch to any dish, especially stir-fries and cold noodle dishes. There are two methods for toasting sesame seeds: in the oven and on the stovetop. Both do not use any oil and are equally simple.
- Preheat oven to 180 C (350 F).
- Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and pour over a thin layer of sesame seeds. Place cookie sheet in the oven.
- Check them every 5 minutes and shake the tray so they will toast evenly.
- Take out of the oven once the sesame seeds start getting some light golden brown color.
- Heat a dry and clean frying pan (you can also use a wok) over medium heat.
- Add the sesame seeds and keep moving or stirring with a wooden spoon or a heat-proof spatula.
- Once the sesame seeds start getting light golden brown in color, remove from the stove immediately.
You can keep the toasted sesame seed in a dry, clean, and airtight jar once they are cool. Store the jar at room temperature.
Using Toasted Seeds
Once you've toasted the sesame seeds and brought out all of their deliciousness, there are endless ways to use them. The most obvious is sprinkled in Asian dishes and coating sushi. But they are also wonderful on grilled vegetables, as a crunchy topping to salads, mixed into rice, or sprinkled over fish, meat, or chicken.
The toasted seeds can also be made into tahini. When placed in a blender or food processor with some oil, the seeds purée into a thick paste ideal for adding to homemade hummus or as a drizzle on falafel. In addition, there are many desserts and breads that feature sesame seeds as a star ingredient.
Sesame seeds might be tiny but they are a powerhouse when it comes to health benefits. Sesame seeds contain very high levels of quality protein and are high in magnesium, which is beneficial to our health in many ways, including preventing diabetes. Magnesium has also been shown to lower your blood pressure and help your respiratory health and prevent asthma.
Because they are high in phytosterols, sesame seeds lower bad cholesterol. (Black sesame contains much higher levels of phytosterols than white sesame seeds.) They also contain high levels of zinc which is very good for your skin, hair, and bone health. Sesame seeds are also high in fiber so consuming sesame seeds in your diet is a good way to boost your digestive health and can also help to relieve constipation.