Sesame Seed Substitutes – 5 Easy Swaps With Similar Flavor

The humble sesame seed happens to be a flavoring, garnish, and central ingredient across many cuisines. It is a quintessential ingredient in dishes like sesame macarons, soba noodles, simit (Turkish street food), or Tahini chocolate puddings.

If you don’t have sesame seeds at your disposal and badly need it in your recipe, using a sesame seed substitute becomes necessary to save your recipe. However, the alternative ingredients may not work well for recipes that have sesame as the core ingredient.

This article throws light on the best replacement ingredients for preparing a dish without sesame seed.

What Is Sesame Seed?

Sesame seeds are tiny, oil-rich seeds that grow in pods on the Sesamum indicum plant.

There are different types of sesame seeds such as:

  • Unhulled seeds: with the outer, edible husk intact
  • Hulled seeds: without the outer husk
  • White sesame seeds: purest sesame seeds with a mild flavor and white texture
  • Black sesame seeds: the most nutritious variety of seeds with a stronger flavor

Sesame seeds have a slightly sweet and nutty flavor with a satisfying crunch when eaten whole. Roasted seeds have an almond-like aroma and flavor.

Sesame seeds are added to food for flavoring. Oil extracted from seeds is used as cooking oil and to make sauces and dressings.

Best Sesame Seed Substitutes

Sesame seed has a unique flavor and you cannot find a perfect substitution for this condiment. However, if you have run out, are unavailable, or looking for an alternative that complements your recipe, then here are a few similar ingredients to use in place of a sesame seed.

Here are the best alternatives to use:

1. Poppy seeds

Poppyseed is an oilseed obtained from the opium poppy (Papaver somniferum) that is commercially cultivated in some parts of Asia. Don’t hesitate, poppy seeds do not contain any narcotic properties, unlike opium gum.

Raw poppy seeds do not have any flavor. However, roasted poppy seeds render a nutty flavor similar to sesame, also exhibit mild spicy notes.

Bakers use sesame and poppy seeds interchangeably in baked goods like bread, cakes, cookies, and candies.

Use roasted poppy seeds as a 1:1 substitution for sesame seeds in most of your dishes that require these seeds.

2. Flax seeds

For centuries, flax seeds have been prized for their commercial uses and health-enhancing properties. Nowadays, flax seeds are emerging as a “superfood” well appreciated for their rich content of Omega 3s and protein.

From a nutritional point of view and flavor-wise, flax seeds are a worthy replacement for sesame seeds.

For the best nutritional benefits, use ground flax seeds because the whole flax seeds are difficult to digest.  Here a problem arises, the ground flax seeds and whole sesame seeds vary in color and texture. Still, flax seeds add to your dishes a flavor similar to sesame seeds.

While substituting, use ground flax seeds in your recipe in the same measure of sesame seeds required for the same.

3. Sunflower Seeds

Sunflower seeds are collected from the flower head of the sunflower plant. The seeds, also called sunflower kernels, are encased in edible, black and white, pin-striped hulls. The kernels appear white like hulled sesame seeds and have a nutty flavor.

Like the sesame seeds, you can eat the kernels of sunflower raw, roasted, or ground, and incorporate them into your dishes. The kernels bring a nutty flavor and crunchiness to your dish. Also, the oils of both these seeds can be used in the same way for cooking.

Ground flax seeds can best be mixed into your dough for making baked goods or just sprinkle them over your dishes like salads and other vegetable dishes.

4. Hemp Seeds

Hemp seeds are small, brown seeds from the Cannabis sativa plant; do not possess any narcotic properties. Importantly, the seeds have a rich nutritional profile and provide a wide range of health benefits.

They are a close match to unhulled sesame seeds in appearance and also have the same flavor when roasted.

It is easy and simple to use these seeds in any baked goods or dishes that call for sesame seeds.

Unfortunately, hemp seeds are not easily available for all and they are costly as well.

5. Chopped Peanuts

When you don’t have any of the above-listed substitutes for sesame, use chopped peanuts in place of sesame seeds. It is cheap and easily available in comparison to other alternatives.

The nutty flavor of peanuts is an approximate match for sesame seeds. Besides, chopped peanuts have a similar appearance to white sesame seeds and both are used similarly in making cookies, cakes, bread, and several other dishes.

Use Black And White Sesame Seeds Interchangeably

Using black sesame seeds in place of white sesame seeds and vice versa is the most ideal solution to your substitution problem. The color difference is the major distinguishing feature between them but the flavor and nutritional benefits remain quite the same. All the same, unhulled black sesame seeds are slightly bitter but have a stronger flavor. While white sesame seeds without the hull are sweeter and have a mild flavor.

Use them interchangeably in all the recipes that require them if the color difference is not a big botheration.

Frequently Asked Questions

What can I substitute for sesame allergy?

For those allergic to sesame, try alternatives like poppy, hemp, chia, sunflower, or pumpkin seeds. Swap tahini for sunflower, pumpkin, or soy nut butters, or peanut butter if peanuts are safe. Instead of sesame oil, use peanut, walnut, avocado, grapeseed, or olive oil.

Are sesame seeds necessary?

Sesame seeds add protein, fiber, and nutrients to meals, but they aren't essential. If you're allergic, it's best to avoid them and enjoy other foods.

Who should not eat sesame seeds?

If you're allergic to sesame, take medications like tamoxifen, have gout or Wilson's disease, or are in the early stages of pregnancy, you should steer clear of sesame seeds.

Does your body not digest sesame seeds?

Our bodies can't fully digest sesame seeds because their outer layer is too hard for our stomachs to break down. But, we can still absorb their nutrients. For better nutrient intake, it's best to grind or soak sesame seeds before eating.

Where are sesame seeds in grocery store?

You can usually find sesame seeds in the spice section or where Asian foods or organic items are sold in a grocery store.

Are sesame seeds gluten free?

Sesame seeds are gluten-free because they don't come from wheat, rye, or barley, which are the grains that contain gluten.

Why are sesame seeds on buns?

Sesame seeds give buns a nutty taste and crunch, making sandwiches like burgers tastier. They also make buns look better with their brown seeds on top, and are a signature of famous places like McDonald's, attracting customers.

Can sesame seeds cause a positive drug test?

Eating sesame seeds might lead to a wrong result in a drug test for opiates like morphine or codeine since they have substances similar to those in opium poppies.

Are sesame seeds low FODMAP?

Sesame seeds are okay for a low FODMAP diet if you stick to normal servings like 2 tablespoons. They're nutritious and won't cause trouble for this diet.

How long are sesame seeds good for?

Unopened sesame seeds can stay fresh for two years in your pantry. After opening, use them within six months for the best taste. In the fridge, they're good for a year, but keeping them in the pantry is fine too.

Are sesame seeds keto?

Sesame seeds are great for a keto diet because they have few carbs and lots of healthy fats. With only about 1.3 grams of net carbs per ounce, they can be eaten without affecting ketosis.

Final Thoughts

The nutty flavor of sesame seeds is a delightful addition to many dishes and baked goods. These seeds are easily available in groceries near you unless you want a deliberate substation for one reason or another.

If you don’t have the seeds, either you can omit them from your recipe or use a sesame seed substitute like poppy, flax, or sunflower seeds in the order of preference.

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