Black Sesame Seeds: Flavor Profile
Black sesame seeds are unhulled sesame seeds, known for their nuttiness and high oil content. In North America and Europe, white seeds are more common, but in various countries around the world, you’re more likely to find black sesame seeds.
Compared to white sesames, there’s only a slight difference in flavor between the varietals. Black sesame seeds tend to have slightly bitter notes, along with a sweet, nutty taste. That’s due to the small outer shell. Black sesame seeds are most common in the Far East. They’re widely used in Japanese cooking, as well as in Chinese dim sum.
Cooking with Black Sesame Seeds
Asian cooks prefer the black seeds, thanks to their bitter, more complex flavor. Used as a garnish and ingredient in a number of dishes, the seeds add a slightly crunchy texture, as well as warm, nutty notes to fish, beef and noodle dishes.
In Korea, the black seeds are commonly used in confections like yeot-gangjeong, a black sesame-encrusted nut bar. And the nuttiness of the seed pairs nicely with sweet flavors. A few common uses include:
- Garnish – Japanese and Chinese cooks garnish many dishes with black sesames. Sushi rolls, sashimi and sesame balls all feature the black seeds.
- Rice and Noodle Dishes – The slight crunchiness of the nut, as well as its nutty flavor pairs nicely with rice and noodle dishes like black sesame chahan.
- Condiments – Goma shio, a Japanese dry condiment featuring a mix of seeds and salt, is commonly used over salads. Tahini is another sesame-infused sauce.
- Baked Goods – Although the white seeds are more common in European and North American kitchens, the black seeds are just as great and add a hint of color.
History of Sesame
Sesame is one of the world’s oldest cultivated oilseeds, and it has a long history in the spice trade. Fossil evidence suggests it was introduced to the Indian subcontinent more than 5,000 years ago, as early civilizations used it in food and as medicine.
Researchers have also found evidence of trading between Mesopotamia and India as early as 3,000 B.C. That makes this one of the oldest traded spices in the world.
Around this time, sesame seeds were also introduced to the Middle East. Assyrian and Babylonian cultures utilized the seeds in medicine, and they were some of the first to start harvesting the oil. By 2,000 B.C., the sesame seed was distributed throughout Asia.
The plant thrives in subtropical environments, especially in India and Africa. Today, the world’s top producers are Tanzania and India, according for 18% and 12%, respectively, of the world’s sesame seeds.
Sesame is a flowering plant in the Sesamum family. Originally from Africa and Indonesia, the plant has been distributed throughout the Mediterranean, India and Southeast Asia.
Sesame plants grow quickly to a height of about 2 feet, and they feature dark green leaves and white blossoms. The seeds come from a pod that grows after the plant bolts, which resembles a piece of okra. The pods dry on the vine, allowing the seeds to dry as much as possible. It’s important that they dry on the vine, because their size and shape make mechanical drying nearly impossible.
Sesame plants are highly adaptable. They thrive in warmer climates with about 90 to 120 frost-free days per year, and they prefer well-draining soil. The plants do grow in just about any subtropical environment – from Tanzania (the world’s No. 1 producer), to central Italy.
About Our Sesame Seeds
Our black sesame seeds are grown in Tamil Nadu, India, a province in the southern reaches of the country. We work with farms in the Erode district, which is a vibrant agricultural region. Known for its full-flavored black sesames, Erode farmers use generations-old growing techniques to produce some of the most flavorful seeds in Asia.