White Sesame Seeds: Flavor Profile
Sesame seeds are ubiquitous in the bakery, adding a touch of crunch and nutty flavor to bagels, breads and other baked goods. Yet, this small, but mighty seed, isn’t just a garnish. You’ll find sesame seeds in Chinese stir-fries, in sushi, and in a white range of Middle Eastern dishes.
The cream-colored white seeds have tons of nutty flavor. And thanks to their high polyunsaturated fat content, they’re commonly refined into a flavorful, buttery cooking oil that’s widely used in Japanese cooking. The seed comes a flowering plant in the Seasumum family, and they’re available in many different colors, including white, black, brown and red. White are the most common in North America, as they’re slightly sweeter and nuttier than unshelled varieties.
Cooking with White Sesame Seeds
Whether you fancy yourself a baker, or you love the flavors of the Far East, white sesame seeds are a must-have item in your spice cabinet. These seeds add a slightly crunchy texture, subtle nutty flavor, and tons of healthy fat to a wide range of dishes.
The seeds pair nicely with cardamom, spicy chilies, cinnamon and ginger, and you’ll find them in numerous Chinese, Japanese, Indian and Middle Eastern dishes. Use white sesame seeds for:
- Baked Goods – Sesame seeds add crunch and a creamy flavor to breads, bagels, crackers and hamburger rolls. In Korea, sesame seeds are used to make yeot-gangjeong, a candy bar covered in the seeds. And sesame seed breadsticks are another favorite dish.
- Dim Sum – Sesame seeds are widely used in Chinese cooking, especially dim sum. Sesame balls, for example, are a popular bite-sized sesame treat.
- Tahini – The Middle Eastern paste, used in hummus, is made from ground white sesame seeds.
- Spice Blends – You’ll find white sesame seeds in many Middle Eastern spice blends, including za’atar, a mixture of herbs and sesame.
- Mexican Sauces – Mexico grows sesame in great quantities (with McDonalds being its biggest buyer for their hamburger buns). Ground sesame seeds are found in mole and adobo sauces.
History of Sesame
The sesame plant is native to sub-Saharan Africa and Indonesia, and due to its drought-tolerance, is known as a survivor crop. The plant has had cultural and culinary significant for thousands of years.
Sesame seed is believed to be the world’s oldest oilseed crop, and it was distributed to the Indian subcontinent as early as 4000 B.C. Sesame was also one of the earliest traded foodstuffs. Evidence suggests Mesopotamian cultures traded with cities in India as early as 3,000 B.C.
The seed was also found in the Middle East during the same time. Assyrian and Babylonian records mention the seed as early as 2000 B.C., and it was used there in cooking and for medicinal purposes. For medicines, in the ancient world, the oilseed was highly prized.
Sesame’s long history in the Middle East and Africa is attributed to its drought-tolerance and adaptability. The plant can grow in drought conditions, in high heat, or in areas that get excessive rain with saturated soils.
Sesame is a member of the Sesamum family, and it is a flowering plant. The flower grows to a height of about 2 feet, and features dark green leaves and white, pinkish flowers.
The plants thrive in well-draining and fertile soils, but they’re highly adaptable. Sesame is found growing in many different soil types. The plant also requires warmer environments with about 100 frost-free days per year. Subtropical locales, including the No. 1 and No. 2 producers Tanzania and India, offer prime growing conditions for the plant.
The seed comes from a small, okra-like pod that grows after the plant buds. The capsule naturally splits on the stem, and they’re left hanging until they’re most dried. Sesame seeds are difficult to dry mechanically, because of their size and shape, and therefore, great care is taken to dry them on the vine.
About Our Sesame Seeds
Our white sesame seeds are sourced from India’s Tamil Nadu region. Located in South India, Tamil Nadu’s hot climate provides ideal conditions for sesame. We work with small farms in the Erode district, an important agricultural area in the region that consistently produces some of the most flavorful, nutty and oil-rich sesame seeds in all of India.