11 Best Sesame Seed Substitutes

Sesame seeds are a popular topping on many dishes. But sometimes you need sesame seed substitutes for one reason or another, like the times when you want to make sesame seed recipes but your pantry doesn’t contain any.

There are many ways to substitute sesame seeds when cooking or baking.

From black sesame seeds, which is one of the most popular types used as a spice, to white sesame seeds (also called hulled) these alternatives will help you get your fix without having to buy an entire bag at the store.

You need a substitute that is in season, has a similar taste and texture, and provides the same health benefits as regular sesame seeds.

In this blog post, I’ll share 11 different sesame seed substitutes that will work well in your recipes so that you never have to worry about running out of the best topping ever again.

11 Best Sesame Seed Substitutes

The best substitutes for sesame seeds are sunflower seeds and white/black sesame seed. You can also use flax seeds, pine nuts, and hemp seeds, as sesame seeds substitute in most recipes.

1. White Sesame Seeds

White sesame seeds also called hulled sesame seeds are completely edible with a milder, sweeter flavor than regular black ones.

White sesame seeds are a popular alternative to black sesame seeds.  They contain calcium, protein, fiber, copper, and manganese.

These sesame seeds are easier to digest but tasteless and nutty than other kinds of sesame seeds. The flavor is milder and more closely resembles that of poppy seeds.

2. Black Sesame Seeds

Black sesames are popular with cooks for their nutty flavor and crunchy texture. They are commonly used as a topping on salads, vegetables, rice dishes, noodles, and curries.

The seeds have a high content of calcium (nearly 30%) along with iron and zinc.

Due to their high oil content, black sesames are the most perishable of all sesame seeds. Store them in a cool, dry place and use them within 2-3 months.

If you have a recipe that calls for sesame seeds but you are short of black ones or don’t want to buy an entire bag, here is what you can do: mix half-white sesame seeds with half-regular black ones.

You can also try using black sesame oil as a substitute. It is less expensive and contains all the health benefits of regular sesame seeds.

3. Sunflower Seeds

Sunflower seeds are a great substitute for sesame seeds if you’re in a crunch and need them urgently. These seeds are loaded with many minerals, vitamins, amino acids, fiber, protein, as well as iron.

They have a similar taste to sesame seeds but are milder in flavor and softer in texture due to their smaller size.

Due to sunflower seeds’ high amount of unsaturated fatty acids, they go rancid pretty quickly. Buy them in small amounts and store them in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator or freezer as soon as you get home from the grocery store. 

They also make for a nutritious snack. Sunflower seeds are both tasty and nutritious.

4. Flax Seeds

Flax Seeds

Flax seeds have a nutty flavor that resembles sesame seeds but they are not as hard or crunchy.

Most of the nutrients in flaxseeds are fat-soluble, so it is best to consume them with some cooking oil for better absorption and digestion. Flaxseed oil can also be used as a substitute for sesame oil.

Flax seeds are also rich in dietary fiber, and protein and contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids.

It can also be used as a substitute for binding the dough. In this case, grind the flax seeds into a fine powder before adding it to doughs and batters. You can also add flax seeds to your drinks and smoothies for that extra nutritional boost.

5. Pine Nuts

Pine nuts are often used in Italian cuisines. They have an earthy flavor that is similar to sesame and is a popular addition to stews, pasta dishes, and baked goods. They are very expensive though!

Many pine nuts are covered with a moldy shells that must be carefully washed off before they can be eaten. Try toasting them first before using them to add flavor and crunchiness to your dishes.

You should also make sure you do not consume them in excess as they contain high amounts of saturated fat.

6. Hemp Seeds

Hemp seeds are a popular choice for vegetarians and vegans as they provide the essential fatty acids that most people get from eating fish or meat products. They also contain all nine essential amino acids which are necessary for the body to function well.

This makes them an ideal protein-rich snack food.

Hemp seeds have a strong nutty and slightly bitter flavor. They are usually dry-roasted before use as they taste better when toasted. 

Hemp seeds are a good source of fiber, phosphorus, zinc, iron, and magnesium.

7. Chia Seeds

Chia Seeds

Chia seeds are also a good alternative to sesame seeds. They have a similar texture and flavor but are softer in taste. 

You can add chia seeds to various dishes like salads, smoothies, soups, porridge, and puddings to get an extra health boost.

Chia seeds contain a high amount of fiber which helps keep you full for longer. They tend to grow double in size when exposed to moisture.   

Chia seeds should be consumed within 3 months of purchase as they do not contain preservatives and can go rancid if left out for too long.

8. Poppy Seeds

Poppy seeds can be used as a substitute for sesame seeds in muffins, bread, and buns. They have a nutty flavor that goes well with most savory dishes and are commonly used in making poppy seed cake (especially around Christmas time).

You may also add it to salad dressings, curries, bread toppings, pancakes, pastries, and other snack dishes.

Poppy seeds also have a high oil content which makes them susceptible to going rancid quickly. Like flax seeds, they have high amounts of fiber. They are also rich in vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids.

9. Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds are often mistaken for sunflower seeds even though they are not related.

They have a nutty and slightly sweet taste which makes them a favorite snack for kids and adults alike.

They can be used as a delicious topping on salads, dips, and stews like chili con carne, or pasta dishes. You can even make healthy granola and protein bars with them.

Like all other kinds of sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds are also high in fat and calories. Pumpkin seeds should be consumed in moderation because they are very rich in arginine.

10. Sesame Oil

Sesame oil is one of the most commonly used cooking oils in Asian cuisines as well as Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines as it goes well with spicy and salty ingredients. Black sesame oil can be used as a substitute for sesame oil.  

It has a very rich and nutty flavor that is similar to other types of sesame oil except it is darker in color and tastes stronger. Its bitterness can be quite strong for some people. Don’t let this discourage you from using sesame oil as it has many health benefits.

Black sesame oil can be used for stir-fries, salads, or drizzled on cooked veggies as it is healthier than roasted seeds but still retains that great sesame flavor.

11. Nuts (Chopped)


Sesame seeds have a nutty flavor, so why not try substituting them with nuts themselves?  When you are too lazy to remove the shells of cashews, almonds, and pistachios then simply chop them up.

The skin is not that much of a problem as long as it isn’t eaten; the shell can be left on the nuts if you’re not planning to sprinkle them over salads.

You can also add your favorite seeds or nuts to your favorite meals for a crunchy and nutritious addition.

Like sesame seeds, pine nuts are high in fats so they should be consumed in moderation.

What is Sesame Seed?

Sesame Seed Substitutes

Sesame seeds are the seeds of annual plants in the genus Sesamum.

They are small, white, or black seeds with a somewhat triangular shape, and are a popular topping on many dishes.

They add flavor and texture to salads, sandwiches, noodles, and more.

Sesame seeds are often used in a wide variety of cuisines in the form of tahini and as an ingredient for making bread and other baked goods.

They are commonly consumed as snack food by themselves. They can also be used in dipping sauces for fish, tofu dishes, and meat.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does sesame seed taste like?

Sesame seeds have a slightly bitter flavor and will taste delicious when used in sweet dishes or savory dishes.

To get the best tasting sesame, ensure that you get the freshest ones possible as they will taste better than the older ones.

When to use sesame seeds?

Sesame is commonly sprinkled over salads, vegetables, noodles, sushi rolls, and even popcorn. It also adds texture and crunch to any dish. They are commonly used as toppings on bread, cookies, cakes, and other baked goods.

The seeds can also be ground into sesame powder which is made of tiny, fine, sweet-tasting particles that can be sprinkled onto dishes like stir-fries to make them taste nuttier.

What flavors does sesame go best with?

Sesame seeds taste extremely delicious with savory ingredients and spices. It goes great with tomatoes, onions, garlic, spinach, broccoli, asparagus (here’s how to tell if you can use it or not)

It mixes well with lemon juice and sauces made from soy sauce. You can also use it in dips such as hummus or you can mix ground sesame seeds with eggs for a tasty egg roll filling.

They can also be added to your favorite bread dough or you can sprinkle them as a garnish on top of freshly baked bread.

What foods should you avoid eating with sesame seeds?

Sesame seeds should not be eaten with milk, cheeses, and other dairy products. They will turn into a thick, slimy paste and will taste awful.

They are also not good to eat with acidic foods like lemon juice or vinegar. The acidity of the food will turn the sesame into a bitter-tasting mush that is inedible.

How do I toast sesame seeds at home?

Toasting sesame seeds is an easy and quick technique that can be done at home.

Place half a cup of sesame seeds in a frying pan and heat it over medium-low heat. Stir the seeds continuously for about 5 minutes or until it turns golden brown. The seeds will perfectly toast when you hear popping sounds from the pan and a nice aroma will fill the air.

Leave the seeds in the pan for another few minutes then turn off the heat and transfer them into a bowl to cool down as you don’t want to burn yourself with hot seeds.

Remember that sesame seeds are used to garnish dishes so ensure that you give it extra flavors like salt, spices, or sauces so that it brings out the best in your dish. 

Final Words

The takeaway from this article is that you can use a variety of substitutes for sesame seeds in your cooking.

The taste and texture of sesame seeds can be a little bit bitter for some. If this is the case, you may want to try substituting it with other ingredients like nuts or sunflower seeds in your favorite recipes. You’ll still get that great flavor but without all the bitterness.

Alternatively, if you’re vegan or gluten-free then these substitutes will have similar textures as well as flavors so they should work just fine for your diet restrictions.

Don’t let dietary limitations stop you from being creative in the kitchen – there are plenty of ways to make dishes that are both nutritious and delicious while satisfying any special needs requirements.

Thank you for reading and don’t forget to share.

I’m a passionate food blogger on a journey to become a go-to person who can help others prepare delicious foods. I share recipes, food substitutes, and other cooking tips. Read more about my journey...

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