Sesame seeds are especially great on sourdough bread, sourdough discard bagels, Turkish bread, salads, sushi, cookies, and plenty of other dishes. However, if you ran out of sesame seeds here are the best substitutes you can use in most recipes!
Black sesame seeds vs White sesame seeds
The two are different even though their names are almost identical. Black sesame seeds have a more defined flavor and a nuttier taste (especially toasted) than white sesame seeds. While white sesame seeds are widely used in Western cuisine for bread, cakes, salad dressings, candy, etc., black sesame seeds are more appropriate for Asian cuisine due to its specific taste. Having said that, while you can substitute one for another in some recipes, you have to be careful, as black sesame seeds will alter the traditional flavor of the dish.
1. Poppy seeds
1. Has a great crunch.
2. Easily available at most grocery stores.
3. Has good flavor and a nutty taste.
4. Toasting brings out even more flavor.
1. The flavor is not as strong as that of sesame seeds (especially toasted sesame seeds).
Bottom line: serves as a 1:1 substitute for sesame seeds (both black and light ones). Great in stir fry, cakes, and candies, and I also like it on GF sourdough bread!
2. Black sesame seeds
1. Has a good flavor and texture, very similar to white sesame seeds.
2. Black sesame seeds are an even better choice if you are making an Asian recipe.
1. Black sesame seeds have a stronger flavor and a different taste, so substitute carefully.
2. Not as easily available as white sesame seeds (unless you live in Asia!)
Bottom line: be careful when using black sesame seeds, taste it first, then proceed!
3. Pumpkin seeds
1. Pumpkin seeds have more health benefits than sesame seeds.
2. They are also rich in flavor.
3. The crunchy texture is a win!
1. Bigger than sesame seeds
2. Can be chewier than sesame seeds.
Bottom line: you can safely use pumpkin seeds in stir fry, to top bread, in pasta and noodle recipes, soups, and cakes (like this GF cherry banana bread)!
4. Chopped peanuts
1. Good flavor.
2. Easily accessible in stores.
3. Crunchy texture.
1. More work to chop.
2. Can get chewy if baked in cakes. I made my GF banana bread with peanuts and I did not like their texture once baked!
Bottom line: use peanuts in salads, stir fry, and other recipes that don’t bake the peanuts.
5. Hemp Seeds
1. The flavor is similar to that of white sesame seeds.
2. Hemp seeds are small which makes them feel similar to sesame seeds in recipes.
1. Not easily available in grocery stores.
Bottom line: hemp seeds are a great 1:1 substitute for white sesame seeds but are not easy to find.
6. sunflower seeds
1. Sunflower seed kernels are relatively small in size.
2. They have a nutty flavor similar to that of sesame seeds.
3. Good for you in reasonable amounts.
4. The crunch is even more defined than in sesame seeds.
Bottom line: there are no cons when it comes to using sunflower seeds! Great for meat breading, salads, and desserts.
7. Flax seeds
1. Similar to sesame seeds in nutty flavor and crunchy texture.
2. Relatively small in size.
3. Ground flax seeds can also be used in place of sesame seeds for flavor.
1. Flax seeds are chewier than sesame seeds.
Bottom line: you can use whether whole or ground flax seeds as a 1:1 substitution for white sesame seeds!
8. Sesame Oil
1. The flavor is exact!
1. More expensive than other substitutes
2. Has no crunch.
3. To substitute, you need to go by taste and not by volume as sesame oil is much more concentrated than the seeds.
Bottom line: in some recipes, you might want to go for sesame oil if all you need is a strong sesame flavor without texture! I love using sesame oil in Asian breaded chicken and in the dipping sauce for fried sourdough starter.
9. Pine nuts
1. Pine nuts have the nutty flavor sesame seeds have.
2. These nuts are relatively small in size.
3. Toasting brings out more flavor.
1. Differs in texture, less crunchy.
2. Way more expensive and not as available.
Bottom line: pine nuts are not going to be your go-to sesame seeds substitute but if that is all you got, then go for it!
The reason I did not include chia seeds in the list is that they are not a good substitute for sesame seeds. Chia seeds lack flavor plus they expand once exposed to liquid. Thus, you miss out on both flavor and texture. However, you can sprinkle chia seeds on top of a stir fry or an extra crunch!
You can, if all you need is flavor. As tahini is made of toasted sesame seeds with some oil you will get the flavor but there will be no crunch whatsoever!
Well, if you use peanuts, for instance, you will not make tahini but rather peanut butter. The same goes for the other seeds as well. So, you can make seed or nut butter out of toasted sesame seeds substitutes but the flavors will differ.