Substitutes for Sesame Seeds

Substitutes for Sesame Seeds: 10 Healthy Alternatives With Similar Flavors and Texture

Sesame seeds are a staple ingredient in many cuisines around the world. Their nutty, toasted flavor and fun pop when you bite into them make sesame seeds a universally-loved ingredient. But what if you don’t have any sesame seeds on hand or want to avoid them due to allergies? Luckily, there are plenty of great substitutes for sesame seeds that can fit the bill.

In this article, I will outline 10 of the best substitutes for sesame seeds. I’ll go over their flavor profiles, textures, nutritional benefits, and best uses so you can seamlessly sub them into your favorite recipes. Whether you’re out of sesame seeds or just want to experiment with new flavors, these alternatives will allow you to recreate the magic of sesame.

What Are Sesame Seeds?

Before diving into substitutions, let’s go over what exactly sesame seeds are and what they bring to the table flavor and nutrition-wise.

Sesame seeds are tiny, oval seeds that come from the sesame plant. The seeds are very commonly associated with hamburger buns, Asian cuisines like stir fries, and tahini. They range in color from white to black, with red and yellow varieties being popular as well.

When toasted, sesame seeds take on a nutty, slightly sweet flavor and have a wonderful crunch when you bite into them. Their oil content also allows them to pop slightly when heated. Raw sesame seeds have a more mild, nutty taste.

Nutritionally, sesame seeds are rich in nutrients like iron, zinc, vitamin B-6, magnesium, and healthy fatty acids. They make a healthy addition to salads, stir fries, breads, and more. Just a tablespoon offers a solid dose of plant-based protein as well.

The 10 Substitutes for Sesame Seeds

Now let’s look at 10 excellent stand-ins for sesame seeds that can provide similar flavors, textures, and even added nutritional benefits!

1. Sunflower Seeds

Sunflower seeds are likely already a staple in your pantry, making them one of the easiest replacements for sesame seeds. When toasted, sunflower seeds take on a very similar nutty flavor and crunch as sesame.

Use sunflower seeds anywhere you’d normally use sesame seeds – sprinkled on salads, stir fried veggies, baked into bread, or as a crunchy topping for desserts. Their mild flavor allows them to blend seamlessly into both savory and sweet dishes.

Sunflower seeds also have nutritional advantages over sesame seeds. They’re packed with vitamin E, vitamin B1, selenium, and other antioxidants and minerals.

2. Poppy Seeds

With their tiny size and nutty, slightly sweet taste, poppy seeds can nearly mimic sesame seeds in terms of flavor and texture perfectly. You likely have poppy seeds in your pantry for baking, but they work excellently as a replacement for sesame seeds in all types of cooking.

Use poppy seeds anywhere you want a touch of nutty sweetness – try sprinkling them on salads, using them in stir fries, mixing them into bread doughs, or incorporating them into dressings and dips. They’re an easy 1:1 swap for sesame seeds in any recipe.

In addition to their great flavor, poppy seeds provide minerals like magnesium, zinc, iron, and calcium. Be sure to toast them to really bring out their flavors.

3. Hemp Seeds

Looking for a superfood twist on sesame seeds? Nutty, crunchy hemp seeds make an excellent substitute with their own unique, earthy flavor. Hemp seeds won’t mimic sesame seeds exactly, but provide a similar nutty crunch and dose of healthy fats.

Use hemp seeds in salads, smoothies, baked goods, or as an egg substitute in vegan cooking. Their mild, nutty taste allows them to blend well into both sweet and savory recipes. Keep in mind their greenish color may alter the appearance of lighter dishes.

Beyond their flavor, hemp seeds are incredibly nutritious – they’re packed with healthy fats, minerals, vitamins like A and E, and high-quality complete proteins.

4. Flax Seeds

Flax seeds are another superfood alternative to sesame seeds, offering a great nutty crunch and plenty of nutritional benefits. Their flavor is nuttier than sesame seeds, but they can be used similarly in recipes.

Use ground flax seeds in place of sesame seeds in vegan baking recipes, or sprinkle flax seeds on top of salads, yogurt, oatmeal and more. Flax seeds are especially good for heart health thanks to their high omega-3 fatty acid content.

Be sure to grind flax seeds before baking with them, as they need to be broken down for our bodies to access their nutrients and for baking purposes. Flax seeds provide fiber, protein, and cancer-fighting compounds called lignans.

5. Sesame Oil

When you want authentic sesame flavor without the seeds themselves, toasted sesame oil makes an excellent substitute. It has a high smoking point, making it suitable for sautéing, stir frying, and even deep frying.

Use small amounts of this flavorful oil in dips, dressings, soups, noodle dishes, or any recipe that would benefit from a nutty sesame kick. You can also brush sesame oil on fish or chicken before baking or grilling.

Thanks to its intense, pure sesame flavor, just a drizzle of sesame oil goes a long way in replicating the taste of the seeds themselves. Sesame oil provides similar health benefits to the seeds as well.

6. Chia Seeds

Tiny but mighty chia seeds are a nutritional powerhouse that also work great in place of sesame seeds. Though lighter in color, chia seeds have a very similar texture to sesame and can provide nutty flavor when toasted.

Use chia seeds in stir fries, salad dressings, baked goods, and even as an egg substitute thanks to their gel-forming capabilities when soaked. Their small size allows them to seamlessly replace sesame seeds in any recipe.

Chia seeds offer a huge array of vitamins, minerals, omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and fiber. An ounce of chia seeds provides a whopping 10 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein, so they will keep you full. Their gelling action also makes them great for making puddings.

7. Pumpkin Seeds

If you want to add an earthy, nutty element to your recipes, pumpkin seeds can make an excellent sesame seed substitute. Toast them to really bring out their nutty flavor.

Use pumpkin seeds anywhere you want a touch of crunch – sprinkle them on salads, add them to grain bowls, mix them into bread or muffins, or toss them with roasted veggies. Their distinctive flavor stands out while still mimicking sesame seeds’ crunch.

Pumpkin seeds are highly nutritious, providing essential minerals like magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, iron and zinc. They contain disease-fighting antioxidants and their healthy fats promote heart health by reducing inflammation and managing cholesterol.

8. Chopped Nuts

Chopped nuts like almonds, pecans, walnuts, and peanuts can be used in place of sesame seeds in many recipes. They bring a similar nutty flavor and crunch factor that sesame seeds are loved for.

Use finely chopped nuts on breads, salads, stir fries, cookies, muffins, and more. They’ll add nutrition and richness along with mimicking sesame seeds’ texture.

Be sure to toast and chop the nuts finely so they resemble the size and texture of sesame seeds. Nuts offer nutrition like essential fatty acids and plant-based protein.

9. Pine Nuts

Pine nuts offer a crunchy, slightly sweet sesame seed substitute with a rich, creamy flavor. Their oiliness allows them to provide a similar mouthfeel to sesame seeds.

Use pine nuts in recipes where you want to highlight their flavor like pesto, pasta dishes, salads, and even desserts. Lightly toast them to intensify their butteriness. Just be warned – pine nuts are one of the more expensive options.

Nutritionally, pine nuts offer substantial amounts of vitamins and minerals like manganese, zinc, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and vitamins E and K. They make a tasty, nutrient-dense sesame seed alternative.

10. Pistachio Seeds

Lastly, crunchy, green pistachio seeds can make an excellent replacement thanks to their similar texture and nutty flavor. Use shelled, raw pistachio seeds anywhere you’d use sesame.

Pistachios work great as a topping for pizzas, salads, pasta dishes, desserts, or eaten on their own as a snack. Their fun green color also livens up any dish visually.

In addition to their crunchy texture and nutty taste, pistachios offer lots of protein, B vitamins like B6, minerals like copper and manganese, and antioxidants like lutein and zeaxanthin.

How to Store Sesame Seeds

Now that you know the best substitutes for sesame seeds, let’s go over proper storage to keep your sesame seeds fresh as long as possible.

Proper storage is important for maintaining sesame seeds’ signature nutty, toasted flavor and ensuring no rancidity. With optimal storage, sesame seeds can last up to 6 months in your pantry.

The enemies of fresh sesame seeds are air, light, heat, and moisture. To avoid them going bad quickly:

  • Store sesame seeds in an airtight container in a cool, dry place away from light. A cabinet or pantry works perfectly.
  • Make sure they’re out of direct sunlight which can cause them to oxidize and go rancid faster.
  • Keep them in a cool area under 75°F if possible. Heat causes faster breakdown of oils.
  • Check periodically for signs of moisture like clumping which ruins texture. Discard any clumpy seeds.
  • Watch for signs of rancidity like darker color, bitter smell, or stale taste. Rancid seeds should be tossed.

Follow these guidelines and your sesame seeds will stay fresh and delicious for many months! Now let’s look at why they’re so good for us.

Health Benefits of Nutritious Sesame Seeds

In addition to their versatility in recipes, sesame seeds also offer a range of health benefits thanks to their stellar nutritional makeup. Here are some of the top nutrients and health perks they provide:

  • Calcium: Just a quarter cup of sesame seeds provides over 30% of your daily calcium needs for strong bones and teeth. The calcium in them is highly bioavailable too.
  • Zinc and iron: Sesame seeds provide sizable amounts of zinc and iron which support immune function and circulation.
  • Magnesium: Sesame seeds are one of the best plant-based sources of magnesium which promotes bone strength, heart health, and sleep quality.
  • Sesamin: This unique antioxidant found in sesame seeds has been shown in studies to lower bad cholesterol and improve blood sugar control and metabolic health.
  • Antibacterial properties: Sesame oil is naturally antibacterial and antifungal, helping fight infections and promoting oral health. It helps explain why sesame oil pulling with oil is so beneficial!

As you can see, sesame seeds boast an impressive array of micronutrients, antioxidants, and other powerful compounds that support overall health in many ways. Their substitutes offer similar benefits.

Black Sesame Seeds vs. White Sesame Seeds: How Do They Compare?

You may have noticed black sesame seeds and wondered – how do they differ from plain white sesame seeds? Here’s a quick rundown:

  • Flavors: Black sesame seeds have a richer, deeper flavor compared to the lighter, more delicate taste of white. Black sesame is often described as nuttier and more aromatic.
  • Texture: Black sesame seeds are a bit smaller and have thinner hulls than white sesame seeds which gives them a softer crunch. White sesame is bigger and crunchier.
  • Interchangeability: That said, black and white sesame seeds can typically be used interchangeably in recipes without issue. The flavor and color contrast may impact the final dish minimally.
  • Nutrition: There is little nutritional difference between black and white sesame seeds. But black sesame has higher levels of antioxidants which gives it greater shelf life and health protective properties.

So in summary, black sesame will provide a bolder, richer flavor and color contrast compared to white sesame seeds. But they can be swapped freely based on your taste preferences!


Sesame seeds are an invaluable ingredient around the world for their versatility, crunch, nutty flavor, and stellar nutritional resume. Luckily, many healthy substitutes can mimic their wonderful qualities when you’re out of sesame seeds or want to avoid them.

Hopefully this article has outlined easy substitutes for sesame seeds like sunflower seeds, poppy seeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds, and more that can allow you to recreate sesame flavors and textures in your cooking.

Experiment with these nutritious, flavorful alternatives to find your favorites! They provide a range of tastes and textures along with vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, fiber, and protein. Any of these substitutes can let you still enjoy sesame flavors in your favorite foods when you don’t have the actual seeds on hand.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s a simple recipe for homemade sesame seed (tahini) paste?

Making your own tahini paste is easy with just two ingredients:


  • 1 cup raw sesame seeds
  • 1/3 cup olive oil or vegetable oil


  1. In a dry skillet over medium heat, toast sesame seeds for 2-3 minutes until golden brown. Stir frequently.
  2. Transfer sesame seeds to a food processor or high-powered blender. Add in the oil.
  3. Blend for 2-3 minutes, stopping to scrape down sides as needed, until a smooth paste forms. Add more oil to thin if desired.
  4. Store homemade tahini paste in an airtight container in the fridge up to 1 month. Enjoy on sandwiches, with hummus, or in dressings!

Is it safe to eat raw sesame seeds or do you need to toast them?

Raw sesame seeds are perfectly safe to eat and offer the same nutrition as toasted. However, toasting brings out more depth, flavor, and aroma from sesame seeds by intensifying their natural oils. It also improves their crunchy texture. So while raw sesame seeds are nutritious, it’s recommended to toast them to maximize their taste and texture. Start toasting them in a dry pan for 2-3 minutes until fragrant and lightly browned.

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