Roasted Sesame Paste is made with just 1 ingredient: toasted sesame seeds. Result: a rich, creamy, and intensely nutty flavour. It’s a staple of Japanese and Chinese cuisine, where it’s known as Neri Goma or Zhi Ma Jiang respectively.
Why You’ll Love Roasted Sesame Paste
- Strong Flavour: Roasted sesame paste is like tahini on steroids. Tahini traditionally uses raw or very slightly toasted sesame seeds, but Asian sesame paste is always made with toasted sesame seeds. It helps bring out their enticingly nutty flavour.
- Works with Savoury or Sweet: You might associate toasted sesame oil with savoury recipes like Japchae or Doufunao, but that’s not the case with sesame paste. I’ve used this roasted sesame paste to make everything from Peanut Butter Cookies (just swap the PB with sesame paste) to Sesame Pekmez Cookies to Hot Pot Dipping Sauce.
- Nut-Free Alternative: If you’re allergic to peanuts and tree nuts, then sesame seed paste is a great alternative to use in recipes like Peanut Butter Stuffed Dates or Brookie Pie. Just make sure to use sesame seeds from a nut-free facility.
Sesame Paste vs Tahini vs Sesame Oil
Both Sesame Paste and Tahini are made by blending whole sesame seeds. Both typically use white sesame seeds. The main difference is that tahini is made from raw sesame seeds, while sesame paste is made from toasted sesame seeds. Toasting the seeds intensifies their flavour, so sesame paste has a stronger smell than tahini, and is also a little more bitter.
Sesame Oil, meanwhile, is an altogether different proposition. It’s made from pressing sesame seeds to extract the oil, while leaving behind the fibrous sesame pulp. There are both raw and toasted sesame oils.
Tahini is Middle Eastern, specifically originating from Ancient Persia. (In fact, the earliest written recipe for tahini came from the world’s oldest surviving cookbook, Kitab al-Ṭabīḫ, which also holds the first recipe for Muhallebi, one of my favourite rice pudding desserts.) Tahini is used in classic Middle Eastern dishes like shawarma, tarator, and hummus.
Meanwhile, sesame paste usually refers to Chinese sesame paste (zhi ma jiang) or Japanese neri goma. Sesame paste is used in Chinese dishes like Sichuan cold sesame noodles and Hot Pot Dip, and Japanese recipe like goma dare sauce.
What You’ll Need
You only need one ingredient to make Roasted Sesame Paste… I’ll let you guess what it is. 😆
To be detailed, you have two options here. You either use raw sesame seeds—which you’ll have to roast yourself—or buy toasted sesame seeds which have already been pre-toasted for you. Both are good options.
If you decide to toast your own sesame seeds, it’s simple enough. Stir them around in a large frying pan on medium heat for a few minutes, just long enough to smell the sesame aroma. The seeds will turn a very light golden brown. Be sure not to let the sesame seeds brown too much, or else your sesame paste will turn out bitter.
White vs Black Sesame Seeds
Generally, sesame paste is made with white sesame seeds. However, in Japan there is also a version made with black sesame seeds called Kuro Neri Goma (kuro meaning “black” in Japanese). It’s rare to see the black sesame version in Chinese cuisine.
The process for making black sesame paste is the same as making white sesame paste.
For a full list of ingredients and quantities, refer to the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
Note: If using a blender, I recommend one that comes with a tamper, such as the Vitamix. Or use a blender jar that is specifically designed for thick sauces like the Blendtec Twister Jar. (You can read more about the Vitamix vs Blendtec debate in my Blender Peanut Butter Recipe.)
Step 1: Add toasted sesame seeds to a blender or food processor. Secure lid tightly.
Step 2: Start blending on low speed and gradually increase to high. Blend until completely smooth (at least 2 minutes).
Room Temperature: Homemade sesame paste or sesame butter lasts for 3 months at room temperature, preferably stored in a dark and cool place, like your pantry. Past this, the sesame paste will still be safe to eat, but the oils may turn rancid which would make it a bit unpleasant!
Fridge: For longer storage, store roasted sesame paste in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 1 year. Note the texture will become more stiff when it’s cold. Depending on what you plan to use it for, you might want to take it out a few hours in advance and set it on the counter to warm and loosen up.
Separation: Over time, you may notice your sesame paste separating into an oily top layer with a thick, dense bottom layer. That’s completely normal and happens with all natural nut and seed butters. Just stir it back together before using.
They all share a base ingredient of sesame seeds, but their differences lie in preparation and characteristics. Sesame paste and sesame butter are different names for the same thing, which is made from toasted sesame seeds, which yields a more robust flavor with a slight bitterness if eaten by itself. Sesame paste and sesame butter are used mainly in East Asia, specifically China and Japan. Tahini, on the other hand, is usually made from raw or slightly roasted sesame seeds, offering a milder, smoother taste with a creamy texture. It’s commonly used in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dishes and desserts.
Sesame paste or butter can be used interchangeably in many recipes, such as hot pot dipping sauce, sesame pekmez cookies, Japanese sesame sauce and salad dressing (goma dare), Chinese sesame noodles, and sesame butter cookies. You can also use sesame paste as a more flavourful substitute for tahini in recipes where you want a heavy dose of sesame flavour, such as hummus, shawarma, or tarator sauce.
A good quality sesame butter should contain only one ingredient: toasted sesame seeds. Usually, white sesame seeds are used, but black sesame seeds can also be made into sesame paste for a striking black-coloured spread.
Sesame seed butter has a rich, nutty flavor. Its taste profile is mildly earthy, with a subtle bitter flavour from the toasted sesame seeds. Because it’s made with roasted sesame seeds, it also has a much stronger, intensely roasted taste than tahini, which is usually raw or only lightly toasted.
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Traditional Roasted Sesame Paste
Use Imperial/Metric buttons below to toggle between volume vs weight measurements. I recommend weighing out your ingredients for best results.
- 4 cups toasted sesame seeds see Note 1
- 1 tbsp roasted sesame oil *optional
- Add toasted sesame seeds to a blender or food processor. Secure lid tightly.
- Start blending on low speed and gradually increase to high speed.
- Blend until completely smooth (at least 2 minutes).
- Optional: Blend in 1 tbsp of roasted sesame oil for an even stronger, more intense sesame flavour. I only recommend this step if you're planning to use the sesame oil for savoury recipes.
- Sesame Seeds: You can either use raw sesame seeds—which you’ll have to roast yourself—or buy toasted sesame seeds which have already been pre-toasted for you. Both are good options.
- If you decide to toast your own sesame seeds, it’s simple enough. Stir them around in a large frying pan on medium heat for a few minutes, just long enough to smell the sesame aroma. The seeds will turn a very light golden brown. Be sure not to let the sesame seeds brown too much, or else your sesame paste will turn out bitter.
- I don’t recommend using less than 4 cups of sesame seeds, or you may find it hard to blend the mixture smoothly.