Slice of Life: Sesame Seeds

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30 Oct 2011
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Please note: Eileen Goltz is a freelance kosher food writer. The Orthodox Union makes no endorsements or representations regarding kashrut certification of various products/vendors referred to in her articles, blog, or web site.

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I may not be Scheherazade with her tales of wonder but say the enchanted words “open the sesame seed jar” (ok, so I took a few liberties with the phrase) and a magical world of flavor is open to all.

Sesame seeds are one of the oldest condiments in recorded cooking history dating back to as early as 1600 BCE and are an integral part of the cuisines in the Middle East, Asia, India and Turkey probably originated in an area of the world called the Spice Islands.

Because sesame seeds are a plant food, there’s no cholesterol. Natural sesame seeds (unhulled) are high in calcium, hulled not as much. However, they contain copious amounts of B vitamins riboflavin, thiamine, and niacin so it’s all good. Most of the sesame seeds sold in the United States are already hulled and come in light, brown and black colors. As far as I can tell the only difference is in the color, not the flavor. Sesame oil comes in two varieties. The first is cold pressed with very lightly golden color and a subtle flavor. The Asian variety of sesame oil that most of us associate with Chinese/Thai and other oriental foods is made from roasted sesame seeds and is much darker in color and has an intense almost smoky flavor.

Tahini or sesame seed paste and hummus two very popular Middle Eastern dishes have sesame seeds as their base and are served instead of butter or oil as condiments throughout many countries in the world.

To keep your sesame seeds from becoming rancid, store them in the refrigerator or the freezer. Sesame oil has an exceptionally long shelf life but since it’s rather expensive so most people tend to buy it small quantities so it isn’t in the cabinet all that long.

Many recipes call for you to toast your sesame seeds so that they have a slightly nuttier flavor. Easy to do. You can either place them in an ungreased frying pan and cook, stirring constantly over medium heat for a minute or two, just until they are lightly browned. Remove them from the pan immediately by putting them into a dish. Leaving them in the pan can cause them to burn from residual heat. Or you can also toast them in the oven on a cookie sheet with sides at 350 but you have to watch them CAREFULLY. They will burn quickly.

So open sesame already and get started creating your own treasure trove of dishes with a rich nutty flavor that adding sesame seeds create.

Sesame Anise Melts (pareve)

Yields 3 dozen



  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Grease 4 large baking sheets and set them aside.
  3. In large mixing bowl combine flour, baking soda and then set it aside.
  4. In another large bowl combine the shortening, sugar, anise seed and salt and beat until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and then add the flour mixture ½ cup at a time.
  5. Roll rounded Tablespoons of the dough into the sesame seeds.
  6. Arrange the balls on the cookie sheet about 1½ inches apart and flatten cookies with the bottom of a glass to about ¼-inch thickness.
  7. Bake 6 to 9 minutes or until lightly browned around edges. Cool on rack.

These freeze well. 

Submitted by Constance Kadish Teaneck NJ, Adapted from joy of cookies

Classic Sesame Chicken (meat)

4 servings



  1. To Make Marinade:
    1. In a nonporous dish or bowl blend cornstarch with wine or sherry; then stir in lemon juice, soy sauce, hot pepper sauce, ginger and garlic. Blend together and stir in chicken strips.
    2. Cover dish and refrigerate to marinate for 3 to 4 hours.
  2. In a wok or large skillet, place sesame seeds
  3. Dry-fry over medium heat, shaking the wok, until the seeds are a golden brown color. Remove seeds and set aside.
  4. To same wok or skillet add sesame oil and vegetable oil and heat slowly.
  5. Drain chicken, reserving marinade, and stir-fry in wok a few pieces at a time, until browned. Remove chicken with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  6. Add mushrooms and green bell pepper to same wok or skillet and stir-fry for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the scallions and stir-fry 1 minute more.
  7. Return chicken to wok, together with reserved marinade, and stir over medium high heat for another 2 to 3 minutes, or until the ingredients are evenly coated with the glaze.
  8. Sprinkle toasted sesame seeds on top and serve immediately.

Modified from


4 servings


For Peanut Dressing:

For Noodle Salad:


Make Dressing:

  1. In the bowl of a food processor or blender combine the dressing ingredients and process until smooth then transfer to a large bowl.

Make Salad:

  1. Cook pasta in a 6- to 8-quart pot of boiling salted water until tender. Drain in a colander, then rinse well under cold water.
  2. Add the pasta, scallions, bell peppers, and sesame seeds to dressing, tossing to combine, and serve immediately.

Modified from Gourmet June 2002

Lemon and Sesame Dressing (pareve)

Yields 2½ cups



  1. Combine ingredients in a large jar with a tight fitting lid and shake well.
  2. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  3. Shake again before dressing salad.

Sesame Turkey Burger (meat)

6 to 8 servings



  1. In a bowl combine the turkey, sesame seeds, soy sauce, green onions, cilantro, garlic, sesame oil, about 1 teaspoon of salt, and bread crumbs.
  2. Cover and let the mixture sit for at least 2 hours for the flavors to meld.
  3. Form the mixture into 6 to 8 patties and brush them with a little oil before cooking (the turkey has very little fat and may stick to the grill pan or grill).
  4. Grill for 4 to 5 minutes on each side or until the center is hot and no longer pink.

From my files, source unknown

Sesame Seed Cookies (dairy or pareve)

One of my all time favorite cookie recipes



  1. Mix flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt in medium bowl. Set aside.
  2. Beat butter in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add sugar; beat until well blended, scraping sides of bowl occasionally.
  3. Beat in eggs and vanilla.
  4. Gradually beat in flour mixture and ¼ cup of the toasted sesame seed on low speed until well mixed.
  5. Refrigerate dough 2 hours or until firm.
  6. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  7. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll in remaining ¾ cup toasted sesame seed. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets.
  8. Bake 6 to 8 minutes or until lightly browned.
  9. Cool on baking sheets 1 minute. Remove to wire racks; cool completely.
  10. Drizzle cookies with melted chocolate. Let stand until chocolate is set.


Lemon and Sesame Pound Cake (dairy or pareve)




  1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position, and heat the oven to 325°F. Grease and flour a 5½x3-inch loaf pan.
  2. Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, sugar, butter, lemon zest, juice and vanilla extract. Then combine 1 Tablespoon of the flour mixture with the sesame seeds.
  4. Add half the remaining flour mixture to the egg mixture, until only a few streaks of flour remain. Repeat with the second half of the batter and the sesame mixture. Do not over mix.
  5. Give the batter a final stir with a rubber spatula, to ensure a smooth batter. Pour into the mold.
  6. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until golden and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
  7. Meanwhile, combine the sugar and lemon juice. Place in the microwave for 30 seconds to 1 minute, until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is slightly thickened.
  8. Once the cake has been removed from its mold, brush it with the glaze.
  9. Ideally, serve it when warm with a cup of coffee or tea.

Recipe adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

Sesame Asparagus and Beef Salad (meat)

6 servings



  1. Cook steak to desired doneness. Cool and cut into thin strips or bite sized pieces.
  2. Cook the asparagus until it’s just crisp tender. Drain and cool.
  3. In a bowl combine beef and asparagus and set it aside.
  4. In another bowl combine the soy sauce, sesame oil, vinegar, ginger and green onions. Mix to combine.
  5. Pour the dressing over beef and asparagus. Mix to coat. You can heat this up if you prefer a warm salad.
  6. Place the chopped lettuce and shredded carrots on a serving platter and spoon the beef and asparagus over the top.
  7. Sprinkle the top with sesame seeds and red pepper if you’re using it and serve warm or at room temperature.

From my files, source unknown

Browse through the OU’s growing collection of nearly 3000 recipes by visiting: OU Kosher & Holiday Recipes

Eileen Goltz is a freelance kosher food writer who was born and raised in the Chicago area. She graduated from Indiana University and the Cordon Bleu Cooking School in Paris. She lectures on various food-related topics across the U.S. and Canada and writes weekly columns for the Chicago Jewish News, and the OU Shabbat Shalom Website. She is the author of the Perfectly Pareve Cookbook (Feldheim) and is a contributing writer for the Chicken Soup for the Soul Book Group, Chicago Sun Times, Detroit Free Press and Woman’s World Magazine. You can visit Eileen’s blog by clicking: Cuisine by Eileen

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.