When I was a little kid, I was very afraid of black sesame desserts because I didn’t understand how food could turn dark like ink. Fortunately, Mama Lin helped me out of that phase by preparing delicious treats like her sesame candy and black sesame soup (芝麻糊). Now, I love incorporating black sesame into desserts, using the whole seeds in sesame cookies or grinding them into a paste for sesame tang yuan (芝麻湯圓, sesame glutinous rice balls).
Recently, I discovered Rooted Fare’s crunchy black sesame butter, which is an all-purpose spread. Although I haven’t tried that product yet, I liked their idea of making black sesame paste easily accessible for foods besides desserts. Inspired by Rooted Fare’s black sesame butter, I set out to make a paste that could be enjoyed on its own or incorporated into other recipes.
After testing many batches, I’ve finally nailed down a black sesame paste recipe. The paste has a lovely nutty aroma, just the right amount of sweetness, and subtle bitter notes. I absolutely love eating the black sesame paste on toast with strawberry cream cheese. Let me know how you like to enjoy this paste!
COOKING NOTES FOR BLACK SESAME PASTE
Black Sesame Seeds
I like to use raw black sesame seeds to make the paste because they tend to be much cheaper than pre-roasted seeds. I usually find raw black sesame seeds sold in bags in Asian grocery stores, but they’re also available on Amazon (affiliate link). If you can only source pre-roasted seeds, you can use them for this recipe–check my recipe notes for specific directions.
I wanted the black sesame paste to be slightly runny and easily spreadable, so I added La Tourangelle’s roasted walnut oil to the paste. This is one of my favorite nut oils because it gives a dish a beautiful nutty aroma without being too overpowering.
If you have a nut allergy, you can use virgin coconut oil or a neutral oil (such as canola oil) instead. This recipe uses a considerable amount of oil (5 tablespoons), so I don’t recommend using toasted sesame oil as a substitution. Toasted sesame oil has a very strong aroma, and adding 5 tablespoons of the oil to this paste will overpower all the other ingredients.
Black sesame seeds are naturally bitter, so you need to sweeten the paste with sugar. I recommend using powdered sugar for a smoother paste. Plain granulated sugar (or caster sugar) gives the paste a gritty texture.
I have seen several other black sesame paste recipes that use honey to sweeten the paste. I tested a batch with sesame seeds and honey and I did not like the texture. The resulting paste is very firm–it’s so stiff that you can pinch it with your fingers. I probably could have added more honey, but I didn’t want the paste to be too sweet.
Adding oil didn’t help either, as the oil simply separated from the rest of the paste (see photo above, right).
Vanilla & Salt
I added vanilla to give the paste a different layer of fragrant aroma. Although this recipe doesn’t use much salt, the hints of salt that you can taste will contrast nicely with the sweetness of the paste.
USING A FOOD PROCESSOR
In order to transform the sesame seeds into a paste, you’ll need to blend them in a food processor for about 3.5 to 4 minutes. I recommend using a food processor that has a good motor, like this Cuisinart 7-cup food processor (affiliate link). If you halve the recipe, you’ll want to use a smaller food processor (see below for a further explanation).
WHAT CAN I USE BLACK SESAME PASTE FOR?
It’s fantastic as a spread on toast. I love pairing the black sesame paste with strawberry cream cheese. You can also use it as a filling for bread rolls (like cinnamon rolls). I will also be sharing a cookie recipe soon that incorporates some of the paste into the cookie dough.
Unfortunately, this paste is a little too runny for making tang yuan because of the amount of added walnut oil. I struggled to wrap the paste inside the glutinous rice dough even after I froze the paste (see photo above). Typically, I add butter to the black sesame paste for tang yuan. Butter turns solid once it’s chilled, so the black sesame paste is easier to shape and wrap inside a dough.
HOW LONG DOES THE PASTE KEEP?
Store the paste inside a jar and refrigerate for 2 to 3 weeks. You can also freeze this paste for 5 to 6 months.
CAN YOU HALVE THE RECIPE?
Yes, but with a very important caveat–you need to use a small food processor (like a 3 to 4 cup capacity). When you try to grind a small amount of ingredients in a larger food processor, you’ll find that the blades can’t touch the ingredients. Instead, the blades simply graze over the ingredients without actually breaking them down.
Black Sesame Paste
- 2 cups (285g) raw black sesame seeds, (see note 1 if using pre-roasted seeds)
- 7 tablespoons (50g) powdered sugar
- 5 tablespoons toasted walnut oil, (see note 2)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt, or 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
- Pour the sesame seeds into a large skillet or pan over medium heat. Toast the seeds for about 3 to 4 minutes, until you can start smelling the aroma of the seeds and see light wisps of smoke coming up from the pan. Turn off the heat.
- Carefully transfer the toasted sesame seeds to the bowl of a food processor. Don’t let the seeds cool off before blending. I find the seeds are easier to blend into a paste when they’re still warm. To prevent spilling the seeds everywhere, I recommend transferring the seeds into a bowl or a large Pyrex measuring cup first before pouring the seeds into the food processor. I’ve made too many messes trying to pour the seeds straight from the pan and into the food processor.
- Add the powdered sugar to the food processor and blend everything for about 30 seconds. The mixture will look sandy and gray. Next, add the walnut oil, vanilla, and salt. Blend everything again for another 3 minutes or so, scraping down the sides of the bowl about every 30 seconds. The black sesame paste should be similar to the consistency of natural peanut butter that’s been recently stirred–not too runny, and not too thick. Taste the paste and adjust the flavors to your liking, adding more sugar or salt, if necessary.
- Use the black sesame paste on toast (it’s great paired with a berry jam or strawberry cream cheese) or slather it on cinnamon rolls. The black sesame paste will keep in the fridge for 2 to 3 weeks in a jar. You can also freeze the paste for 5 to 6 months.
- I like using raw black sesame seeds that I purchase at Asian grocery stores because they tend to be less expensive than pre-roasted sesame seeds. If you are using pre-roasted seeds, you’ll still want to toast them in the pan for a minute or two to warm them up.
- If you have a nut allergy, you can use virgin coconut oil or a neutral oil (such as canola oil) instead. This recipe uses a considerable amount of oil (5 tablespoons), so I don’t recommend using toasted sesame oil as a substitution. Toasted sesame oil has a very strong aroma, and adding 5 tablespoons of the oil to this paste will overpower all the other ingredients.