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Substitute for Sesame Seeds (Your Top 7 Options)

Are you looking for the best substitute for sesame seeds? Your search ends here because we did the work for you – we’ve compiled them all in the comprehensive guide below.

If you’re allergic to these edible seeds or want to add a twist to your dish, you’ll surely find something to replace sesame seeds with.

spoon filled with sesame seeds.

What Are Sesame Seeds?

Sesame seeds are flat and teardrop-shaped seeds of the sesame plant. They usually measure 3-4 mm long, so they are smaller than most seeds.

The seeds have a mild nutty taste and aroma. They are commonly called for in many recipes worldwide. But they are especially popular in Middle Eastern and Asian cuisines.

Sesame seeds are also crunchy, which can lend some texture to your dish. These tiny seeds are the main ingredient in the kitchen staple sesame oil.

Sesame seeds are versatile and flexible. You can eat them raw, but they’re usually toasted before being added to recipes.

How To Use Sesame Seeds In Recipes

Aside from adding flavor to your recipes, sesame seeds also serve as a decorative element. For this reason, they are often used as bread toppings and salad garnish.

The seeds make great ingredients for pasta dishes and stir-fry recipes. You can also use sesame seeds in meat marinades and breading mixes.

These tiny seeds lend a subtle nutty flavor and crunchy texture to smoothies and cereals, and even granola bars.

Unsurprisingly, they can also elevate your dressings and sauces. Sesame seeds are useful in making tahini, the main flavoring element in hummus. You can also use these seeds in soups, baked goods, and pastries.

Best Substitutes For Sesame Seeds

A great substitute for sesame seeds should be able to provide a nutty flavor and a crunchy texture. That said, here are the best substitutes for sesame seeds:

1. Black Sesame Seeds

Perhaps the best substitute for white sesame seeds is black sesame seeds. They are an entirely different variety. But they share some similarities with white sesame seeds regarding flavor.

Black sesame seeds are also nutty, but they taste bolder and have a more intense crunch.

In addition, black sesame seeds also have a slightly bitter flavor. The flavor difference does not matter much when used in small amounts—for instance, as a salad garnish or a bread topping.

Expect a significant change in the appearance of your final dish because of its darker color. In some recipes, though, a color change can create an interesting appeal.

Lastly, black sesame seeds are more expensive than white ones. This extra cost might not sit well with everyone’s budget.

As a substitute, you can use black sesame seeds as regular ones. The same amount and preparation method will work.

2. Sunflower Seeds

Another seed you can use to substitute sesame seeds is sunflower seeds. They’re delicious and nutty, too.

Sunflower seeds have flavor similarities to sesame seeds. But these seeds are not as crunchy and are much sweeter.

Depending on whether or not sesame seeds are the main ingredient in a recipe, these characteristics may result in a flavor change.

As they are a popular snack, even convenience stores may carry sunflower seeds. For this reason, they are one of the most accessible options.

Be careful not to buy spiced or salted ones, though, as they can change the flavor of your final dish too much. If you cannot find unsalted seeds, reduce the other salty ingredients in your recipe.

Note that sunflower seeds are a lot bigger than sesame seeds. For this reason, it is best to chop them or grind them coarsely before using them as an alternative. Once chopped, you can use sunflower seeds as you would sesame seeds.

3. Poppy Seeds

Poppy seeds also make great sesame seed substitutes. Like sesame seeds, poppy seeds are also nutty, with a hint of bitterness.

They do possess a slightly sweet and smoky taste. Because of this, using them might alter the flavor of your final dish.

You also need to consider that poppy seeds come in a different shape than sesame seeds. These seeds are kidney-shaped and noticeably smaller. The difference in appearance is not subtle and will be noticeable in dishes.

Regarding flavor, poppy seeds are less nutty than sesame seeds, so you may have to use more of them. Start with an equal amount and then work your way up for the best results.

4. Hemp Seeds

Another excellent substitute for sesame seed is hemp seed. These seeds’ texture closely matches sesame seeds, so you can expect the same crunch.

Regarding flavor, hemp seeds also have a nutty taste but are milder than sesame seeds. That said, they are perfect when you want something more subtle.

There are several downsides, though. First, hemp seeds are not always accessible. You may have to go to bigger retailers to access a more extensive wellness aisle. Ordering online might be a better idea.

Second, hemp seeds are not flat and are noticeably larger than sesame seeds. Using them whole may not have the same appeal as sesame seeds.

Hemp seeds are also great if you want a health boost in recipes, as they contain tons of nutrients.

You can use them as sesame seeds substitutes for healthier yogurt and salad toppings.

5. Flax Seeds

Flax seeds are bigger than sesame seeds and also have a darker hue. As they are tougher to chew on, you may not think that the seed is a great sesame seeds substitute.

They can lend their texture to your dishes, adding something to munch on to an otherwise plain recipe. On top of that is a nutty flavor slightly reminiscent of sesame seeds.

Their biggest advantage is that they are super healthy. They boast linolenic acid and omega-3 fatty acids, among many other nutrients.

By using flax seeds, you can be sure that you are not replacing sesame seeds with something less healthy. Add flax seeds to salads, cereals, baked goods, and savory dishes.

An important note about flax seeds is that you won’t get their full benefits without breaking them down. You must grind them before adding them to recipes or ensure you chew each of them thoroughly.

6. Chia Seeds

Chia seeds are popular among health buffs for being a superfood. After all, these tiny seeds pack antioxidants, fiber, calcium, and iron.

They can be a great alternative to sesame seeds because they have a similar crunchy texture.

Chia seeds also have a nutty flavor, but the taste is very subtle. For this reason, you should avoid them in recipes with sesame seeds as the main flavor.

Aside from that, chia seeds form a gelatinous substance when combined with liquids. They expand and double in size, so you should use less of them in recipes.

They can add a crispy texture to almost every dish that calls for sesame seeds.

Due to its popularity as a wellness food, chia seeds are easy to find these days.

7. Sesame Oil

Sesame oil is an oil that comes from sesame seeds. This oil has a more concentrated and potent flavor than the seeds themselves.

The more pronounced taste of sesame oil enables it to impart the sesame flavor to recipes easily.

Of course, this ability makes sesame oil a good option for a sesame seed substitute too.

Their biggest difference, obviously, comes in the form. Since sesame oil is not a solid ingredient, it is not a direct substitute. You cannot use it in recipes that owe a crunchy and crispy texture from sesame seeds. However, if you are only after the flavor, sesame oil can be your best bet.

Another pro of picking sesame oil as an alternative to sesame seeds is availability. Even small grocery stores have this kind of oil along with other cooking oils. It’s not expensive, either, so that’s another point for this option.

two bowls filled with white and black sesame seeds

How To Choose The Best Substitute

When picking an alternative, it is best to consider the role sesame seeds play in a dish.

For instance, if sesame seeds are the key flavoring ingredient, it makes sense to pick a similar-tasting substitute. In this case, the best replacements are black sesame seeds and sesame oil.

If sesame seeds are in a dish as an aesthetic element, then you should pick something that looks similar. Considering this factor, poppy seeds should be at the top of your list. You can use white poppy seeds if you need something lighter in color.

Opt for chia and poppy seeds if your recipe uses sesame seeds for their texture. Obviously, if the texture is important in your dish, sesame oil should be your last resort.

Sesame Seeds Benefits

Sesame seeds may be small, but what they lack in size, they deliver in nutrients.

In fact, you may call them a superfood due to their health benefits.

These tiny seeds are good sources of vitamins B, D, and E.

They pack fiber, protein, and calcium aside from zinc, iron, and copper.

Sesame seeds have antioxidants and are great additions to healthy and balanced meals.

Despite these benefits, you should know that sesame seeds are allergens. In fact, it is the 9th most common allergen. Because of this, you should see that whoever you’re serving sesame seeds to is not allergic.

Is Sesame Seed The Same As Flaxseed?

No. Sesame seed is different from flax seed. Aside from coming from different plants, these two seeds have different properties. Sesame seeds are smaller and are normally eaten whole. On the other hand, flaxseeds are bigger than sesame seeds. Plus, it would be best if you ground them before eating to get their benefits.

Do Sesame Seeds Make A Difference In Flavor?

Yes. Even when sesame seeds are small, they can make a difference in a recipe. They lend a nutty flavor, and you’ll definitely know they’re missing if you ever forget to add them to your dish.

Are Sesame And Chia Seeds The Same?

No. Sesame seeds are not the same as chia seeds. One of their main differences is that chia seeds form a gel-like substance once you soak them in water. For this reason, you can use them in recipes as an egg substitute. Meanwhile, sesame seeds do not change in any way when it comes in contact with water. They stay intact and do not have thickening abilities.


Though they are small, sesame seeds can add a depth of flavor to your dish and make it more nutritious. If you ever need to replace them, you have plenty of options.

Depending on the purpose, the best substitute is either black sesame seeds or sesame oil. The second best substitute for sesame seeds is poppy seeds. They are close to sesame seeds in flavor, texture, and size. Plus, those with sesame allergies can enjoy poppy seeds without worries.

Other substitutes not mentioned on this list include pumpkin seeds, pine nuts, and chopped nuts.

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Natalia | Flavorful home
Natalia is a recipe developer, food photographer, and home cook. She started Flavorful Home to document her recipes and share home cooking tips. She loves creating flavorful and nutritious meals while keeping the cooking process simple and joyful!
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