January 22, 2018
Bowl of tahini with sesame seeds

All Things Sesame

by Berkeley Wellness  

If you like sesame, you don't have to limit yourself to eating just the seeds, since the seeds are used to make other tasty and nutritious products. Here’s what the sesame seed yields:

  • Sesame oil is generally not recommended for cooking because of its low smoke point, but you can use it to flavor a stir-fry by adding it right at the end of cooking or just afterwards. Toasted sesame oil is particularly flavorful; a small amount goes a long way in dressings and sauces or drizzled over vegetables, stews, soups, and other dishes. Like all edible oils, sesame oil is high in calories (120 per tablespoon). It has a longer shelf life than many other oils because of its antioxidants.
  • Sesame flour (or sesame meal), with its mild nutty aroma, can be used for making bread, cakes, biscuits, and even pizza dough. Rich in fiber and protein, it’s also gluten free, which makes it a good option for people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.
  • Tahini (sesame paste), from the Arabic word meaning “to grind,” is a creamy paste that is called the “butter of the Middle East.” It’s used to flavor hummus (chickpea dip), baba ghanoush (eggplant dip), and other traditional dishes; it’s also featured in Asian cuisine. Typically, the seeds are hulled and lightly roasted first. Red tahini, made by roasting the seeds for a longer time, has a more intense flavor. One tablespoon has 90 calories and 8 grams of fat (most unsaturated), plus some protein (3 grams), and a little fiber. Other ways to use it: Mix it with olive oil and lemon as a sauce for vegetables, meat, fish, and poultry; spread it on toast (topped with honey or jam); add it to sandwiches, soups, salads, and stews; serve it over lentils and rice; use it in baked goods.
  • Halvah or halva (from the Arabic word halwa, meaning “sweet”) is a dense and crumbly candy-like confection made from ground sesame seeds blended with sugar or honey, with nuts and other ingredients sometimes added. (Other halvahs are made from flour or other seed or nut butters.) Though its exact origins are disputed, halvah is especially popular in the Middle East and parts of the Mediterranean; in Israel, it’s sold in more than 35 flavors, including pistachio, coffee, coconut, cinnamon, and rose water. The oldest manufacturer in the U.S., since the early 20th century, is Joyva, but you may also be able to find artisanal halvah, as well as imported halvah. Enjoy halvah in small amounts because of its high calories (about 140 to 200 per ounce) and sugar.