Sesame Seeds Substitutes: Alternative Options Explained

The sesame seed and its subsequent processed forms is an extremely common seasoning or ingredient in a variety of cultures, usually imparting a nutty and ever so slightly sweet flavor to whatever dish it is incorporated into.

Sesame seeds are usually added to a dish in the process of cooking in order to bolster the flavor of a dish with its mildly nutty taste, to act as a garnish or to even improve the nutritional value of the recipe as a whole.

However, certain factors may necessitate the replacement of this seed in a recipe, such as allergies, ethical beliefs, dietary restrictions or even simple individual preference.

Fortunately, sesame seeds may be substituted by a large plethora of differing ingredients, each of which are capable of approximating or replicating certain characteristics of sesame seeds, such as its taste, appearance, nutritional value or texture.

Sesame Seed Texture Substitute

In their roasted and shelled form, sesame seeds provide a somewhat crunchy yet giving texture to any dishes they are added to, of which are most commonly bagels and hamburger buns, providing a certifiably needed variation in texture to these particular baked goods.

However, this particular type of texture and form of dispersion is not only reserved for sesame seeds, with a variety of other food products being able to provide much the same textural experience and an occasionally similar taste.

Sunflower Seeds

The most similar to sesame seeds in terms of texture and appearance, sunflower seeds are available in practically any grocer or health food store throughout the globe, making it not only an excellent substitute for sesame seeds but also a relatively easy to find one.

sunflower seeds

Able to replace sesame seeds in practically any recipe they are normally added to in their whole form, sunflower seeds not only replicate the appearance and texture of sesame seeds but also share many of the same flavor notes in their primary taste body, with a mild yet nutty flavor that is nearly indistinguishable between the two.

Flax Seeds

Occasionally confused with sesame seeds themselves owing to their similarity in appearance when bleached or raw, flax seeds can act as an excellent substitute for sesame seeds in terms of texture and flavor, presenting a nutty and slightly sweet flavor that is quite similar to sesame seed’s own taste profile.

Flax seeds are found to be most similar to sesame seeds in their roasted form, both in terms of texture and flavor. 

The process of roasting brings out a mild sweetness in the flax seeds that may be otherwise difficult to detect in its raw form, which would otherwise bring it further from the taste of sesame seeds.

Chopped Pumpkin Seeds

It is vitally important to instead use chopped and roasted pumpkin seeds when choosing to substitute sesame seeds with this particular type of seed. This is due to the fact that sesame seeds are distinctly smaller than pumpkin seeds, making them texturally different when left in their whole and uncropped form.

pumpkin seeds

Pumpkin seeds are found to generally be somewhat crunchier than sesame seeds owing to the lower moisture content found in the former, making it less suitable for such recipes like soft breads or soups where the distinct crunchiness may be unpleasant.

However, in food products like crackers or toasted bagels, chefs may find that chopped pumpkin seeds are in fact a far better ingredient than sesame seeds in terms of flavor and textural quality.

Sesame Seed Flavor Substitute

The particular taste of sesame seeds is most often compared to that of certain nuts wherein they both share a nutty body of flavor accented by a mild sweetness that perfectly complements a variety of other flavors found in many dishes.

This taste, while relatively easy to substitute with a variety of other food products, may be difficult to replicate in its entirety owing to the uniqueness of sesame seeds and the method of which they are processed.

Fortunately, we have listed types of food products that either come quite close or can entirely replicate this flavor.


Common in many parts of the world, almonds in their roasted or otherwise cooked form are extremely similar to sesame seeds in flavor, presenting much the same nutty yet mildly sweet taste that is normally found in sesame seeds themselves.

In terms of texture and appearance, however, almonds are somewhat distinct from sesame seeds, making them unsuitable to be used in the same method as sesame seeds without prior processing.

If choosing to use almonds in order to replicate more than simply the flavor characteristic of sesame seeds, it is an excellent idea to first dice or chop them into the appropriate size prior to roasting, as the roasting process will add a distinct crunch to the normally soft almond flesh.

Perilla Oil

Oftentimes confused with sesame oil, perilla oil is in fact the pressed and processed extract of perilla seeds.

This particular oil, originating from the country of Korea, is known for having an extremely similar flavor to sesame seeds and their subsequent processed forms, making it an excellent taste substitute for sesame seeds in dishes that do not require a solid ingredient to be present, such as in soups or sauces.

Perilla oil is such an excellent substitute for sesame seeds and its extracts that it is often used interchangeably in certain Asian cuisines, though the primary drawback to using perilla oil as a sesame seed substitute is the distinct difference in their physical forms.

This may be remedied by utilizing perilla oil in a recipe alongside another textural substitute of sesame seeds so as to fully recreate the experience of whole sesame seeds.

Cashew Butter

Produced, fittingly, from roasted and subsequently processed cashew nuts, cashew butter is a spread which shares many similar notes of flavor to sesame seeds, alongside a richness that may be beneficial for use in certain recipes.

Being a spread, cashew butter is best used in recipes that do not require a textural substitute to sesame seeds or any sort of heating being directly applied to the cashew butter. This is because the cashew butter will melt, separating the solids from its lipid compounds and turning its texture to that of oil.

Cashew butter is best used as a sesame seed substitute in dishes such as toast, applied to the outside of already cooked meat or in any other recipe that requires a distinctly nutty taste on its surface.

Other Forms of Sesame Seeds

In the event that the particular reason for substituting sesame seeds is simply because of their physical form and has nothing to do with the fact that they are sesame seeds themselves, it is also possible to instead use different forms of sesame seeds and its subsequent products.


Originating from Middle Eastern cuisine, tahini is a form of ground and toasted sesame seed that is often used as a dip or sauce in order to impart a distinctly nutty yet rich flavor that whole sesame seeds cannot ordinarily provide to a meal.

Tahini is distinct from sesame paste by the nature of which it is made and the sort of ingredients that are normally added to it, with sesame paste oftentimes simply being ground up sesame seeds with no other added ingredients or undergoing other processes.

Sesame Oil

The pressed extract of hulled sesame seeds, sesame oil is essentially the distilled lipid compounds of sesame seeds, which are normally responsible for their distinctly nutty yet sweet flavor and aroma.

sesame oil

Either used for the purposes of frying or as a flavor additive in certain recipes, sesame oil is an excellent substitute for whole sesame seeds if the primary goal is to simply replace the flavor and aroma of whole sesame seeds.

In this vein, sesame oil may in fact be a far more suitable ingredient than its physically intact counterpart, as only a small volume of sesame oil is needed to replace the flavor of a significant amount of sesame seeds.

Nuvvula Podi (Indian Ground Sesame Powder)

The most similar to sesame seeds themselves, nuvvula podi is an ingredient derived from sesame seeds that is primarily a toasted and seasoned form of ground sesame seeds.

Normally added to rice or similar recipes of Indian origin, nuvvula podi may be useful in certain situations where the particular flavor of sesame seeds is meant to be only a small portion of a recipe’s flavor profile, with the various other spices ordinarily present in nuvvula podi acting as additional ingredients to said flavor profile.

Nutritional Substitutes for Sesame Seeds

Though small in size, sesame seeds are considered an excellent source of particular minerals in any sort of diet, making consuming them in certain volumes a good way to supplement these particular minerals for an individual.

Rich in calcium and most types of vitamin B, several other ingredients similar in size and mass to sesame seeds may act as potential nutritional substitutes to sesame seeds.

Chia Seeds

Often advertised as a health food or “super food”, chia seeds are quite similar in a gram per gram basis of volume, wherein approximately 100 grams of the nutritional seed can present up to 63% of the recommended daily intake value of the average adult.

This is somewhat less than that of sesame seeds, which can provide up to an approximate 97% of the daily recommended intake of calcium per 100 grams. 

Celery Seeds

Denser and with more calories than other nutritional sesame seed substitutes on this list, celery seeds can provide up to 12% of the daily recommended calcium intake per 100 grams, offset somewhat by their higher volume of other minerals not normally found in significant amounts in sesame seeds.

Though rarely used in most common recipes, individuals wishing to supplement their mineral and nutritive intake in a natural way can use celery seeds in much the same way they would sesame seeds or chia seeds.

Poppy Seeds

Commonly seen in a variety of baked goods and recipes throughout the world, the poppy seed is a miniscule oilseed primarily used as a decorative ingredient.

However, the poppy seed can in fact act as an excellent nutritional substitute to sesame seeds, owing to its significantly high volume of calcium, providing far more of the essential mineral than sesame seeds would, even in similar volumes.

Their relatively smaller size, as well, makes them far more versatile as an ingredient than sesame seeds themselves, allowing poppy seeds to be interspersed more evenly through a variety of dishes without significantly affecting its texture to some extent.


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2. Nyerges, Christopher. Foraging Wild Edible Plants of North America: More than 150 Delicious Recipes Using Nature’s Edibles. FalconGuides, 2016.

3. Lutz, Kim, and Stephanie Pedersen. “Super Seed The Complete Guide to Cooking with Power-Packed Chia, Quinoa, Flax, Hemp and Amaranth

4. Sterling, 2014. Open WorldCat

Dominic Peterson
Hey there! My name is Dominic but everyone calls me “Dom.” Food is a huge part of my life and allows me to share my foodie experiences with the world.