The Ultimate Guide to Finding the Perfect Substitute for Sesame Seeds

The best sesame substitute

Sesame seeds are a versatile ingredient that is used in many different cuisines. However, there may be times when you need to find a substitute for sesame seeds due to allergies, unavailability or personal preference. Fortunately, there are several alternatives that can mimic the flavour and texture of sesame seeds. In this article, we will explore the best sesame substitutes and discuss their use in different types of dishes.

Black sesame seed vs white sesame seed

One of the easiest ways to substitute sesame seeds is to use a different type of sesame. Sesame seeds come in white and black, the main difference being whether the seeds have been hulled or not. Black sesame seeds have a stronger flavour and are slightly more bitter, while white sesame seeds are sweeter and have a milder flavour. Both types can be used interchangeably in most recipes, making them a convenient substitute for each other.

Poppy Seeds

Poppy seeds are an excellent substitute for sesame seeds in terms of texture and appearance. They are very similar to black sesame seeds and work best as a replacement when sesame seeds are used primarily for decorative or textural purposes. Poppy seeds have a slightly nutty flavour and are high in protein and fibre. However, they are slightly more bitter than sesame and lack the umami flavour of roasted sesame. Note that poppy seeds are smaller than sesame seeds, so you’ll need to use a larger amount to get the same effect in terms of taste and texture.

Hemp Seeds

Hemp seeds offer a closer flavour and texture match to sesame seeds than poppy seeds. They are a versatile option suitable for a wide range of dishes, including traditional Asian and Middle Eastern cuisines. Hemp seeds can be used as a substitute in recipes where poppy seeds would work well. However, they may not be suitable for sushi or as a rice garnish for simpler rice dishes. Hemp seeds are known for their nutritional benefits and can often be found in health food stores or online.

Flax Seeds

Although not as close a substitute as poppy or hemp seeds, flaxseeds can add a unique texture and flavour to dishes that call for sesame seeds. Flax seeds are larger and chewier than sesame seeds and come in a tan to brownish colour. They have a slightly nutty flavour but lack the sweetness and umami of sesame. Linseeds are high in protein and fibre, making them a good option for adding texture to baking, salads and savoury dishes. However, they are not an ideal substitute for tahini or sesame oil and may not work well in sushi rice.

Sunflower Seeds

Sunflower seeds can be an alternative to sesame seeds, although they have distinct differences in flavour and appearance. They are larger and more oval than sesame seeds. Sunflower seeds have a similar umami flavour, but are slightly sweeter and less nutty. They work best as a substitute for sesame seeds in baking recipes, salads and as a garnish or topping for savoury dishes. It’s important to note that if you use salted sunflower seeds, you may need to adjust the seasoning in your dish to avoid excessive saltiness.


Finding a sesame seed substitute is possible with the various alternatives available. Whether you choose black sesame seeds, poppy seeds, hemp seeds, flax seeds or sunflower seeds, each option has its own unique characteristics and can provide a similar texture and flavour profile to sesame seeds in different dishes. Experimenting with these substitutes can help you discover new flavours and adapt recipes to suit your preferences or dietary restrictions. Remember to consider the purpose of the sesame in your dish and choose the substitute accordingly. With these alternatives at hand, you can confidently prepare your favourite recipes even when sesame seeds are unavailable.


Sesame seeds are often used as a garnish, adding texture and visual appeal to dishes. They are also a key ingredient in tahini, a popular Middle Eastern condiment, and are often used in Asian cuisines for stir-fries, rice dishes and sauces.

Why should I substitute sesame seeds?

There may be several reasons for substituting sesame seeds. Some people have allergies or sensitivities to sesame, while others simply prefer not to use it. You may also find yourself in the middle of a recipe without sesame seeds and need a suitable alternative.

Can I use black sesame instead of white sesame?

Yes, black sesame seeds can be used as a substitute for white sesame seeds. The main difference between the two is that black sesame seeds have the hull intact, which gives them a slightly stronger flavour and a hint of bitterness. However, they can be substituted in most recipes without significant effect.

Are poppy seeds a good substitute for sesame?

Poppy seeds can be a good substitute for sesame seeds, especially when it comes to texture and appearance. They are very similar to black sesame seeds and work well as a substitute for decorative or textural purposes. Note, however, that poppy seeds have a slightly more bitter taste than sesame seeds.

Where can I find hemp seeds and how can I use them as a substitute?

Hemp seeds can often be found in health food stores or online. They can be used as a substitute for sesame seeds in dishes where poppy seeds would work well. Hemp seeds have a similar flavour and texture profile and can be used in baking, garnishing and certain savoury dishes.

Can I replace sesame seeds with flaxseed in all recipes?

While flaxseed can be used as a substitute for sesame seeds in some recipes, it may not be suitable for all dishes. Flax seeds have a different texture and flavour profile, being larger and chewier than sesame seeds. They work best in baking, salads and savoury dishes where the distinctive characteristics of flax seeds can complement the recipe.