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How to toast sesame seeds


I have never met a seed, nut, or–I’ll say it–bread that I didn’t want to toast immediately.

We’ve had some good long talks about toasted nuts, deep golden brown toasted nuts that I keep (in little jars) in my refrigerator, ready to jazz up salads and pilafs and my mid-day need for yum.

Toasted seeds are the same deal. They’re so much more flavorful, so much crunchier, after a hit of toasted warmth. Pumpkin seeds rank high, and they are a favorite Lebanese snack (I saw big salty bags of them, and bought some, at Beirut bakery in Detroit not long ago).

Sesame seeds, like pumpkin seeds and especially pine nuts, simply have to be toasted. Eating them raw is like stepping out the shower and leaving for work without getting dressed. You just don’t do it. If a restaurant serves me anything with raw pine nuts on it, I give that place an unrecoverable black mark.

Ziyad offers bags of toasted sesame seeds, but those aren’t always available. Besides, I like to toast sesame seeds fresh, as needed. If you make big batches ahead, put the sesame seeds in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer for freshness.

Sesame seeds can be toasted in the oven or on the stove top. I like to do it in the oven for evenness, but either way works well.

For the oven method: Preheat the oven to 350˚F. On a heavy duty baking sheet, spread the sesame seeds out in an even layer by shaking the pan a bit. Baking time will depend on how thick your layer of seeds is, but for a cup it takes about 12 minutes, shaking the pan every few minutes to “stir” the seeds, until they are golden brown.

For the stove top method: In a medium or large frying pan, spread about a cup of sesame seeds out in an even layer and cook over medium heat. Shake or stir the seeds constantly to keep the seeds moving, toasting them evenly and preventing burning, for about 5 minutes. Again, the time this takes depends on how thick your layer of seeds is.

I beg you not to leave the oven or the stove while sesame seeds are toasting. They’re tiny little guys and they will burn in a heartbeat.

Cool the toasted sesame seeds and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to several weeks or in the freezer for months.

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  1. Judy on October 9, 2013 at 8:26 AM

    We also eat salted sunflower seeds.

  2. Pam on October 9, 2013 at 4:20 PM

    Whenever I buy nuts and seeds, unless they’re hermetically packaged, I always worry that they aren’t going to be fresh, that the oils have gone rancid. In fact, I have bought pine nuts that were rancid, they weren’t stored under refrigeration in the store.

    Don’t you think think raw nuts and seeds should be stored under refrigeration unless they’re “cooked,” or toasted? Why would you refrigerate them after they’re toasted? Doesn’t the heat render the oils less likely to turn rancid than before they’re heated?

    Thanks for your answer.

    • Maureen Abood on October 14, 2013 at 6:11 AM

      Hi Pam–great question. I keep all of my nuts in the freezer (they stay good up to two years), and some of the toasted or sauteed nuts in the refrigerator just because the chill keeps everything fresher longer. My pantry gets very warm in the summer…. But yes, you can certainly keep your toasted nuts in the pantry rather than chilled, but they still won’t keep as long as if you chill them.

  3. ROBERT SURGENOR on November 27, 2015 at 4:16 PM

    MAUREEN: I am 87 and still on the road preaching the gospel. I cooked steel, 500 tons at a time, in an open hearth furnace at over 3,000 degrees F. for 16 years, then quit to preach in 1963. Now then, my hobby is baking bread. I have two 20 Qt. Hobart mixers, a Bosch and a kitchen Aid mixer, plus some ovens and a steam proofer in my little bakery in the basement. My batches are small, only 18 loaves at one time. I make up my own receipts, and give all my bread away to the Mayor, Police Derpartment and merchants in Fairview Park, Ohio, where I live. Butter is in all the bread, and milk. No water or oil. Now then, I like your web site and found it looking on how to roast seeds. I am making a little batch this morning, and here is the receipt. 8 Cups whole milk, 1/2 pound butter, 4 Tablespoons salt, 5 &1/2 pounds of white flower, 2 pounds whole wheat, 2 pounds raw oatmeal, 11 ounces of brown sugar, 1 cup molasses, five eggs, 1 cup of sunflower seeds, 2 cups of sesame seeds roasted in butter, 2 two cups of applesauce (to retain moisture,) and 1/3 rd cup or instant yeast. Now then, toasting the sesame seeds, I melted 1/8 the pound of butter in two cups of seed, spread them to on a large cookie sheet and baked them for about 25 minutes at 375. Seemingly they seems to turn out OK. You suggest roasting them raw. Would that be the better way? An answer would be deeply appreciated. By the way, I know some Hadads that I believe are the same nationality as you. Respectfully yours, Robert Surgenor ——-PS, I am Irish

    • Maureen Abood on November 29, 2015 at 11:05 PM

      Thank you Robert for your fascinating note. You’re doing great artisanal breads! It sounds like your method for toasting the seeds works well–you just have to be very careful to keep a close eye on them so they don’t burn. I do roast from raw and that works too! Best Irish regards to you!

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