Homemade furikake no. 6: Gomashio, sesame salt

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[Updated: Originally published back in January 2008, this is one of the most popular articles on Just Bento. I’ve updated it with a much more hands-free oven method for making gomashio.]

OK I admit, I don’t have bacon furikake that often. On the other hand I eat gomashio (ごま塩), sesame seed salt, all the time. You could say that the simple combination of toasted sesame seeds and salt is the quintessential furikake.

Gomashio is also very nutritious. Macrobiotics advocates say that a meal of brown rice sprinkled with gomashio is fairly nutritionally complete. I think I’d want a bit more than that in my bento box, but there’s definitely a simplicity and purity to that combination. And gomashio is essential for osekihan, Japanese azuki beans and rice.

There are two problems with commercial gomashio for me. First, it’s pretty expensive here. Second, sometimes the sesame seeds have gone a bit rancid. When I discovered that I can get raw untoasted sesame seeds pretty cheaply at my local Chinese grocery store, my search for a simple gomashio recipe began.

I saw basically three methods. One was just to mix some salt with the sesame seeds. This is the easiest, but the salt isn’t that well distributed. The second method was to grind the salt very very finely with a suribachi and surikogi or mortar and pestle. The powdered salt would then coat the sesame seeds.

But I went with the third method, which sounded the most logical. With this method, each sesame seed gets coated completely with a little salt mantle. And of course, you can vary the ratio of sesame to salt to whatever you prefer. I think this is the best way to make gomashio.

Homemade gomashio, sesame salt - stovetop method

The sesame to salt ratio of commercial gomashio is usually 8:1 in weight. This is pretty salty. I like to drop the ratio down to 10:1, which is easy to remember. It also allows me to sprinkle the gomashio liberally if I want to. Experiment with different ratios to see what you prefer.

I would recommend using a pretty accurate kitchen scale. (If you live in the U.S. and are in the market for a new one, try to get one that can switch from metric to imperial measurements. That way you can easily tackle European and Asian recipes!)

  • 100 g / 3.5 oz. raw sesame seeds (You can tell if the seeds haven’t been toasted yet if they are flat. Toasted sesame seeds puff up and become round.)
  • 10g / .35 oz salt of your choice (I like to use a grey sea salt from Brittany, but any salt will do)
  • About 1/2 cup (100ml or so) of water

Equipment needed: a large non-stick frying pan

Dissolve the salt in the water, until the grains are completely gone.

Spread the sesame seeds out in the frying pan. Over medium-low heat, stir around until the seeds start to ‘pop’. Take off the heat and keep stirring until the popping stops. (If you can only get a hold of toasted sesame seeds (in Japan this is pretty common; it’s called irigoma 炒りごま) you can skip this toasting step.)

Return the pan to the heat, and add the salt water. Stir around to distribute evenly. The seeds will clump up. Keep stirring over a medium-low heat - scrape off any salt that sticks to the pan. Keep stirring and scraping, until the water evaporates. The seeds will coated with fine salt crystals so that they look greyish in color, and will no longer be clumpy.

Take the pan off the heat and let the seeds cool in the pan - they’ll dry off better in the warm pan. Once they have cooled down completely and are totally dry, they can packed in an air-tight container. They will keep for about a month in a cool, dry place. (I just keep mine in the pantry, but you could keep it in your refrigerator too.)

Homemade gomashio, sesame salt - oven method

This method takes longer, but is much less hands-on than the stovetop method. You can make a bigger quantity of sesame salt at one time this way too, so I’ll give a double-amount here.

  • 200 g / 7 oz. raw sesame seeds
  • 20g / .7 oz salt of your choice (an inexpensive yet still ‘pure’ salt option is kosher salt)
  • About 3/4 cup (150ml) warm water

Preheat the oven to 150°C / 300°F.

Put the sesame seeds on a baking sheet with a lip so that the seeds don’t roll off all over the place. Spread them out as evenly as possible. Put int the heated oven for 5 minutes.

In the meantime, dissolve the salt in the water, until the grains are completely gone.

Take the baking sheet out of the oven - it should be hot and the seeds may have started popping. Pour the water over the seeds (the water will sizzle a bit) and mix thoroughly with a spatula. Try to even out the clumps as much as possible. Return to the oven, lower the heat to 100°C/210°F, and set the oven timer for 1 hour.

At the end of the hour, stir the seeds around - they will probably still be a little moist. Turn the oven off, return the baking sheet to the oven, and leave there for several hours or overnight.

At the end, the seeds should be completely dry, and greyish in color from the salt. If it is still moist at all, stir it up, turn the oven back on to 100°C/210°F for another 15 minutes or so, then turn the oven off and leave the sheet in again until the oven has cooled down.

You may have some clumps, and the seeds and salt at the bottom may be a bit stuck. Scrape this off with a spatula, stir well and break up the clumps. Store the completely cooked sesame salt in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

Notes

You may see some recipes saying that you should grind the sesame seeds. I don’t do this because grinding releases the oils, making them very susceptible to getting rancid fast. (And no, gomashio as it’s used in Japan is not ground up necessarily.) If I want them ground up I just do so when I’m going to use them, as I do with plain sesame seeds.

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27 comments

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Are those black sesame seeds?

Looks like a good idea that I’ll have to try. By the way, I keep my sesame seeds in the fridge so they don’t get rancid. Also, I used to re-toast the roasted seeds for a fresher flavor. Now I’ve found raw sesame seeds for much cheaper at Indian groceries.

Yes those are black sesame

Yes those are black sesame seeds. The recipe works as well with the brown/beige ones, but black is more traditional for gomashio (and more dramatic!)

I actually keep my raw sesame seeds in the freezer…that way I can buy the bigger bags they sell at the Chinese or Indian groceries and they don’t go bad towards the end.

Great!

I just have to say I love these homemade furikake segments, so creative! For some reason I would have never thought to make furikake myself until you posted your recipes. Thanks!

excellent idea

I just discover your furikake serie and thind it so tempting! I didn’t either store my black sesame in the freezer, another idea….

How creative you are! Bravo

burnt sesame seed

Hello.. I just want to know how you actually stir fry the sesame seed because mine is always seem to burnt if I just stir fry it a bit longer. It doesn’t pop. Can you please explain a bit about it? Thanks :)

sesame seeds

Hi Jo. There are a couple of things to watch out for. First and foremost, be sure you are getting fresh sesame seeds , not old ones (check dates, etc. and buy from a store with a lot of customers so their stock is renewed a lot). Also, don’t have the heat up too high or they may start burning fast. And trust your nose and taste! If they start to smell toasty, and taste toasty and not raw, that’s good. If just a few of them ‘pop’ that probably means that the rest are toasted already too.

Also, if you are buying already toasted seeds they may not pop. The ‘popping’ action happens when the air inside the seed expands, and with pre-toasted/roasted seeds that expansion has already happened. Hope that helps!

Re: sesame seeds

My seeds didn't pop either.. though i heard a veeeerry faint crinkle noise when they were well browned. I just added the salt when i thought they were well toasted. It turned out alright! Thanks for the recipe :)

Absolutely delicious. My

Absolutely delicious. My wife and I are teachers and we’re planning on trying bento for our lunches every day, and I made a batch of gomashio this afternoon - amazing! So much happier making it myself than buying the prepackaged version in our local Asian market.

Love the site and have gotten some great ideas!

This technique works with nuts, also

Perhaps not for furikake, but I frequently use the same technique to coat almonds in a very thin layer of sugar, which makes for a bit of a treat, but not as high-calorie as a lot of nut candy. (With the almonds and sugar, you can actually continue cooking past the stage where the sugar crystalizes on the nuts, until the sugar starts to caramelize. Also very nice, but watch out because they’re VERY hot at that point.) I would imagine it would work with other types of nuts also.

That reminds me that I need

That reminds me that I need to make another batch myself :)

Inspiring

Dear Maki, I’ve been following your justhungry and more recently the justbento blogs, and I just love them. Your stuff here is just so inspiring! One of my favourite gadgets that makes drying or cooling foods just a little bit faster is my trusty, silly old hand-held fan. I never bought that to cool myself down, but I thought it would be nice for cooling down sushi rice (instead of a hand-operated fan). Works a charm for the final stage of Gomashio as well. Cheers, Rebecca :)

Thanks Rebecca! :) And

Thanks Rebecca! :) And using a hand-held fan for cooling sushi is a great idea! (I use my hair drying on the ‘cool’ setting, but the cord can be a bother.)

microwave version

Hi Maki,

I really love both your sites and your conversational and informative words! I don’t know how you feel about using microwave ovens, but I have a Spanish recipe for salted almonds which traditionally are baked or fried much in the way you prepare your sesame seeds.

Basically, the method is 100g raw almonds to every teaspoon of salt and each tablespoon of water. mix altogether and microwave on high for 2 minutes, stir and microwave a further minute, or until the almonds are starting to brown in the middle. Once again, the almonds will be very hot, so be careful!

The measurements are Australian metric, but I don’t imagine that should cause too many dramas, as the ‘recipe’ is not one which requires absolute measures…I’m interested to know if this method works for smaller seeds and nuts too.

That sounds interesting!

That sounds interesting! I’ll have to give it a go sometime. Thanks for sharing! :)

Re: Homemade furikake no. 6: Gomashio, sesame salt

I made the gomashio with brown sesame seeds using the oven method and it worked beautifully. It tastes really great on baked Japanese sweet potato or added to homemade guacamole. yum!

Erie

I also try this Gomashio but got a big problem with sesame seeds

I lightly washed the raw black sesame seeds before roasting and the water turned murky black. Looks like it was dyed as some of the 'black' seeds turn white. So I stop and threw the bag out (it was made in China!). Can I wash black sesame seed and is it okay if the water looks a bit murky black?

Not sure how to tell a good quality black sesame seed.

Re: Erie

That's very strange - I never heard of black sesame seeds turning white after washing! Did you rub them quite hard or something? It may be that you ended up with a bad batch. You shouldn't really need to wash sesame seeds, unless they look particularly dusty to you (but then they aren't good seeds). The seeds should look whole and intact, and not broken in their bags. As far as coming from China, most sesame seeds these days come from China, so short of growin your own there aren't too many alternatives I'm afraid. You could stick to white/brown sesame seeds, which I doubt are dyed or anything in any way (though why anyone would dye sesame seeds is beyond me...as far as I know black or white sesame seeds grow the same!)

Re: Erie

No I did not rub them at all. No it was just a light whirl and the water turn grayish. Not all seeds turn white but I can see some of the 'black' seeds start to bleed/loose its color.

I always thought black sesame taste better, plus it looks nicer against the white rice. May be I'll just stick with the white sesame seed from now on then.

Re: Homemade furikake no. 6: Gomashio, sesame salt

How much does the stovetop recipe yield in salt? I wanted to try making some gomashio cookies and want to make sure I buy enough sesame seeds in case the grocery store doesn't sell premade sesame-seed salt.

Re: Homemade furikake no. 6: Gomashio, sesame salt

It yields 110 grams or 3.85 ounces of gomashio.

Re: Homemade furikake no. 6: Gomashio, sesame salt

i saw some flavored gomashio-type furikake at the local asian grocery store- sesame seeds coated with wasabi, soy sauce, bamboo charcoal smoked, chili... very colourful, too. i didn't buy any, being afraid of weird additives, but it got me thinking and i made some experimental lemon gomashio today.
i used light sesame seeds (about a cup), because black is no good colour for lemon taste. i substituted some of the water with lemon juice (1/2 lemon) and added some grated lemon peel, then followed the stovetop way.
very nice, sesame taste with a bit of salty-fruity-sour, lovely with plain white rice, yummy with avocado slices.. such a clean and fresh taste!

Re: Homemade furikake no. 6: Gomashio, sesame salt

am becoming a big fan... good stuff here... furikake is excellent on jasmine rice w/my favorites, such as mahi-mahi or red snapper... this will save some money at the casa, so a big 'thumbs up!'

Re: Homemade furikake no. 6: Gomashio, sesame salt

I just experimented with making sticky rice with fresh mango and coconut milk (like you can get in thai restaurants), and had some gomashio around--it's goes with the sticky rice and coconut milk perfectly! Great recipe!

Re: Homemade furikake no. 6: Gomashio, sesame salt

Do you know the volume conversions for the seeds and salt(either cups or mL)? I lost my kitchen scale during a move, but I would really love to try this

Re: Homemade furikake no. 6: Gomashio, sesame salt

I've made sesame salt every which way, but this method of getting the salt inside the seeds and as a coating really tastes best.

The oven method is best, although I have done it without pre-toasting.

I've also had great luck with keeping my last batch in the freezer, in recycled ground parmesan cheese containers filled to the brim to keep air out; but even the "working" container keeps the seeds fresh enough. Just pop up the sprinkle flap, sprinkle right on the food (great on salads too), and pop the container back into the freezer.

black sesame seeds warnings

I just found a package of black sesame seeds in the back of my freezer, so I decided to give this recipe a try. I got all excited until I read these warnings on the package: " Do not eat as a snack. Raw food please wash under tap water at least 5 minutes before cooking. Please cook in hot boiling water for 30 minutes before consuming. CONTAINS SULFITES."
What are all these warnings about? I guess I need to find better seeds...and read packages BEFORE buying...

Re: black sesame seeds warnings

I guess the sesame seeds you got are treated with sulfites, which are used as a preservative. You can't avoid all preservatives in this age but you can seek out healthier options. You can make this recipe from white (brown) sesame seeds too.

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