Best snacks made with black sesame seeds

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“Black sesame is nutty, earthy, slightly salty, and naturally a bit bitter,” says Ashley Xie, co-founder of Rooted Tariff, famous for its crispy black sesame paste. “The smell also reminds me of the scent when you walk into a coffee or chocolate roastery.”

And while Middle Eastern foods like tahini and halva come to mind when you think of white sesame, black sesame is a major ingredient in Asian cooking. In countries like Japan, China, Korea, and India, black sesame foods abound. There’s Japanese kuro goma (black sesame) ice cream, mochi, and crackers; Chinese bao with black sesame, tang yuan (glutinous rice balls) and soup; and Indian black sesame laddu sweets, to name a few.

“According to historians, the seed may have come from Africa and traveled along the Silk Road to other countries in Asia, the Middle East and beyond,” says Hedy Yu, the other co-founder of Rooted Fare. “In China, where my parents grew up, black sesame has grown in popularity since it arrived thousands of years ago thanks to its incredible health properties – people thought it promoted healthy hair and you helped to live longer.A story goes that black sesame seed was so rare that only the emperor of China had it in his sticky rice balls on special occasions.

Fortunately, today everyone has access to black sesame (even us non-royals). There are so many delicious black sesame foods and snacks out there that it’s honestly hard to choose the best one – and so many people have fond memories of their childhood favorites.

“I have memories of standing in line at Asian supermarkets (like 99 Ranch) and picking up the clear boxes of black sesame brittle candies,” Yu recalls. “I would have taken them out of the box before even to get to the car.”

Want to taste for yourself? Here are some of our favorite black sesame snacks and products, in honor of AAPI Heritage Month in May.

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