These black sesame cookies have a chewy texture and nutty, sweet taste. The sesame seeds are ground in a food processor along with the sugar to create a striking grey powder that's added to the dough. The earthy, slightly bitter flavor is more prominent than in white sesame seeds, and pairs nicely with the rich buttery flavor and sugar coated exterior of the cookies. Coarsely chopped chocolate chunks make for an optional extra melty treat.
I've had a bag of black sesame seeds in the pantry that I picked up on a whim a few weeks ago from the grocery store. I was purchasing bulk items, including white sesame seeds, and the black variety jumped out at me as a striking option. I've incorporated them here into a buttery vanilla cookie dough, and as you can see, the black sesame utterly transforms the cookies.
The ground up black sesame seeds provide dramatic color, a satisfying crunch, and an earthy, nutty sesame flavor that is unique and delicious. Just a bit of sesame oil helps boost the sesame taste, and optional chocolate chunks provide sweetness and a rich, melty smoothness that contrasts with the cookie's chewy-crunchy texture.
- Black sesame seeds - Black sesame seeds are the key ingredient in these cookies. You can find them in Asian markets and international grocery stores as well as online (affiliate link). I'm lucky to have a great bulk food aisle at my local co-op. I found them in the bulk spice section. This is the variety my co-op stocks.
- Granulated sugar - To provide sweetness and moisture, and balance out the slight bitterness of the sesame seeds. You'll need additional sugar to roll the cookie dough in as well.
- Toasted sesame oil - A bit of toasted sesame oil (affiliate link) packs in even more sesame flavor.
- Unsalted butter - Using unsalted butter allows you to control the total quantity of salt in the recipe. Salt content in salted butter varies from brand to brand.
- Egg - One whole egg provides richness and serves as a binder.
- Vanilla extract - for flavor.
- All purpose flour - Flour provides structure, binding the cookies together. Feel free to substitute a cup for cup style gluten free flour if you'd like to convert this to a gluten free sesame cookie recipe.
- Baking soda - For leavening, and to help the cookies spread.
- Kosher salt - For enhanced flavor. I have a container of smoked salt that I like to pair with ingredients like sesame that benefit from the subtly smoky flavor. I used it here, but standard kosher salt is just fine.
- Dark chocolate - (Optional) coarsely chopped dark chocolate chunks create pools of melted chocolate and pair well with the nutty flavor of black sesame. Adding them basically creates a black sesame chocolate chip cookie! (For another favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe, check out these coconut chocolate chip cookies).
- Additional granulated sugar - To roll the cookies in prior to baking.
- Additional black sesame seeds and dark chocolate chunks - To top the cookies with prior to baking.
Step 1: To the bowl of a food processor (or a blender / spice grinder), add the black sesame seeds and the sugar. Process until sesame seeds are finely ground and sugar mixture has turned a deep grey color. Do not over process or seeds will begin to warm and release oils.
Step 2: To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the butter and sesame seed / sugar mixture. Cream on medium speed until well blended. Add sesame oil and beat until fully incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Step 3: Add the egg and vanilla, and mix until fully incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Step 4: Add flour, baking soda, and salt. Mix at low speed until flour is just incorporated. Over mixing creates tougher cookies.
Step 5: If adding optional chocolate chips or chunks, fold them in with a spatula.
Step 6: Using a cookie scoop (I use a 1.5 Tablespoon / Size 40 scoop), portion the dough into balls. Roll in granulated sugar and place 8 at a time on a parchment lined baking sheet. Sprinkle each with a pinch of black sesame seeds and top with a chocolate chunk, if using.
Step 7: Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit (177° Celsius, Gas mark 4) on center rack of oven for 8-9 minutes. If you want round cookies, immediately place a circular cookie cutter or an upside down drinking glass around each cookie and move it in circles to push the cookies into shape. They'll look slightly underdone, and will deflate a bit and continue to cook and firm up as they cool on the baking sheet.
Black sesame in food
Black sesame seeds have been used in Asian cooking for centuries. They are frequently incorporated into both savory and sweet recipes. Common uses in desserts include sweet breads, cakes and ice cream. For an insightful look at some of black sesame's uses, read this article from Taste Magazine.
While this recipe incorporates black sesame seeds, it's my own creation and isn't a traditional recipe of any sort. If you're looking for excellent Asian dessert recipes that incorporate black sesame seeds, there are many, many to choose from. Here are just a few:
- Black Sesame Soup - Omnivore's Cookbook
- Black Sesame Mochi Ice Cream - Lady and Pups
- Black Sesame Brownies - Cooking Therapy
- Black Sesame Mochi Cake - The Subversive Table
- Black Sesame Pudding - Onolicious Hawai'i
Black vs white sesame seeds
What is the difference between black and white sesame seeds? The biggest difference is the color. Black sesame seeds often still have their hulls intact, although there are also varieties of black sesame that have a black interior after being hulled. Black sesame seeds are often thought to have a slightly more bitter taste than the white variety, as well as additional crunch.
Make in advance
Can I make these cookies in advance? Yes! You can make the dough ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator for 1-2 days until baking. Don't roll the dough in sugar - wait to do that until just before baking. If you'd prefer to freeze it, portion the dough into balls and freeze them for 1-2 hours on a parchment lined baking sheet. Once frozen, transfer the dough to an airtight container or plastic freezer bag.
Note that I find this cookie recipe works best with room temperature dough. Bring chilled or frozen dough to room temperature before baking.
I use this medium cookie scoop (affiliate link) which measures out 1 ½ Tablespoons - it's a size 40 - to portion out these cookies. I love using a cookie scoop for drop cookies. It keeps them uniform in size, which also helps them to bake evenly.
Another tip for uniform cookies is to use a round cookie cutter or the rim of an upside down glass to push the cookies back into a round shape as soon as they are removed from the oven and still hot and pliable. Place the cutter or glass over the top of the cookie and carefully scoot it in gentle circles so the cookie edges become round again. I've had this set of round cookie cutters (affiliate link) for years, and I use it all the time.
Store these cookies at room temperature in an airtight container for up to a week. (I think they taste best when still warm, and then in the first day or two after baking.) You can also freeze them in a well-sealed container or plastic freezer bag.
- If you don't have sesame oil on hand, simply omit it and increase the total amount of unsalted butter to 113 grams (4 oz; 8 Tablespoons). I've tested the recipe this way and they are still very good. There's simply a little less sesame taste overall.
- Substitute white chocolate chunks in place of the dark chocolate for a sweet and creamy pairing and pretty color contrast with the black sesame dough.
Black Sesame CookiesPrint Recipe Pin Recipe
- 60 grams (½ cup) black sesame seeds
- 85 grams (6 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 Tablespoon sesame oil
- 150 grams (¾ cup) granulated sugar
- 1 large egg, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 150 grams (1¼ cups) all purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 90 grams (½ cup, 3 oz) (optional) coarsely chopped dark chocolate chunks, or chocolate chips
- 100 grams (½ cup) granulated sugar for rolling
- additional black sesame seeds and chocolate chunks for decoration
- To the bowl of a food processor (or a blender / spice grinder), add the black sesame seeds and the sugar. Process until sesame seeds are finely ground and sugar mixture has turned a deep grey color. Do not over process or seeds will begin to warm and release oils.60 grams (½ cup) black sesame seeds, 150 grams (¾ cup) granulated sugar
- To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the butter and sesame seed / sugar mixture. Cream on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the sesame oil and mix briefly. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.85 grams (6 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
- Add the egg and vanilla, and mix until fully incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.1 large egg, room temperature, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Add flour, baking soda, and salt. Mix at low speed until dry ingredients are just incorporated.150 grams (1¼ cups) all purpose flour, ½ teaspoon baking soda, ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- If adding chocolate chips or chunks, fold them in with a spatula.90 grams (½ cup, 3 oz) (optional) coarsely chopped dark chocolate chunks, or chocolate chips
- Using a cookie scoop (I use a 1.5 Tablespoon / Size 40 scoop), portion the dough into 8 balls. Roll in granulated sugar and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Place a pinch of black sesame seeds on top of each ball of dough, and place a chunk of chocolate on top (if using).100 grams (½ cup) granulated sugar for rolling, additional black sesame seeds and chocolate chunks for decoration
- Bake a single pan at 350 degrees Fahrenheit (177° Celsius, Gas mark 4) on center rack of oven for 8-9 minutes, until edges are set but centers are still slightly soft. They'll look slightly underdone, and will deflate a bit and continue to cook and firm up as they cool on the baking sheet. Repeat with remaining cookie dough.
- If you want round cookies, immediately upon removing from oven, place a circular cookie cutter or an upside down drinking glass around each cookie and move it in circles to push the cookies into shape.
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