Properly toasted sesame seeds are a very important ingredient in Korean cuisine. They add a wonderful, toasted nuttiness to many Korean dishes, and are particularly important in giving vegetarian dishes an extra dimension of flavor. Other cultures use sesame seeds in their cooking but to me, properly toasted sesame seeds are part of what make Korean food distinctly Korean. When Koreans refer to sesame seeds, the fact that they are toasted is understood by all – no Korean would even consider using raw or untoasted sesame seeds in any dish. We love toasted sesame seeds.

I take my toasted sesame seeds seriously! I always have some on hand. I toast a few cups at a time and store them in the freezer, and take some out little by little over the next few months until I have to toast some more. And when I travel, I always bring a little stash with me for cooking on the road or livening up a dish. I’ve also given toasted sesame seeds as gifts! For me, that’s a great present!

When you buy sesame seeds to toast, get raw sesame seeds, called cham-kkae in Korean. If you can’t find these, you can buy pre-roasted sesame seeds, called bokkeun-kkae or bokkeum-kkae in Korean in the store. Bokkeum or bokkeun means “toasted.” If you buy toasted (or roasted) sesame seeds in the store, it’s always a good idea to toast them again before using them to give them a boost of nutty flavor, because they might have been toasted a long time ago.

As you see, this recipe is very simple, but it’s all in the technique. It’s best to wash the seeds well, so toasting makes them plump, and take care of them so they don’t burn.

toasted-sesame seeds



  1. Put the sesame seeds in a bowl and fill it with cold water. Stir and agitate by hand. Remove any brownish debris floating on the surface.
  2. Strain the seeds. Fill the bowl up with water and dip the strainer into the bowl so the seeds are submerged. Firmly rub them against each other with your hand to clean them. Take the strainer out of the bowl and you’ll see the water is brownish and any sand, mud, or stones from the seeds have sunk to the bottom.
    Washing-sesame seeds (깨 씻기)washing-sesameseedsWashing sesame seeds
  3. Wash the sesame seeds under running water, stirring and turning them over in the strainer until the water runs through clear. Drain the water and use a wooden spoon to press on the seeds and squeeze out any excess water.
    How to toast sesame seeds (깨볶는법)
    how to toast sesame seeds (깨볶기)
  4. Transfer the seeds to a heated skillet or pan over medium high heat. Stir the seeds occasionally with a wooden spoon for about 10 minutes until all of them are dried. Some seeds will start to pop.
    How to toast sesame seeds (깨볶기)
  5. Lower the heat to medium and keep stirring for about 7 to 8 minutes until the seeds are evenly golden and crispy. They’ll pop as they cook. Take a few sample and taste. The seeds should be crispy and nutty and crumble nicely in your mouth.
    how to toast sesame seeds (깨볶는법)
  6. Remove from the heat and let them cool. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 1 month, or up to 3 months in the freezer.

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  1. nanas hawaii joined 1/23 & has 1 comment

    hi can i use this same method when toasting black sesame seeds as well?

  2. Nayko france joined 10/18 & has 34 comments

    Actually, i use to buy unroasted sesame seeds and do the job by myself… but I would never have thought that sesame seeds had to be washed! so much dirt!!!!! I almost feel sick when i think of those i roasted a few days ago, directly from the pouch to the pan … i know what to do first next time ;) thanks

  3. Happy Bunny Tallahassee, Georgia joined 2/17 & has 2 comments

    Maangchi, 안녕하세요! :)

    I was just wondering — where did you get that necklace and shirt from? It’s such a cute outfit!


  4. MissBlackRabbit Montreal, Canada joined 1/16 & has 7 comments

    This is my very first Maangchi recipe! Or recipe altogether. I’ve never really cooked but you’ve inspired me :) I’m 33 so it’s about time I get to it!

    I used black and gold seeds as that’s what I had lying around. It turned out great and it will add a bit of color to the golden dishes :)
    Question: Step1 your seeds seem to have sunked to the bottom… mine floated even after 5m of massaging. What happened there?

    See full size image

  5. Oxide California joined 2/15 & has 47 comments

    I can understand why you toast your own sesame seeds. I just took a cup of raw sesame seeds and followed you instructions. The quality is so much better than store-bought pre-roasted sesame seeds. And the aroma of the roasting sesame seeds made me hungry.

    Nice bonus — 1 cup of raw sesame seeds yielded a little over 2 cups of toasted seeds. That’s like getting my toasted sesame seeds for 1/2 price!

  6. jhm Massachusetts joined 3/14 & has 2 comments

    You might want to mention that some untoasted sesame seeds are sold with their hulls still on, which I do not think would work the same in this recipe (although I do not know that they would not).

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