It’s so easy to make Japanese Sesame Paste from scratch with just sesame seeds and a food processor! Called Neri Goma in Japan, this vegan condiment is thick, creamy, and nutty. Add this rich and flavorful homemade paste to dipping sauces, salad dressings, noodle sauces, and desserts.
Neri Goma (練り胡麻, ねりごま) is a Japanese sesame paste made by grinding whole toasted white sesame seeds into a paste. It is rich, creamy, and flavorful, with a similar consistency to nut butter like peanut butter. The Japanese use sesame paste in both savory and sweet dishes. I love that it’s simple to make, and if you are vegan or gluten-free, neri goma makes a great addition to bring flavors and proteins to your food.
In this recipe, we will explain everything you need to know about this versatile condiment and show you how to make White Sesame Paste at home. If you want to make Black Sesame Paste, click here.
Table of Contents
- What is Sesame Paste (Neri Goma)?
- Japanese Sesame Paste vs. Chinese Sesame Paste vs. Tahini
- How to Use White Sesame Paste in Japanese Cooking
- How to Make Sesame Paste
- Cooking Tips for White Sesame Paste
- How to Store
What is Sesame Paste (Neri Goma)?
Japanese sesame paste is called neri goma (練り胡麻, ねりごま). “Neri” means kneading, and “goma” means sesame seeds. The smooth paste is made by grinding the toasted sesame seeds. The grinding process allows the seeds to break down and produce an aromatic and flavorful puree that has a very thick consistency.
Sesame is said to have been brought to Japan during the Jomon period (13000 BC to 300 BC; the earliest historical era of Japanese history). Since then, it has played an important role in Japanese cuisine.
Sesame seeds are often classified into three categories: Black (黒胡麻), white (白胡麻), and golden (金の胡麻), and you can find sesame paste for each type.
🛒 You can buy Japanese white sesame paste on Amazon
Substitutions for Sesame Paste
Chinese sesame paste would be the closest substitute for Japanese sesame paste, but you can use tahini, sunflower seed butter (SunButter), or peanut butter in a pinch.
However, do bear in mind that the flavors would be slightly different. For authentic Japanese cooking, I highly recommend using Japanese sesame paste (neri goma) by making your own.
Japanese Sesame Paste vs. Chinese Sesame Paste vs. Tahini
You may be more familiar with Chinese sesame paste (zhi ma jiang, 芝麻酱) or tahini, the sesame paste used in the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines or
I haven’t had a chance to try a side-by-side comparison with Chinese sesame paste, but I assume it’s very similar to the Japanese one (if not, please let me know).
Tahini, on the other hand, is made from unroasted raw sesame seeds, which is why it’s lighter in color and less flavorful. You can get tahini at most American grocery stores. It is similar yet not quite the same as the Japanese or Chinese variety in terms of texture and taste.
How to Use White Sesame Paste in Japanese Cooking
Thanks to its nutty flavor, sesame paste makes a wonderful addition to various dishes, ranging from main dishes to desserts.
In Japanese cooking, sesame paste is the key ingredient to make Goma Dare (Sesame Sauce), which is a creamy dipping sauce for Shabu Shabu, a popular Japanese hot pot. We use goma dare for dipping meat, vegetables, and cold noodle dishes such as sesame noodles.
We also use sesame paste to make noodle sauces, salad dressings, and drizzle on top of desserts such as steamed cake, pudding, and ice cream.
How to Make Sesame Paste
Ingredients You’ll Need
- Toasted white sesame seeds
That’s it! Just 100% sesame seeds are all you need. You can also use untoasted sesame seeds, but you will need to toast the sesame seeds longer than the time I provided in my recipe.
Equipment You’ll Need
- Food processor or a high-powered blender – I use a 3-cup food processor. If you use a bigger food processor or blender, you will need to double or triple the sesame seeds amount, or your food processor won’t make sesame seeds into a thick paste form.
Overview: Cooking Steps
- Toast the sesame seeds, even if your sesame seeds are pre-toasted.
- Grind your sesame seeds in your food processor for the next 10-15 minutes, or until they become a smooth and creamy paste.
- Transfer to a sterilized jar and store in the refrigerator.
Cooking Tips for White Sesame Paste
- 1 cup of sesame seeds yields ⅓ cup of sesame paste.
- Don’t reduce the amount of sesame seeds. You need enough sesame seeds to get picked up to make into a paste form.
- Toast the sesame seeds. Even when the sesame seeds already come toasted, the extra step of toasting them in the pan will help bring out a nice aroma. Just be careful not to burn them.
- Scrape down the sides with a silicone spatula whenever the blades just spin without engaging the seeds.
- Take a break if the motor of your food processor is getting too hot. My food processor didn’t have any issues, but you might want to give the machine a short break if your food processor has a weaker motor. It can be too much to handle 10-15 minutes of continuous food processing.
- Add a little bit of sesame oil, but only if your food processor is struggling. Sesame seeds themselves contain oil that naturally releases during toasting and grinding, so it’s usually enough to create a thick sesame paste. However, if your food processor is struggling to crush and grind, you can drizzle a little bit of sesame oil onto the seeds to add volume, help bind them, and thin out the paste.
How to Store
You can store this homemade sesame paste in the refrigerator for up to a month and in the freezer for half a year. Bring the paste back to room temperature before using it.
It’s important to keep the sesame paste out of sunlight as it can go rancid easily.
How to Make Sesame Paste (Neri Goma)
- Before You Start: You will need at least 1 cup (120 g) of sesame seeds for a 3-Cup Cuisinart Food Processor to run it properly. If you use less, or use a bigger food processor, the blades will spin without engaging the sesame seeds and you won‘t be able to make a paste.
- Gather the sesame seeds. Even though your sesame seeds are pre-toasted, we will freshly toast them now to enhance their nutty aroma. Add 1 cup toasted white sesame seeds to an ungreased frying pan and turn on the stove to medium-high heat. Once the pan is hot, lift it up and shake it constantly over the flame. Toss and turn over the sesame seeds in the pan to evenly toast them. When they are fragrant, turn off the heat and move the pan off the stove.
- Use a funnel to transfer the seeds to the bowl of a 3-cup food processor. You also can create a funnel using a flexible plastic cutting board. Let the toasted seeds cool a bit. Then, turn on the food processor and grind the seeds for the next 10-15 minutes, or until they become a smooth and creamy paste. (My food processor has “Food Process“ and “Puree“ modes, so I alternated between these settings in this initial grinding phase.) Note: Please remember that these processing times are based on my 3-Cup Cuisinart Food Processor.
- Initially, the ground sesame seeds will have a sandy texture, like moist graham cracker crumbs. They also tend to stick to the wall of the food processor bowl. Whenever this happens and the blades just spin without engaging the seeds, open the lid and quickly scrape down the sides with a silicone spatula. I did this 4–5 times during this “sandy texture“ phase.
- Continue to grind the seeds. When you open the lid to scrape down the sides of the bowl, make sure to loosen any seeds that are stuck to the bottom and corners of the bowl.
- At about the 5-minute mark (with my food processor), the sesame seeds will start to look moister from the oil they‘ve released. If the motor is getting hot, take a short break to let it cool before resuming.
- You may see the paste turn into a big chunk of a ball. However, it will break up as you continue to process it. You will eventually notice the paste looking even wetter compared to the previous step. Tip: If your food processor is still struggling to grind, you can add just a little bit of sesame oil. Sesame seeds themselves contain oil that naturally releases during toasting and grinding, so it's usually enough to create a thick sesame paste. However, if your food processor is struggling, you can drizzle a little bit of sesame oil onto the seeds to add volume, help bind them, and thin out the paste.
- Soon, the paste will look less grainy and sandy. Scrape down the sides as needed. Keep going!
- At about the 10-minute mark, the paste will become more smooth and liquid than in the previous step. We will keep going to make it smoother. If the motor starts to get hot, turn off your food processor for a short while to let it cool.
- At about the 13-minute mark, the paste will look shiny, creamy, and liquified. Keep processing for another 2 minutes to make it even smoother and release more oil from the sesame seeds. Your paste is now done. Transfer it to a sterilized jar.
- You can use Homemade Sesame Paste to make Japanese Sesame Sauce (Goma Dare) for Shabu Shabu, Steamed Vegetables, Cold Tofu or Hot Tofu, Homemade Udon Noodles, Somen Noodles, and homemade sesame salad dressing. You also can make a version with black sesame seeds and use it in Black Sesame Ice Cream and Black Sesame Dan Dan Noodles.
- You can store this sesame paste in the refrigerator for up to a month and in the freezer for half a year. Bring the paste back to room temperature before using it.