Home Korean Ingredient GlossaryHerbs & Spices Black Sesame Seeds in Korean Cooking (Heukimja)

Black Sesame Seeds in Korean Cooking (Heukimja)

by Emily
Black sesame seeds on a wooden cutting board with a wooden spoon.

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Have you ever heard of black sesame seeds? For many countries, such as China, Japan, and South Korea, these seeds are an integral part of the traditional food culture. Here, we learn about this ingredient and how to use it in Korean cooking.

Before we do, to learn more about sesame in Korean cooking, read our blog posts about:

What Are Black Sesame Seeds?

‘Heukimja’ is the Korean term for the black variety of sesame seeds. Sesame is a flowering plant in the Sesamum genus.

While most wild species of Sesamum are native to sub-Saharan Africa, S. Indicum, the domesticated and cultivated variety, most likely emerged in India. These seeds are one of the oldest known oilseed crops in the world, documented domestication dates back well over 3,000 years. The sesame probably emerged as a crop because of its ability to grow and prosper in areas unsuitable for other crops. 

While the most famous type of sesame is creamy off-white, other sesame varieties come in gold, brown, reddish-brown, black, buff, gray, and even tan. Typically, the color of the hull is the same as the fruit! Here, we are discussing the black variety! 

Black Sesame Seeds in Korean Cooking:

Like I stated above, in the Korean language, black sesame seeds are known as ‘heukimja’ (흑임자). Famously, In Japanese and Korean cultures, people grind these small black seeds into a powder. They then use it to coat mochi (Japanese sticky rice cakes) and injeolmi (Korean sweet rice cakes).

Below, we list two other Korean foods that use black sesame seeds:

  • Heukimja-Juk (흑임자죽): In English, this is known as black sesame porridge. 
  • Dasik (다식): Dasik are traditional Korean pressed cookies. Sometimes, these cookies include black sesame seeds.
An overhead shot of black sesame seeds.
Aren’t They Such a Beautiful Color?

Heukimja Frequently Asked Questions:

Now that we learned about heukimja, we want to answer some questions you may have about this ingredient! If we do not answer your question, feel free to leave a comment in the section below or email us at [email protected]

What Do Black Sesame Seeds Taste Like?

Black sesame seeds have a strong earthy and nutty flavor that is typically strongerthan the creamy white sesame seeds. The white variety, known as ‘cham-kkae’ (참깨) in Korean, is also sweeter than the black variety.

Where Can I Buy Black Sesame Seeds?

You can buy these seeds in any well-stocked grocery store. You can also buy them online and at your local Asian market. 

When shopping at the store, you can typically find them in two sections. First, you can find them in the spice aisle. Second, you can find them in the Asian section of the international food aisle. 

Interestingly, the sesame seeds on the international aisle tend to be way cheaper than those on the spice aisle. 

How Long Does This Ingredient Last?

Generally, raw seeds last for 1-3 years. Once toasted, they last for 6-12 months when stored in the pantry.

How Should I Store Black Sesame Seeds?

You can store these seeds in an airtight container in the pantry. Make sure to keep them in a cool, dark place when storing them for extended periods. 

What Is a Heukimja Substitute?

If you cannot find heukimja, you can typically use regular sesame seeds instead. Just note that these seeds taste stronger and are a bit more bitter. 

We Hope You Enjoyed Learning About Black Sesame Seeds!

In the end, we hope you enjoyed learning about black sesame seeds (heukimja)! If so, let us know in the comment section! 

If you would like to read more about cooking, you can find further recipes on our blog. We listed some of our favorite Carving A Journey Korean recipes below! For reference, many recipes are influenced by our blended Korean and Southern heritage.

Korean Ingredient Articles: 

Further Carving A Journey Recipes:

If you have any questions or comments, you can also email us at [email protected].

And, finally, we would love to hear from you through our social media as well! You can follow us at @carvingajourney on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest. I also started a vlog Youtube channel! Or, if you would like more articles like these, you can subscribe to our blog by joining our mailing list. Let us know if you make anything with black sesame seeds (heukimja)! Thank you so much for stopping by!

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