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Unhulled (Natural) vs. Hulled (Conventional) Sesame Seeds

By Cook's Illustrated Published May 2014

What are unhulled sesame seeds? Can they be used like regular sesame seeds?

When just harvested from sesame plants, sesame seeds are embedded in a seed coat, or hull. Most sesame seeds in this country are sold with the seed coat removed, but the unhulled kind (also labeled natural) is a staple in Japan and becoming increasingly available in natural foods stores in the United States. 

We tasted hulled and unhulled seeds raw and toasted and found in both cases that the unhulled seeds were crunchier and almost hard. Unhulled seeds also tasted slightly bitter, which is due to the oxalates (the same compounds in spinach) in the hull. In sesame cookies, most tasters preferred the hulled seeds for nutty, clean flavor, although a few tasters liked the added complexity that the faint bitterness of the unhulled seeds provided.


THE BOTTOM LINE: Unhulled seeds will work fine in recipes calling for hulled (conventional) sesame seeds, but be aware that they will have a firmer texture and a slightly bitter flavor.