Toasted Seeds = Tasty Dish
with Suzanne Klein
Chief Yummy Officer
cooking with seeds seed to seed seeds toasting seeds
"One of the easiest ways to increase the flavor impact of any seeds you’re using in a recipe is to toast them."
Working in Savory Spice Shop’s test kitchen has transformed my home cooking in so many ways. Obviously, I use a lot more spices. But sometimes it’s not as much about using more as it is about coaxing the best flavor out of what you have. Take seeds, for example. Savory has a huge selection of seeds and seed-inspired spice blends that you can use in whole, cracked, or ground form to season all kinds of dishes, from savory to sweet. When it comes to using seeds as seasoning, think poppy seed muffins, homemade whole grain mustard, coriander cookies, or sesame-coated shrimp. One of the easiest ways to increase the flavor impact of any seeds you’re using in a recipe is to toast them.
Why Toast Seeds
The heat from toasting excites the seed’s volatile oils, which carry all of the flavor. Just a few minutes of dry toasting seeds in a hot skillet on the stovetop can bring out even more of a seed’s warm, nutty, earthy, toasty, or sweet qualities than using seeds straight out of the spice jar.
How to Toast Seeds
1. Choose the seeds (e.g. cumin, coriander, sesame) or seed blend (e.g. Pickling Spice, Brining Spices) you plan on using in a recipe.
2. Heat a small skillet over medium heat.
3. Add seeds and toast for 1 to 3 min. or until seeds are fragrant or start to pop. Smaller seeds will take less time, larger seeds will take more time. Keep an eye on the pan and continuously stir, or shake the pan, to keep the seeds moving so they don’t burn.
4. Transfer seeds to a plate to cool. You don’t want to leave them in the hot pan because they will continue to cook and can go from toasty to burnt in an instant.
5. Use toasted seeds, either in their whole form, or crack or grind them to desired consistency. To crack seeds, add them to a zip top bag, seal, and crush with a rolling pin or meat mallet. To grind, use a mortar & pestle for a coarse grind or spice grinder for a fine grind.
What to Toast
Toasting sounds easy, right? But what seeds should you toast and when?
Really, anywhere a recipe calls for using seeds you can use this technique before adding the seeds to the dish. If a recipe calls for a ground seed, consider starting with the whole seed instead, toasting it, and grinding it yourself. The amazing fresh-ground aroma and flavor you’ll get with this method is the reason we grind our spices fresh in small batches on a weekly basis. In fact, you can use this toasting method for any ground spice or seasoning as well to release and intensify the flavor. If you’re toasting a ground spice, do it at a slightly lower heat level (medium to medium-low) and for a little less time (30 seconds to 1 minute) to avoid burning.
Here are several uses for toasted seeds to get you started:
The "surprise" in these Surprising Coriander Cookies is the whole coriander seeds that are toasted and then ground to bump up the earthy, citrus flavor of these treats.
- Toast our Pickling Spice (with mustard, coriander, and dill seeds) before adding it to the brine of your next batch of pickled veggies.
- A quick toast of our Shrimp & Crab Boil will kick start the blend’s mustard and chile flavors. Boiled shrimp or parboiled ribs work well with this blend.
- For an intensely flavored baking spice, toast our Mulling Spices (with allspice berries and cardamom seeds) and then grind them to use in place of cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice in your favorite baked goods.
- Add toasted Bengal Bay “Panch Phoron” (with fenugreek, charnuska, and fennel) to melted butter to make an Indian-flavored ghee. Or grind the toasted spice blend and add it to samosa filling or homemade flatbread.
- Toasted white sesame or black sesame seeds make a great finishing garnish to any Asian-inspired grilled meat, noodle dish, soup, or salad.
- Toast earthy cumin seeds before adding them whole or ground to curry, chili, or hummus.
- Toasted fennel seeds provide a burst of traditional, licorice-like flavor to Italian sausage, German sauerkraut, or Greek bread.
- Toasting coriander seeds brings out their complex pepper, citrus, and mint flavors. Crack them to rub on meat or fish for the grill. Or grind them to use in sweet treats like cookies or cakes.
Try these seed toasting tips and I guarantee you’ll be hooked.