Black sesame ice cream is a Japanese dessert in a strikingly stunning hue. Despite being made from coconut milk (and hence vegan), it has the texture of soft serve ice cream but with a beguilingly different taste.
Black sesame ice cream is something you sorta have to experience to understand. It boasts an intense and satisfying creaminess and a lovely earthiness from the black sesame seeds that may not appeal to the mint chocolate chip crowd but definitely appeals to us. And despite being vegan and dairy-free (it’s made with coconut milk) it’s still exceptionally creamy. Tasting is believing.–Renee Schettler
Black Sesame Ice Cream
- 6 tablespoons black sesame seeds
- 1/3 cup light agave syrup
- Two (14-ounce) cans full-fat coconut milk
- 1/2 cup unrefined sugar or coconut palm sugar
- Pinch sea salt
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- Put the black sesame seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat and wait until they begin to pop and release their aroma, 4 to 6 minutes. Use your judgement on the fine line between toasting and burning. The moment they are toasted, dump them from the skillet onto a plate and let cool for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Blitz the cooled black sesame seeds in a coffee grinder or food processor until finely ground, then place them in a bowl and combine them with the agave syrup to form a paste.
- Heat 1 can coconut milk, the sugar, and the salt in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-low heat until the sugar has dissolved, about 10 minutes.
- In a bowl, slowly whisk the remaining can of coconut milk into the cornstarch until there are no lumps. Add this mixture to the saucepan. Whisk to combine. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, for 4 to 6 minutes, until the mixture becomes thick. Use a spatula to frequently stir the mixture so the mixture doesn’t scorch or become lumpy. When the mixture has thickened, remove the pan from the heat and transfer the mixture to a large bowl.
- Stir the sesame seed paste into the coconut milk mixture until well combined. If you have parchment paper, place a piece directly onto the surface to prevent a skin from forming and let cool completely to room temperature. Refrigerate until well chilled, 2 to 3 hours. (You can speed this process up by placing the bowl in a large bowl filled halfway with ice water or, for a set-it-and-forget-it approach, simply leave the mixture in the fridge overnight to chill.)
- If you have an ice cream maker, churn the black sesame ice cream mixture in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions and serve immediately or transfer to a container and freezer until the desired consistency. If you don’t have an ice cream maker, pour the mixture into a wide, flat, preferably metal pan and place it in the freezer. After 40 minutes, use a fork to mix and break down the ice crystals. Repeat this process twice more, at 40-minute intervals. You can blitz it all in a food processor at the final stage to make it really smooth. Return it to the pan and leave in the freezer to set fully.
- Remove the black sesame ice cream from the freezer about 15 minutes before serving to give the ice cream a chance to soften. Do not skip this thawing step as it allows the ice cream to melt only slightly, giving it that delightfully chewy texture.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
I have been seeing recipes for black sesame ice cream a lot recently; I imagine it’s partly a reaction to the “everything unicorn” trend. This coconut cream-based ice cream has a complex flavor with few ingredients. I used light agave syrup and coconut palm sugar. Once put through the ice cream maker, it was even better than I thought it would be. It tastes a lot like the Sesame Snaps we ate in the ‘70s but definitely more complex. We really enjoyed it and found that it had a perfect balance of flavors.
This black sesame ice cream is delicious, easy, and vegan! Wonderfully nutty and almost smoky, this coconut milk-based vegan recipe is as richly satisfying as any frozen custard I’ve made. Toasting the seeds takes just a few minutes using a stainless steel pan so I could more easily see any changes. I listened for a pop which happened just as I was starting to see some steam come up off the skillet like you might scalding milk at 6 minutes, and popping at just over 8 minutes, so I removed the pan from the heat to avoid scorching. The biggest challenge for me was worrying about grinding the sesame seeds, although it turned out just fine. I used the dry grains container of my Vitamix and since it was a small quantity, I stopped after each short burst to scrape down any buildup in the corners. After 3 to 4 quick bursts of the blender, I had a fairly even grind and had not made black tahini. Before you even add the sesame, your coconut mixture will have a nice cafe au lait color (I used a mixture of coconut and unrefined sugar). The sesame mixture easily disperses into the warm coconut milk base. I still pass any custard or ice cream mixtures thru a mesh sieve to make sure I haven’t created or missed any lumps, then cool and chill. The finished ice cream was actually firm enough to scoop a tasting sample before stashing it in the freezer. Delicious! I sprinkled a few whole sesame seeds on top and after a taste, added a flake or two of Maldon sea salt. This might be just the item to try some black or red volcanic salt on for drama. The overall colour is not pitch black, but a lovely deep grey flecked with tiny sesame particles, resembling a deep Earl Grey ice cream, but earthier and more scrummy. It was creamy and rich, as full-textured as any egg yolk-containing custard-based ice cream. Can’t wait to share this with our vegan daughter-in-law and children who lived in Seoul for a year!
Black sesame seeds have a distinctive flavor, and if you like them (as I do), you will probably love this black sesame ice cream. I was pleasantly surprised at how well the sesame flavor stood up in a frozen dessert, since the cold has a tendency to mute flavors. The balance here is perfect. The texture out of the freezer is a bit on the icy side, but if you let it soften a bit before serving, it moves into the realm of creamy. The coconut flavor here is very gentle. The black sesame is what predominates. This ice cream would make a lovely finish for a Chinese or Korean meal. I froze it using an ice cream maker, then transferred to a quart container and stored in the freezer. Texture was a bit icy on the spoon, but rich in the mouth. After softening a bit, the texture was more creamy.
How does one say scrummmmmdili-uptious in an elegant way? There were no in-between reviews regarding this ice cream. Either “That is really good!” or “Hmmm, I don’t think this is to my taste.” All the more black sesame ice cream for those of us who love it! Making this ice cream was a joy from the start, with the scent of toasting sesame seeds. The warm custard is delicious; we served in teeny glasses. We did not use an ice cream maker. We whisked the mixture every 40 minutes for 4 times total. Our final ice cream wasn’t hard enough to “scoop,” rather it’s more soft-serve. It was perfectly fine, and very, very, delicious.
This is a very good ice cream with a unique and really exotic flavor. It might not be for everyone since the flavor is strong and I would describe it as earthy. For my taste, though, I thought it was lovely with a nice balance between the nutty sharp sesame and the smooth coconut. The main quibble I have with it is that the ice cream hardens a lot in the freezer and really does need the time recommended outside of the freezer to thaw a touch. Next time I might add a few tablespoons of vodka to help with this problem.
Originally published June 25, 2017