You’ve heard of the oat milk craze, I’m sure, but Sesame Seed Milk (Horchata de Ajonjolí) needs to be on your list of recipes to make. Pronounced or-CHA-tah day oh-hone-ho-LEE, this plant milk is nutty, creamy, and simple to make. Since this milk is basically a pantry recipe, you never need to worry about not having the ingredients to make it. Keep your shelves stocked with the ingredients, and when you get a craving, you can whip it up.
What is Sesame Seed Milk (Horchata de Ajonjolí)?
Horchata de ajonjolí is a Puerto Rican drink made from toasted and soaked sesame seeds. You know, of course, that Puerto Rico is a tropical island that sometimes gets a wee bit hot. This horchata is a great way to cool down, and as an added bonus, it’s delicious. So, naturally, people on the island turn to it as another beverage to refresh themselves.
Many other cultures- Indian, African, and Asian cultures are the first that come to mind- also have a type of sesame drink. This one here is the one I grew up making and drinking, though.
The raw, toasted sesame seeds and some select spices soak overnight (or for a few hours) to soften and release their flavors. After soaking, the seeds are pureed in their water and sweetened with canned milk. Simple, no?
But, wait! I thought horchata was made from rice.
Technically, authentic horchata is made from soaked and ground tiger nuts. However, the recipe has evolved to its most well-known version of rice milk. Horchata is a word that encompasses many plant-based milks, though. Add “horchata de” to a seed or a nut, and you have the drink you’ll be enjoying.
This horchata de ajonjolí is one of many different beverages that fall under the horchata umbrella. Oat milk (horchata de avena), barley milk (horchata de cebada), and almond milk (horchata de almendras) are other types of horchata that you can find.
In conclusion, no, horchata is not exclusively rice milk. The word horchata encompasses many plant milks. Thanks for coming to my TED Talk.
What do I need to make Sesame Seed Milk?
To make this sesame seed milk, you need raw, hulled sesame seeds. You also need sweetened condensed milk (vegan options below), whole cloves, a star anise pod, and a 3-inch cinnamon stick. The spices are optional, and you can replace them with their ground counterparts or omit them altogether.
Some equipment you need is a skillet, a wooden spoon, a large pitcher, and an immersion blender (or a regular blender). You will also need a clean tea or kitchen towel or a nut bag to strain the milk from the seeds.
What are sesame seeds?
Sesame seeds come from the pod of the perennial, tropical sesame plant. You may be familiar with them if you are a fan of Chinese food, but the OG sesame seed is native to Africa. The seeds we see and use today, though, are of the Indian persuasion.
Sesame is one of the oiliest seeds, which is probably why sesame oil is so doggone good. I feel like sesame is a very underrated seed. Not only does it make fantastic oil, it blends into tahini (a sesame seed butter), can be used as a topping for your bagel, and now, I’m showing you how to drink it.
What’s the difference between hulled and unhulled sesame seeds?
So, you notice I mention that you need raw, unhulled sesame seeds for this recipe. Hulled seeds are those that have their outer husks removed. Unhulled sesame, on the other hand, leaves the husk intact. Think of the difference between brown and white rice, and it is very much the same.
While you can use unhulled seeds to make this recipe, I find that it gives the horchata a bitter undertone. In addition to the husks imparting a bitter flavor to the drink, their dark color makes it difficult to toast the seeds perfectly because you can’t tell the difference in the color change as easily.
Can I use toasted sesame seeds from the store?
You can certainly use sesame seeds that are sold toasted, yes. But, I prefer to toast the seeds myself, at home, for a fresher, nuttier flavor.
Since the sesame oils are released when heated, soaking them immediately after toasting them gives your horchata a more pronounced flavor. If you do choose to use toasted sesame seeds, warm them for 5-8 minutes, or until they smell fragrant, to waken those oils.
How do I properly toast the sesame seeds?
Begin by toasting the raw sesame seeds until they are brown and fragrant.
Pour the seeds into a wide, 10 or 12-inch, shallow skillet. Heat the pan over medium-low heat while using a flat wooden spoon to shift the seeds around in the pan.
Because the seeds need to be shifted frequently to ensure they toast evenly, I always use a wooden spoon to do this. Using a metal spoon grates my nerves with the sound and increases the chances of me burning my hand. Of course, you know that metal conducts heat. So, the longer the spoon is used to stir the seeds, the hotter it will become. Wooden spoons are a safer option here.
Continue gently heating and toasting the sesame seeds, shifting frequently.
The flat edge of this spoon allows me to get at all of the seeds, even those in the corner, of the pan.
After 5 minutes, the seeds begin to take on a tawny color. You can stop toasting at this point, but I like to go a bit darker.
The darker the seeds are, the nuttier your horchata will taste. After about 8-10 minutes, my seeds are toasted to my preference.
Remove the pan from the stove to allow the seeds time to cool slightly.
How long can I store the ajonjolí once they’re toasted?
Once you toast your sesame seeds, you can begin soaking them straight away or store them for later.
To store your toasted seeds:
- Allow the seeds to cool completely.
- Transfer the seeds to an air-tight container.
- Store the seeds in a cool, dark area of the kitchen for up to 6 months.
Don’t store the seeds while they are warm, or steam will develop in the container. That condensation can cause mold to develop or may make your seeds rancid. Either way, it’s no bueno. Just give the seeds ample time to cool before putting them away.
And don’t forget, you need to warm them up slightly before using them in this recipe when you get around to it. Just shake the seeds onto a sheetpan and warm them in a 300°F (149°C) oven for 5 minutes.
What other recipes can I use them in?
Again, sesame seeds are versatile. Use them to garnish your bagels, loaves of bread, or rolls. Or, toss them onto steamed white rice.
Top this Miso-Ginger Salmon with them. Or blend them to make a homemade Tahini to use in this Tahini Sauce recipe.
How do I flavor the Sesame Seed Milk?
I flavor my horchata de ajonjolí with whole spices. Cinnamon, star anise, and cloves are the spices I use the most. They don’t give the horchata strong flavors, either. In fact, to date, no one who has had this drink is able to tell what spices I use. The spices give a warm undertone of flavor to sesame seed milk. You can add these to the pan towards the final 3 minutes of toasting the seeds to release their flavors.
I prefer to add them to the soaking pitcher and cover them with the hot seeds. Just add them to the pitcher and cover them, so the residual heat from the seeds warms them up.
If you don’t have or aren’t a fan of any of the spices, you can omit one or the other. You can also leave the spices out altogether for a purer sesame flavor.
How long do I need to soak the seeds?
Add warm (110°F or 43°C) filtered water to the pitcher with seeds and spices. You can warm the water in the microwave or on the stove until steaming. The purpose of the warm water is to jumpstart the softening of the seeds and spices. Stir the seeds in the water to make sure they’re not clumped together.
Cover the pitcher with a lid or a towel to keep dust from floating into it. Soak the seeds for no less than 3 hours. I always soak mine overnight because it’s easier and imparts the most flavor. Three hours is the minimum, though.
Can I puree them in the blender?
Use an immersion blender to puree the seeds and the spices into small bits after the seeds have soaked. I transfer my seeds from the covered pitcher to a mixing bowl for ease. If you have a plastic pitcher, feel free to blend the seeds directly in that. If you went with the minimum soak time, your larger spices might not break all the way down. That’s a result of them not soaking long enough to soften. It’s okay. Just puree the mixture for 2-3 minutes anyway.
I prefer to use an immersion blender because it’s less hassle and results in fewer dishes. If you don’t have an immersion blender, carefully pour the contents of the bowl or pitcher into a standard blender and blend until the larger spices are broken down.
Pour the contents of the bowl into a fine-mesh sieve lined with a clean kitchen or tea towel. Alternatively, you can pour the mixture into a nut bag and strain the milk off that way.
If you choose the former, use a rubber spatula to press the milk from the sesame seeds. Next, to extract the horchata that remains, gather the corners of your towel and twist the towel to squeeze out as much as you can.
Discard what remains in the towel or the bag, or add it to your compost bin. Don’t worry about the seeds germinating there. Most compost piles are too warm for that to happen.
How do I sweeten the Horchata de Ajonjolí?
To sweeten your horchata (and add more creaminess), pour the strained milk into a bowl with a can of sweetened condensed milk. I like to add a splash of vanilla extract to the mix as well.
Use the immersion blender (or the standard blender) to combine the two milks completely. This will only take 1 minute.
How can I make this Sesame Seed Milk vegan?
It’s easy to convert this horchata de ajonjolí to truly plant-based milk. Just replace the condensed cow’s milk with sweetened condensed coconut milk or soy milk. No other changes are necessary.
You can also omit the condensed milk altogether and sweeten the sesame seed milk with plain sugar, brown sugar, maple syrup, honey, or agave. Each of these would be added to taste. The final result won’t be as creamy but will still taste great.
How do I serve it?
Serve this sesame seed milk as you would regular milk. The twins drink it like they do cow’s milk. I prefer it extra chilly, so I pour mine over ice.
Add this horchata de ajonjolí to your morning coffee, tea, or to your smoothies. Its creamy taste is faintly reminiscent of peanut butter, only better. Speaking of which, adding a spoonful of chocolate syrup to horchata de ajonjolí makes for a dope peanut butter-chocolate type of drink for the kiddos. That’s especially awesome if your children have peanut allergies.
How long can I store Sesame Seed Milk?
Store the sesame seed milk in a covered container in the fridge for 5 to 7 days.
Because the milk separates as it sits, remember to give a swirl with a spoon or whisk before serving it.
Can I freeze it?
I freeze horchata de ajonjolí all the time. In fact, I make a full batch just to freeze into ice cubes, which I later add to my iced coffee.
To freeze yours, just pour it into ice cube trays or into a freezer bag with a very tight seal. If you freeze the horchata lying down, you can stand it up once it’s frozen. It takes up less space in the freezer that way. Sesame seed milk freezes for 6 months. Thaw it in the fridge (set inside a dish to catch any leaks) and stir it before serving.
So? Oat milk is so 2020 now, right? Sesame Seed Milk is where the cool kids are hanging out. Let me know in the comments what you think of this recipe.
Be sure to share this horchata de ajonjolí with your friends and family. And don’t forget to pin it to your drinks board, too!
Sesame Seed Milk (Horchata de Ajonjolí)at Sense & Edibility
- immersion blender
- 1 1/2 cups (200 grams) raw hulled sesame seeds
- 1 3-inch cinnamon stick
- 1 star anise pod
- 4 whole cloves
- 6 cups (1 1/2 liters) water
- 1 14-ounce (396 grams) can sweetened condensed milk
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract optional
Toast the Sesame Seeds
- Pour the seeds into a wide, shallow skillet that's at least 10-inches wide. Heat the pan over medium-low heat while using a flat wooden spoon to shift the seeds around in the pan.
- Continue gently heating and toasting the sesame seeds, shifting them frequently in the pan and ensuring the seeds remain in an even layer.After 5 minutes, the seeds begin to take on a tawny color. You can stop toasting at this point or, for a more pronounced flavor continue toasting.
- After about 8-10 minutes, the seeds will emit a nutty scent and will be the color of caramel. Remove the pan from the stove to allow the seeds time to cool slightly.
Soak and Flavor the Toasted Seeds
- Once the sesame seeds are toasted, add them, along with the cinnamon stick, star anise, and cloves to 1-gallon pitcher. Pour water that's been warmed in the microwave to 110°F (or 43°C) over the seeds and spices in the pitcher. Stir the seeds in the water to make sure they're not clumped together.
- Cover the pitcher with a lid or a towel, and allow the seeds to soak and soften for no less than 3 hours, or overnight for the best results.
Blend and Finish the Sesame Seed Milk
- Use an immersion blender to puree the seeds and the spices into small bits after the seeds have soaked or for 2-3 minutes. Pour the blended contents of the bowl into a fine-mesh sieve lined with a clean kitchen or tea towel.
- Use a rubber spatula or the back of a spoon to press the milk from the sesame seeds. Next, gather the corners of your towel and twist the towel to squeeze out as much of the remaining milk as you can.Discard what remains in the towel.
- Pour the strained milk into a bowl with a can of sweetened condensed milk and the vanilla extract Use the immersion blender to combine the two milks completely. This will only take 1 minute.
- Refrigerate for 2-3 hours or until completely chilled. Serve this sesame seed milk as you would regular milk. Sesame Seed Milk naturally separates. Be sure to give it a shake or a vigorous stir before serving.
- Be sure to use hulled raw sesame seeds. Unhulled seeds will make your sesame seed milk taste bitter.
- If you're using pre-toasted sesame seeds for this recipe, be sure to warm them for 5-8 minutes in a 300°F (149°C).
- Don't store the toasted sesame seeds while they are warm, or steam will develop in the container.
- Add this horchata de ajonjolí to your morning coffee, tea, or smoothies.
- Freeze the sesame seed milk into ice cubes to add to your iced coffee.
Swaps and Substitutions:
- Use 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon and a pinch of ground cloves in place of the whole spices.
- To make vegan sesame milk, replace the sweetened condensed milk with sweetened condensed coconut or soy milk.
- Omit the condensed milk altogether and sweeten the sesame seed milk with plain sugar, brown sugar, maple syrup, honey, or agave to taste. The final result won't be as creamy but will still taste great.
- If you don't have an immersion blender, puree the sesame seeds and water in a standard blender.
Storage and Freezing Instructions:
- To Store Toasted Sesame Seeds:
- Allow the seeds to cool completely.
- Transfer the seeds to an air-tight container.
- Store the seeds in a cool, dark area of the kitchen for up to 6 months.
- Store the sesame seed milk in a covered container in the fridge for 5 to 7 days.
To freeze horchata de ajonjolí:
- Pour the sesame seed milk into ice cube trays or into a freezer bag with a very tight seal.
- Freeze for up to 6 months.
- Thaw it in the fridge (set inside a dish to catch any leaks) and stir it before serving.
I love horchata so I KNEW I had to try this! It’s so simple to make and tastes amazing!
I’m so glad you liked it, Chenée!
Thanks for this recipe! I had never attempted horchata at home and LOVE your version–even froze a 1/2 batch into ice cubes per your recommendation!
So glad you did the ice cube trick! You’ll see how amazing it makes your iced coffee or tea!
Would it work if black sesame seeds are use instead of the white sesame seeds?
It would, but the flavor will taste a smidge like licorice and the color will be grey.
Roasting the sesame seeds really gave the milk a full-bodied nutty flavor that I deeply enjoyed!! This was beautiful and I will definitely make more!
So glad to hear that, Kaluhi! Thanks for stopping by!
I love horchata but never before had it made with sesame seeds. I love this nutty flavor from toasting them and since star anise is one of my favorite spices I added some more ground star anise at the end. This was so good and is going to be my new way of making horchata for sure.
Love that you even HAVE ground star anise!
I always learn something new from you. This sounds wonderfully refreshing.
My work here is… in progress! =o)