Black Sesame Seed Ice Cream

March  1, 2015
3 Ratings
Photo by Mark Weinberg
  • Makes about a quart
Author Notes

I'm treading on thin ice. I'm in danger of becoming the obnoxious friend who always starts a story with tales of their travels, and this recipe is no different:

When I lived in Japan, I fell in love with black sesame-flavored everything, but my favorite of all was black sesame seed ice cream. We lived a few subway stops over from the city's zoo and botanical gardens, which I visited frequently (thanks to a very reasonably priced annual pass). On nice days I'd often treat myself to a black sesame ice cream cone, but even ordering in Japanese I wasn't always convincing enough. Sometimes the worker would come out of the stand, around to me, and physically point to the picture to make sure I really knew what I was getting myself into. Yes, yes I did. One black sesame ice cream cone, onegaishimasu.

My version is based on a lightly adapted version of Jeni's Ice Cream Base, with a little less sugar, a little more salt, and the addition of black sesame seeds (of course) and vanilla bean seeds. Yes, I'm sure you could substitute a small amount of vanilla extract for the vanilla bean seeds. But it makes my soul sing a little bit to know that some of the flecks are vanilla bean seeds mixing in with the sesame seeds—delight in the little things and all that. —Lindsay-Jean Hard

What You'll Need
  • 1 1/2 ounces cream cheese, softened (3 tablespoons)
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 5 tablespoons black sesame seeds
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1 inch of a vanilla bean, split and scraped
  1. In a medium-large bowl, whisk the cream cheese and salt together until blended and smooth.
  2. Fill a large bowl with ice.
  3. Toast the black sesame seeds in a skillet over medium heat, shaking the pan occasionally. They are done when they start to smell nutty, about 3 to 5 minutes. As soon as they are done, remove the pan from the heat and dump the black sesame seeds into a small food processor.
  4. Process the sesame seeds until they are finely ground and start to release their oil, getting past the point where you are just looking at ground sesame seeds—to the point where they stick to the sides of the food processor bowl. This will take more than 1 minute.
  5. In a small bowl, whisk together about 2 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch to make a smooth slurry.
  6. In a large (4+ quart) saucepan, combine the remaining milk, the cream, sugar, corn syrup, processed black sesame seeds, and the scraped vanilla seeds. Whisk the mixture together, bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat, and boil for 4 minutes. You might be tempted to throw in the split vanilla bean pod pieces too, but know that they will be surprisingly difficult to find and fish out later, so unless you like to make life difficult for yourself, this is not recommended.
  7. Remove the mixture from the heat and gradually whisk in the cornstarch slurry. Then return the saucepan to the heat, bring it back to a boil over medium-high heat, and cook about 1 minute, stirring until the mixture is slightly thickened. Remove from the heat.
  8. Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese until smooth. Pour the mixture into a 1-gallon freezer zip-top bag. If you blatantly ignored my advice and threw in the vanilla bean pod pieces, now is the time to try and remove them. Look for them as you are pouring the mixture into the freezer bag and try to avoid cursing my name. If you are unsuccessful, turn it into a game for your guests, like finding the plastic baby in a King Cake.
  9. Submerge the sealed bag in the bowl of ice and let it stay there until cold, adding more ice as necessary, for about 30 minutes.
  10. Pour the cold ice cream mixture into the ice cream maker and spin until thick and creamy.
  11. Pack the ice cream into a storage container and freeze in the coldest part of your freezer until firm, at least 4 hours.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Clementine Loustric
    Clementine Loustric
  • Laura415
  • Douglas Lee
    Douglas Lee
  • elise maiberger
    elise maiberger
  • Io Fabrica de Dulceturi
    Io Fabrica de Dulceturi
I like esoteric facts about vegetables. Author of the IACP Award-nominated cookbook, Cooking with Scraps.

22 Reviews

Claire T. June 24, 2020
I LOVE this recipe - the flavor is incredible. I've made it adding a couple tsp of orange zest, which I can't recommend enough.
Susie S. December 6, 2018
Hi Lindsay-Jean, I have black sesame seed paste to use in this recipe. How much should I use to sub for the toasted seeds and at which point should I add it? Thank you! I’m really excited to make this for a friend who became addicted to it living in Hong Kong!
Lindsay-Jean H. December 12, 2018
Hi Susie, I'm sorry, I haven't made this recipe with black sesame seed paste before. If you've already made it, how did it turn out? I'd probably use a similar amount and add it at the same point.
Andrea B. July 13, 2017
Can you use honey instead of corn syrup? (Looking to avoid buying a jug of corn syrup that I'll probably never use the rest of)
Lindsay-Jean H. July 13, 2017
I think it's an important part of getting the right texture in non-custard based ice creams. If you can't find a small container of corn syrup, I might recommend looking for an egg-based version of black sesame ice cream instead of trying this one with honey.
Kim March 18, 2017
Thanks for the recipe! I used black sesame powder and it turned out great.
Kim March 18, 2017
Sorry about the spam... :/ Facebook sign in gave an error but it looks like the post went through anyway.
Lindsay-Jean H. March 18, 2017
Nice tweak! Glad you liked it!
Kim March 18, 2017
Thanks for the recipe! I used black sesame powder and it turned out great.
Kim March 18, 2017
Thanks for the recipe! I used black sesame powder and it turned out great.
Matt July 20, 2016
This is Jeni's Ice Cream Base with slightly less sugar. I tried this but up'd the sesame seeds to a generous 1/2 cup. Awesome.
Clementine L. March 17, 2016
Great recipe that makes buying an ice cream maker worth while! Are there any that you could recommend?
Lindsay-Jean H. March 18, 2016
That would be a good question for the Hotline! I use the one that is compatible with my KitchenAid.
Laura415 January 31, 2016
This is sort of "Jenni's" ice cream method. I really don't like the flavor of the cream cheese. I would rather make a custard based ice cream. Can this recipe be modified to a custard base without losing the sesame flavor?
Lindsay-Jean H. March 18, 2016
Sorry I missed this, I think you'd be better off searching for a different recipe that's custard-based to begin with rather than trying to modify this one. Good luck!
Douglas L. August 14, 2015
I first had black sesame ice cream years ago at Zenkichi in Brooklyn, and was completely blown away by it. I've tried other recipes in an attempt to recreate that magic, but with no success.

However, this recipe is absolutely perfect! Processing the seeds until they release their oil is a crucial tip. Thanks so much for this; it's already my son's new favorite ice cream, and I expect I'll be using this recipe for many years to come!
Lindsay-Jean H. August 17, 2015
This makes me so happy to hear, thanks for sharing!
elise M. July 20, 2015
I have a lazy-girl shortcut for this one. Make a basic vanilla batter, the one w/o eggs is easiest and then add black sesame paste from the Japanese specialty shop to the batter and blend. Voila!
Barbara June 21, 2015
Is there a way to make this without an ice cream maker?
Lindsay-Jean H. June 21, 2015
I haven't done so, but if I did, I would follow David Lebovitz's method: Note though that he recommends using that method with custard-based ice creams; since this one isn't, the texture of the final product might be compromised.
Io F. June 17, 2015
you mentioned mixing cornstarch with 2tbs milk but then it was not mixed with the rest of the ingredients - could you please add this?
I will gladly try to make this but I always have issues when using cornstarch, I usually fail the recipe, so I'd rather have advice first
Lindsay-Jean H. June 17, 2015
See step 7!