Sesame candy (Semsemiyeh)

November 10, 2009  •  Category: ,


This is a candy that was the delight of my childhood. We would buy it from cart vendors and eat it rapturously. Those were the good old days when the market was not saturated with one zillion varieties of candies and chips. It is fairly simple to make. Toasting the sesame seeds in the oven, then making a syrup, then mixing the two and cooling the mixture.

The big advantage of this recipe is that the candy is barely sweet, does not feel extra sticky or hard (like it is going to root out all your teeth) and taste delicious, if you like the taste of sesame seeds, that is.

Health benefits are also plentiful. Sesame seeds contain ( among others) copper, iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, fiber  and  are really healthy to eat. I keep mine in the freezer in a plastic bag otherwise they will eventually turn rancid.

This recipe comes from a magazine in Arabic I picked up while in Beirut called milh wa soukkar.

INGREDIENTS: This quantity will make 44 small pieces of candy.

  • 1 1/2 cups sesame seeds
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon of orange blossom water or vanilla (optional)
  • 1 8 or 9 inch square pan, greased with one tablespoon of tahini and one teaspoon of oil


  1. After cleaning and drying the sesame seeds (if it looks like they need it), place them in a cookie sheet in a medium oven to toast for a few minutes, until they are fragrant and golden.
  2. When they are toasted to your liking (about 10 to 15 minutes) , remove from the oven and set aside in a bowl.
  3. In a saucepan, place the sugar and pour the water and lemon juice. Boil for about 20 minutes until a candy thermometer registers 240F (softball stage).
  4. Immediately pour the syrup onto the sesame seeds, sprinkling the flavoring if using, and with a wooden spoon, mix the two thoroughly.
  5. Pour the sesame mixture onto the pan. Use a piece of wax paper or foil to flatten the surface without burning your fingers. Cool 5 minutes.
  6. Score the candy with a knife, drawing lines across the pan, forming squares or lozanges. Cut individual pieces. Wrap in plastic and store in a covered container  for several weeks.

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23 Comments  •  Comments Feed

  1. sabah says:

    They look perfect, exactly like by the vendors, I used to eat it when I was a child, oh you took me back to the nice times. It has been so long since I eat it. I may try the recipe, thanks for sharing.

  2. Arlette says:

    oh wow…
    yummy, easy and a good treat for the Holiday Season.
    thanks dear for sharing.

  3. capresso coffee make says:

    You can not find this wonderful candy just any where any more. I am glad I finally found your recipe. I have not had this in years.

  4. Joanne says:

    I have had this candy before and absolutely love it! I am a sucker for sesame seeds. Thanks for the recipe!

  5. Julia @ Mélanger says:

    Delicious indeed. I buy candy like this all the time – love it. I will have to make it!

  6. Sophie says:

    Wow,…the sesame candy loooks excellent! Great to give as Foodie gifts in the Chritsmas time!

  7. says:

    Thanks for stopping by my blog.

    I had a quick look through your blog and it looks delicious. I really want to make the biscotti soon. Your Tabbouleh recipe looks delicious too. I have a good Lebanese friend who I force to make it for me when he visits!

    These sesame sweets look great too. I agree that there are a lot of health benefits to sesame seeds. I might have to give these a try.

  8. Alépine says:

    Merci beaucoup pour cette recette tout en images ! Ma mère aimait beaucoup cette confiserie qu’elle mangeait en Syrie, je vais pouvoir en faire maintenant ! En France, on peut trouver le même genre dans les épiceries asiatiques, mais c’est toujours meilleur fait maison.

    • Joumana says:

      Alépine, effectivement c’est mille fois meilleur fait maison. ça ne colle pas aux dents, et ce n’est pas rance! Mais la prochaine fois, je vais les cuire un peu plus longtemps (les graines au four) pour qu’elles roussissent plus.

  9. spice says:

    Thanks joumana, i should try these soon….but may be without orange blossom/vanilla. But tell me is there any way to figure out when it comes to softball stage…..I don’t own candy thermometer….your candy looks so perfect….I miss it so much specially like it in the winter time…

    • Joumana says:

      Hi Spice
      I guess if you time it it will take 10 minutes from the time you boil the sugar syrup. Try it by taking a tiny spoon and taking a tiny bit of syrup and dropping it on a plate. If you notice that it is viscous and has the consistency of jelly then it is ready! Time it while you are doing it so you can remember next time. Another method is to pinch the syrup between your fingers and see if it forms a ball when you rub it. The only problem is it might burn your fingers!

  10. Mona says:

    They look so perfectly done!

  11. Dana says:

    My dad used to buy a version of these candies and eat them slowly each night. They were one of his small pleasures. I would love an opportunity to make them for him for the holidays. Thank you so much for posting this recipe!

  12. Peter says:

    Us Greeks call this Pasteli and it’s a wonderful and healthy treat…any left?

  13. Sarah says:

    I just made this and it’s delicious. Thanks for the recipe… I know that when I try one of your recipes it will turn out great.

  14. Tea says:

    You are right Joumana, the Greeks make it with honey. I am Greek born in Egypt and I remember with delight the simsimiya and also the hommoseya…! Thanks for the recipe. Do you have the hommoseya recipe too???

    • Joumana says:

      @Tea: I have never heard of the hommoseya; my dad was born and raised in Cairo and had a lot of Greek friends growing up (in fact he speaks some Greek), so I will ask him to refresh his memory. He got in contact with a group of people who were like him from Egypt of those days and they put up a pamphlet with all the foods they used to it so I will look at it and see if I can find it!

  15. Linda says:

    Can these be frozen?

  16. Jaqueline says:

    I made this and it is dry and super sweet. Not sure what went wrong? Help! I wanted it soft…

  17. joumana says:

    @Jaqueline I am making it again today. Will be able to tweak or add to the recipe. If it was dry, it means the sugar was cooked too long. If you make it, use a candy thermometer and cook the syrup only till soft ball stage. As for too sweet, reduce the sugar.

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