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Gomaae‘s nutty, sweet, and aromatic dressing makes this one of the most popular dishes at any Japanese restaurant. You’re probably familiar with spinach gomaae, but anything dressed with a sesame sauce is gomaae, so go nuts (or in this case, go seeds!) with any combination of vegetables, meats, or fish to create a unique and beautiful salad.

Steamed mustard greens gomaae

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 2 bunches spinach, washed
  • Ground roasted sesame seeds
  • Sugar or honey
  • Soy Sauce
  • Sesame oil

Dressing Variations

Recipe 1

Recipe 2

Recipe 3

Recipe 4

Ground roasted sesame seeds 3 Tbsp 4 Tbsp 3 Tbsp 4 Tbsp
Sugar or honey 3 Tbsp 2 Tbsp 1 ½ Tbsp 1 Tbsp
Soy Sauce 2 Tbsp. 1 ½ tsp 1 ½ Tbsp 1 Tbsp
Sesame oil 3 Tbsp ¾  – 1 tsp

Gomaae dressing runs the gamut from very sweet to quite salty. Sweetness runs from highest in recipe 1 to lowest in recipe 4. You can also alter the texture with amounts of sesame to liquid ingredients, resulting in anything from dry and crumbly, to a thick and pasty, to thin and watery in texture. That will depend on the grind of your seeds, and whether or not you use sugar or honey as a sweetener. It all really depends on your taste and the ingredients you’re pairing with, so play around with any of these variations, and alter them to your liking.


  1. Boil the greens. In a large pot, boil plenty of salted water. Drop in washed leaves and boil until just wilted, about 1 – 2 minutes.
  2. Drain and squeeze. Drain wilted leaves into a colander and plunge into a large bowl of icy cold water. Once cooled, drain them again and then squeeze out the water (be quite firm). The leaves will be much smaller in size – don’t be surprised. Set aside.
  3. Roast the sesame seeds. If your sesame seeds are not already pre-roasted, dry roast them in a frying pan. Heat a frying pan to medium, and drop in the sesame seeds without any oil. Swirl and keep them moving over medium heat until they become golden and give off a nutty aroma.
  4. Grind the sesame and make the dressing. Grind the seeds (see below for details), measure the amount of ground seeds you require, and mix with the other dressing ingredients until the sugar is dissolved.
  5. Serve either by mixing the dressing and spinach together and then portioning into loose piles in individual bowls, or take a little extra time and shape the squeezed greens into a thick log-shape, and cut into individual portion sizes, topping each with a little goma dressing.

Good to Know:

  • For a quick cheat, use a pre-made sesame dressing. Try sesame shabu shabu dipping sauce for a creamy dressing similar to what you might find in a restaurant.
  • Want more liquid in your dressing without adding more salty soy sauce or greasy sesame oil? Try adding mirin.

How to grind sesame seeds

There are a variety of ways to grind the sesame seeds. Mortar and pestle is the traditional method, but you can also use a (clean!) coffee grinder, food processer, or crush them with a rolling pin on a cutting board (or in a zippered bag, to reduce mess). Each method will give a different texture, but they’ll all taste great. The idea is to crack open the seeds and release their aroma, so don’t bust a gut trying to achieve a smooth paste unless you’re dead-set on that texture.

Gomaae Variations:

Green bean gomaae

Steam or boil green beans al dente and then toss with gomaae dressing. Plunging the beans into ice water once they’re just cooked will prevent overcooking. This is my favourite gomaae dish, but you can also substitute green beans with any other steamed vegetable.

Sauteed mushroom gomaae

Sautee any kind of mushroom you like in a little bit of oil or butter. Toss with gomaae sauce and serve warm for a truly fragrant dish.

Tuna tataki with gomaae sauce

Sashimi-grade tuna can easily be made into tuna tataki. Get a frying pan nice and hot, and add a little vegetable oil to prevent sticking. Using tongs, carefully sear each surface (don’t forget the ends!) of the tuna for 10 – 20 seconds, until it releases from the pan. Use a very sharp knife and slice the tuna with one smooth motion – the more you wiggle the knife back and forth when slicing, the tougher the texture becomes. Toss or dredge in the dressing and arrange on its own or with greens.

Reader ParticipATE-tion:

Check out what readers have made using the above recipes – and see their comments below to hear about their experience.

Spinach Gomaae

Katie's Spinach Gomaae - submitted on September 8, 2011

Rhoda's gomaae - step 2 (Photo: A. Miller)

Rhoda's final product - re-imagined with enoki mushrooms (Photo: A. Miller)

Erika's gomaae in process

Erika's gomaae - with a lovely (edible!) centerpiece

Check out what readers have made at a FEEDback potluck.

Rhoda's spinach gomaae might have been out-shone by her inventive gomaae bean display - Photo credit: Robert Shaer (