Gomasio is a simple condiment that typically consists of ground sesame seeds mixed with salt. Variations can include seaweed, but it does not get more complicated than that in most cases. Gomasio is most commonly associated with the macrobiotic diet; however, you can use it in any applications where you want a light umami flavor and saltiness. If you cannot find gomasio near you or need a fast emergency replacement, try one of the gomasio substitutes below.
Your best bet: Make your own gomasio
Because it is such a simple seasoning blend, you can make gomasio yourself without too much trouble. Sesame seeds and salt are easy to find and relatively inexpensive. You can add a little sugar or some wakame seaweed if you want to enhance the basic blend, but both of those last two ingredients are optional.
Start out by toasting the sesame seeds to get the right flavor. If you include seaweed, you will want to toast that as well before crumbling it with the salt. The grinding process is the hard part, but you can handle it with a food processor or spice grinder.
If you want to keep your gomasio traditional, use a suribachi. Suribachis are Japanese mortars that come with a pestle. Unlike the Western equivalent, a suribachi has little grooves that make them more effective for grinding things like sesame seeds.
A decent second choice: Shichimi togarashi
Shichimi togarashi is another Japanese condiment that contains sesame seeds. You will often see it used in the same way that you would use gomasio. Use it as a condiment for your rice and vegetables. Shichimi togarashi is otherwise known as Japanese seven spice powder.
Shichimi togarashi contains pungent spices, so its flavor profile is sharp and complex. Its sharpness and complexity make it noticeably different from gomasio’s simplicity. Keep in mind that the typical shichimi togarashi blend contains chili pepper, sansho pepper and hemp seeds among other ingredients. It will provide the same nuttiness and crunch that you get from gomasio while enhancing the umami notes in your food the way gomasio would.
In a pinch: Furikake
Furikake is a relatively modern Japanese seasoning blend that bears some similarity to gomasio. It was invented as a nutritional supplement for people living in post-WWII Japan and as such is designed to provide nutrition along with flavor. It has gomasio’s saltiness along with umami elements from the bonito flakes, seaweed and sesame seeds that it contains.
Bonito is the distinctive ingredient in furikake. Bonito is a relative of the tuna. When it is being used to make furikake, the bonito is dried and then soaked in soy sauce after which it is dried again. The bonito flakes only make furikake lightly briny rather than fishy. Furikake serves a similar role as gomasio in that it is a traditional seasoning for plain rice and onigiri.
Sesame seeds by themselves will provide much of the flavor that want from gomasio. Remember to toast the seeds before adding them to your dish.
Za’atar seasoning is a Middle Eastern spice blend that relies heavily on sesame seeds the way that the Japanese seasonings above do. Along with the sesame seeds, it contains oregano and sumac so it will not be a perfect match for gomasio’s flavor profile; however, it will provide some of the same notes. Despite the differences, it should work with many of the dishes in which gomasio would be used.