Ka3ek bel semsem (sesame bread)

 Ka3ek bel semsem or sesame bread is a traditional bread popular in the Levant countries (Palestine, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon). Many start their day buying one of these from bakeries or carts selling it in the street. If you pass through any of the old streets of Amman  in the early morning, you are bound to hear  ” toasty toasty ka’aek” being called out from an old man driving his cart, greeting you with a smile and a wish for a wonderful morning. If you stop by, you can buy this sesame bread plain or as a sandwich filled with cheese, zaatar, falafel or oven baked eggs.

The shape of this sesame bread can vary from a ring to an elongated oval to a shape similar to an american football.The ring shaped ones look a little like Turkish simit  but this bread is a yeast bread while the Turkish Simit is unleavened (does not utilize yeast or any other leavening agent.) Ka3ek bel semsem of sesame bread is one of a variety of baked goods that celebrate sesame seeds. I have fond memories of watching my grandmother  make something called karakesh which is similar to a sesame cracker but it is sweet and shaped into round disks  (I will share the recipe soon). Making this bread always reminds me of my grandmother, I smell toasted sesame and I am a kid again sitting in her kitchen on a cold winter morning watching her toast sesame till it is golden brown and steaming hot.

I came across this recipe on Lakii forum, they were celebrating a month for the city of Jerusalem, many actually call this the Jerusalem sesame crusted bread rings. I followed the recipe except for adding vinegar to the dough and the egg wash in the topping because I was worried it would smell a little eggy. The vinegar did the job beautifully and all you can smell is the toasty sesame and the wonderful smell of freshly baked bread

Sesame bread (Ka3ek bel semsem)

You can find a printable version of the recipe here

3 to 3 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

3 eggs

2 tablespoons powdered milk (see notes)

3/4 to 1 cup warm water (it should feel slightly warm to the touch not hot)

1 teaspoon vinegar

1 table spoon yeast

1 tablespoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

For the topping

1 egg beaten

1 teaspoon vinegar

sesame seeds

Anise seeds (optional)


Proof the yeast by mixing it with the sugar and 3/4 cup water. The yeast should bubble and foam, if it doesn’t you need to discard it and start over with new yeast.

In a bowl add the flour, salt ,powdered milk, eggs and vinegar. Rub the eggs into the flour with your finger tips.

Add the yeast water mixture and knead the dough for 10 minutes till you get a smooth slightly sticky dough (you may or may not need to add more water depending on the type of flour you use).

Place the dough in a slightly oiled bowl, cover it and allow it to rise in a warm place till it doubles in size

Cut the dough into 4 parts

Roll out each part into a rectangle.

Using your finger tips roll the dough starting with the long side of the rectangle.

Form the dough into a ring or elongated oval shape

Add the vinegar to the beaten eggs, bake to combine (the vinegar is added to prevent your baked bread from smelling eggy)

Spread the sesame seeds on a flat plate

Dip the dough ring into the beaten egg and then dip it in the sesame seeds

Allow to rest for 10 minutes while you preheat the oven to 270 C or as high as your oven can go

Place the dough on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 5-7 minutes on 270 then lower the heat to 200 and bake till the bottom is golden brown (this requires another 7- 10 minutes)

Turn on the broiler for a couple of minutes to allow the top to become golden brown

Cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes

Enjoy warm or cool with a cup of tea



If you don’t have powdered milk just replace the water in the recipe with liquid milk

The amount of flour you will need will differ with the type of flour you use

The topping is traditionally only sesame but you can add some anise seeds or fennel seeds if you want

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  1. What a stunningly delicious bread which I would love with soup :)

    Choc Chip Uru

  2. The way you describe and the photos you include in this recipe make it sound not only delicious but, how shall I put it, attemptable. I miss hot bread shops from my London days – they were mostly Turkish or Cyrpiot in my area, and the aroma is unbeatable.

  3. Waou…thanks for the recipe, I like it! It looks really delicious. Thanks and have a nice day! I’ll give it a try for sure inchAllah.

  4. This bread looks so interesting.. have recently overcome my fear for yeast.. so always on the lookout for new recipes from distant lands… and i love the texture!!!

  5. That is amazing looking bread – it looks so light and fluffy inside. Really want to try this one soon!

  6. This bread is a show stopper! I LOVE the last shot of the crumb, all circular and making me dream about its taste


  7. That crumb is just beautiful. Also, I think the bread gods are nudging me. Nia just had a photo of a big stack of these.

    • I have to check out Nia’s picture, I was actually thinking I need to get a couple of pictures of this in the bakeries or on one of the carts I see in the morning

  8. This bread is absolutely gorgeous – I really love the inside texture.

  9. These look fantastic!

  10. Once you rip inside that bread…. WOW! This looks absolutely wonderful.

  11. What a gorgeous and intriguing bread, Sawsan.

  12. At first glance I thought these were bagels but they sound even tastier! I love the spiraled crumb inside. Beautiful pictures too! Thanks for sharing.

  13. mjskit

     /  May 8, 2012

    This bread looks amazing! I thought it was going to be more bagel like then I saw the insides – WOW! Please send me a dozen!

  14. Oh, those sweet little hands holding the bread! Brought tears and precious memories to me. These look like bagels, but appear to be much lighter in texture. I love sesame seeds and breads together!

    • Sorry I brought tears to your eyes Judy, at least they were accompanied with precious memories. I know the bread may look like bagels but it is so different from it in taste and texture

  15. Another recipe post that you can bet you will be seeing on my blog, Sawsan. I LOVE this, everything about it, particularly the flaky, buttery looking inside! Mouth watering, for sure! And surprising it doesn’t take any yeast…it must be the eggs that give it that gorgeous texture and rise! Are the four rounds individual servings? or are they large enough to serve more than one? I am just trying to determine if I cut the recipe in half or 1/3 or leave it as is!

    • Totally missed the yeast when I first read the ingredients through! None-the-less, it is an incredible bread that I shall make this weekend!

      • No worries Eva :) I actually went back to the post thinking I missed writing the yeast in the ingredients.
        I look forward to hearing what you think of the bread

      • I made the entire recipe yesterday Sawsan and it is amazing, thank you! The bread literally doubled in bulk and it was chewy and lite and very tasty. We’re having it for breakfast this morning. I shall make this again. Other than the kneading for ten minutes (which I had my KitchenAid do) it was super easy. And my Mom’s husband said they looked like ornaments, they were so beautiful! Thanks again and again.
        And thank you Maria for the tip about the volume of eggs. That will certainly come in handy.

      • I was waiting for your feedback on the recipe Eva and I am so glad that you and your family enjoyed it to the extent that you will make it again. I usually turn any left overs into croutons with some herbs de provance and paprika and a drizzle of olive oil, the only problem is me and the kids eat most of them as a snack and few make it into salads or stews

      • I made this again for the progressive dinner as a last minute bread (started at 5 for a 7:15 dinner!) and I am so glad I did. It was so well received. I made half the recipe and I baked it French Stick style. All but three slices remained and I think people left the three so they wouldn’t look like pigs! Thanks again, Sawsan, this recipe is a total keeper for me!

      • You are most welcome Eva
        In fact I am the one who should thank you for making a recipe of mine for your dinner. Really glad your guests enjoyed it :)

    • Thank you Eva, the rounds are about 20 cm across, I always have trouble halfing recipes with an odd number of eggs. I think if you want to divide 3 eggs you would use one egg and one egg yolk, that is what we did in one of our daring bakers challenges, I hope it helps and I really can’t wait to hear your feedback

      • The average large egg is 1/4 cup of liquid. If you want to halve the recipe, beat one of the eggs slightly and remove 2 tbsp of liquid to use in your recipe as 1/4 cup of liquid = 4 tbsps. :)

      • Thank you so much for sharing this great tip

  16. Love the layered look of the bread. The oven baked eggs you mention above is that the same as the 5-hour baked eggs?

    • Yes they are, remember when you posted the recipe for oven baked eggs I told you about this special bread that bakeries sell with the oven baked eggs? this is the one

  17. Wow, I have always been in love with turkish simit and for instance I thought this is exactly that, I am only glad to realise from the recipe that your bread would actually taste better! In fact Sawsan, I will definitely try this out as I bet my daughter would love it as a snack:-)..thank u dear for sharing.

    • I too have been looking for a recipe for simit forever, my friend sent me a recipe the other day and I can’t wait to try it. Will let you know how it goes.
      I can’t wait to hear what you and your little angel think of this one Jehanne

  18. I’ve never heard to this before…looks great! Looks very similar to a bagel.

  19. So entirely heavenly Sawsan. I am very intrigued by this beautiful toasty bread. I love the pic with your child’s hands holding the bread. It’s precious.

  20. The bread looks amazing inside and outside. I’d probably smear some unsalted butter on it while it was still warm and eat the whole thing at one sitting. :)

  21. What a great recipe and what a beautiful history behind it!!!

  22. This bread looks like the perfect morning or afternoon snack. I just love bread and think it’s the perfect snack for me. I can almost smell it now. And I love the picture with your daughter’s hands. :) So precious.

    • Thank you so much Kristy, I love that picture too :)
      Bread is the perfect snack for me too, morning or afternoon and there is so much you can do with it, sandwiches, salads, use it with dips

  23. This is so pretty! I didn’t see, but did you explain why you used light instead of dark seeds?

  24. Nami | Just One Cookbook

     /  May 9, 2012

    I just drooled. My goodness this sesame bread looks so good! I thought it looks like bagel but inside doesn’t look like bagel too! I’ll be out of control in front of these goodies!

    • I lose control in front of this bread too, it is so easy to snack on a little piece then another then another and before you know it the whole thing is gone!

  25. The sesame bread looks addictive, I shall try out your recipe, thanks for sharing. :)

  26. The texture inside just looks amazing, Sawsan. Light and almost croissant-like. Gorgeous.

    • Thank you Courtney, the inside is actually the kids’ favorite part, when I make the elongated oval ones they cut them into pieces and dunk them in tea or milk

  27. Omg…the 2nd and last shot of the inside of the bread…officially drooling. Looks like the perfect texture. Can’t.stop.staring!

  28. I am surely going to try this one, it actually looks quite simple really and what a beautiful light result! lovely.. c

  29. What a perfect sesame bread, Sawsan! It looks so light and fluffy on the inside and perfectly golden brown. Great job!

  30. This bread looks so good and delicious! Beautiful pictures!

  31. That looks some fantastic bread right there Sawsan – really fantastic texture and I’d love to eat the crust with all those crispy sesame seeds. The shape of the round one reminds me a bit of a bagel, hehe

    • Hello Charles, the shape seems to remind everyone of a bagel :)
      This is the bread I told you about when you posted the baked eggs, only the bakeries bake their eggs in a big brick oven

      • aaaah, I remember… wonderful. I wish they would sell these types of bread here!

  32. i heart sesame seeds! So much so that I put them in everything- stir-fry, bread, muffins- even cookies. i just like the extra little crunch and texture they add to something. this bread looks out of this world delicious-

  33. I’m mesmerized how airy that bread is. Just want to break a piece and dip into some honey or jam. Beautifully done Sawsan :)

  34. Deeps @ Naughty Curry

     /  May 11, 2012

    looks so pretty… love sesame crusted breads :)

  35. My mouth is watering just reading about the bread stuffed with all those wonderful things and seeing your photos- They look so delicious! I pinned and marked these to try soon!

  36. Oh I just can not wait to try this; I can almost smell the fragrance in my kitchen now. I love the way you cover the intersection of food and culture so poignantly in your post and I am exceptionally envious of your fantastic photography.

  37. Anonymous

     /  May 13, 2012

    Very delicious

  38. Toasty sesame seeds are such a comforting smell! I love your description here. It sounds simply beautiful.

  39. Victoria

     /  June 1, 2012

    Wow!! I had to make these as soon as I saw this. Fantastic. I didn’t use any milk and I added some whole wheat flour. They came out beautiful and delicious. Almost like a NY Bagel! Thank you.

  40. Buzzer

     /  June 2, 2012

    Hi, this looks awesome and thanks a lot for the recipe! my question is, with the recipe you listed how many Ka3ek would I be able to make? Thank you!!

  41. this looks sooo yummy… i love the sesame seeds all over it.. it makes teh bread so beautiful…:) pinning this on interest ” recipes to try”..

  42. Wow, this looks fabulous and great tutorial on how to make it. I pinned it thanks for the recipe.

  43. Marzdotes

     /  October 7, 2012

    Thank you for posting the recipe for Ka’ak! My husband is from Amman and loves this bread but it is not easy to find in the states. I plan on surprising him with it. My in-laws live in Shmisani.

  44. afaf

     /  November 22, 2012

    Hi sawsan, these looks really stunning and once i saw them, remind me of kaak back home, thanx for posting this recipe, u made my husband’s day, since it is thanxgiving and i donot feel like cooking:)
    one question, u posted vinegar twice for dough and for topping, u added it to the dough, but never added it to topping, my question is what would vinegar do to the dough, or topping, if any??
    i ran out of vinegar so never used it this time, but all turned nice but kinda dark, cuz i need to caliberate my oven, which i did and the final one was almost perfect. now i am boiling some eggs and with hallomi cheese and some tea, dinner will be served in no time!
    thanx a million, Sawsan…next is kubbeh then maamool:D

    • Hello Afaf
      I am so happy that you liked the recipe and it brought back memories of back home :)
      I updated the recipe with the instructions on vinegar. I add vinegar to any dough or topping that has eggs to prevent the baked from smelling eggy.
      Add the vinegar to the beaten eggs and then beat again. Spread the sesame seeds on a flat plate and then dip the dough in the eggs then the seeds.

      I love serving this bread with boiled eggs and zaatar. Next time I am trying it with hallomi!
      I hope you had a wonderful dinner :)

  45. Sara

     /  December 27, 2012

    Thanks for the recipe, but I have my reservations regarding the eggs and milk in your recipe. I am sure the vinegar enhances the dough-flexibility. However, the traditional way to stick the sesame is by brushing the surface with molasses melted in water, instead of the egg white and at the same time it gives it color and crispier bites.

    • Thank you Sara for your note, this is the recipe I got from people living in Jerusalem. They have been making it for generations that way.The crust on this bread is really crisp and as you can see the color is beautiful.
      I will try your molasses tip next time I make this bread and I will let you know how it turns out

  46. Anonymous

     /  March 27, 2013

    OK, I Just wrote submitted a comment on your About Me page, saying how I was looking forward to delving deeper into two years worth of entries… And here I am five minutes later virtually hyperventilating with excitement at this recipe! This is one of the foods I miss most and I can’t wait to try it (right after Passover!) – Thank you so much!

  47. Thanks for posting this recipe!
    I will be trying it this afternoon since I felt like making bread and I love sesame seeds!
    And I will be following the pictures too just in case – I don’t make bread often.
    Thanks again!

  48. Oh my gosh, I am so going to make this. I am trying to justify making it today, even though I have some bread I need to finish first… It will definitely be made this week, though!!

  49. Thank you so much for posting this! I’ve been craving ka3k ib-simsim from the carts as you mention are in the streets of Amman, they are also in Ramallah! Made this today and it was awesome. I was kind of freaked out about putting my oven on 550(f), so I just left it on 475. I think I left them in the oven too long because they weren’t as soft as I would have liked, but still good for the first attempt! :) (Oh, made a hummus platter to go along with it!)

  50. Sara

     /  August 13, 2013

    Dear Sawsan,
    I don’t know what I would do without your blog ~ I love all the recipes and have made many in the past few months since I’ve discovered it!

    Just one question about making this bread: do you toast the sesame seeds before you put them on the dough, or do they get toasted enough in the oven?

    A million thanks for your fantastic blog that has reconnected me with so many recipes I love!

    • Hello Sara
      Thank you kindly for the sweet comment.
      You do toast the sesame before putting them on the dough. You could use untoasted ones but I find that the toasted ones taste butter
      I really hope you will enjoy this bread :)please let me know how it turns out

      • Sara

         /  August 24, 2013

        Ahhh, made it and it came out beautifully! I am now making this recipe regularly in place of buying store-bough bread… Thank you again for sharing your beautiful cooking with us Sawsan! Best wishes ~ S.

  51. Samya

     /  September 20, 2013

    Do you have a video on this ?

  52. Evette

     /  February 20, 2014

    I would like to thank you for the recipe. I’ve been craving for ka3ek and I’ve tried your recipe and was perfect. You made my day.

  53. Margaret H

     /  February 20, 2014

    Just left Jerusalem and fell in love with the large plate size crackers that are sold along side of Ka’ak. They are also topped with sesame seeds and are delicious. Do you know the name? ANd do you have a recipe?

  54. Thanks for posting this recipe , I will be trying it en chaa Allah

  55. Rena Ajalat

     /  September 4, 2014

    Hello –

    Thank you for this recipe. My mom is Palestinian (and grew up in Jordan). She has recently had a craving for kaak. She mentioned it to me and described the street vendors, the smell and the calling out of “Kaak im hahmas”. I was so happy to find your recipe, blog and FB page. I read your blog post on Kaak to her and now she would love to make karakesh. She also has distinct memories of her mom’s version. Your blog is an exciting find.

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