Stinging Nettle Goma-ae

Nettle Gomaae 1It’s that time of year again! The nettles are back! Grab some gloves and a bag (make sure to brush up on nettle safety here) and get picking! I was able to fill half a plastic bag full of nettle tops in a couple of minutes, the perfect amount for a light lunch.

The great law of stinging nettle recipes is : anything thou wouldst use spinach in, so shalt thou use nettles in kind. With a bit of adjustment for nettle’s harsher flavour, any spinach recipe is up for grabs.

Nettle Gomaae 2Spinach Goma-ae is a very popular dish at Wasabiya and one I’ve made about half a billion times. It’s a beautiful little salad, quick to make, packed full of good stuff and contrasting flavours: Sweet, savoury, slightly bitter and delicate. Nettles would add extra wild ‘n hearty dimension to this Japanese classic.

Nettle Gomaae3The secret to an elegant goma-ae is to use Japanese sesame paste as the foundation for the sauce. You will not get the same flavour from tahini, it has to be real neri goma. The brand that we use, and I recommend (from what my fearless translators tell me) is called Atari Goma from the Ohmura ya company in Osaka. It’s a bit rare to see it at my local Asian specialty food store, but hey… That’s what the internet is for!

Stinging Nettle Goma-ae (Serves 2)


  • ½ Plastic Bag Full of Nettles (roughly 8 cups – loosely packed)
  • 2 Tsp. Toasted White Sesame Seeds (8g)
  • 2 Tsp. Sesame Paste (10ml, make sure to stir it up!)
  • 2 Tsp. Sake (10ml)
  • 1 ½ Tsp. Liquid Honey (7ml)
  • 1 Tbls. Soy Sauce (14ml)



  1. Grab some gloves and pick through the nettles, discarding any bugs, branches or brown leaves. Soak leaves in cold running water for 2-3 minutes and fire up a pot of water over high heat.
  2. Blanch the nettles in boiling water for 5 minutes… I used to think they needed 10 minutes of boiling, but I’ve learned a lot over this past year… Scoop them out with a slotted spoon and immediately douse them in a bowl full of ice water. Loose the gloves. Strain the cooked nettles and squeeze out as much excess liquid as possible.
  3. Grind the sesame seeds until they’re 50/50 solid seeds and sesame dust. You can do this in a mortar and pestle, pulse ‘em in a coffee grinder, or if you have a Japanese suribachi grinder by all means use it.
  4. Mix together the ground sesame seeds, sesame paste, sake, honey and soy sauce in a small bowl. Use a spoon or your fingers to mix ‘n massage the sauce into the nettles. Don’t break it up too much, just enough to get the sauce evenly distributed amongst all that green. Shape into two little Mount Fuji’s of yum and serves garnished with more toasted sesame seeds and shaved yuzu or lime peel.


51HDdwip0IL._SL500_AA300_Music To Cook this To:

Thievery Corporation – Saudade

(Pick it up Here @ Amazon)

5 thoughts on “Stinging Nettle Goma-ae

  1. Great recipe Shawn! I keep reading about the amazing nutritional value of stinging nettle (high in iron, calcium, vitamin A, K, D, and magnesium) but until now have had no idea how to use it! This recipe reminds me of the flavors in seaweed salad, which I love, so I can’t wait to try this! I’ve got the biggest asian supermarket in Toronto around the corner from me, so hopefully I can find some authentic Japanese sesame paste, and some stinging nettle for that matter.

    PS: thanks so much for linking to Protein Buff! Every bit of help for a new blog is huge, so thanks for sharing the love 🙂

    1. I’m sorry it took me so long! Protein Buff is brilliant!
      Good sesame paste might have to be shipped in by interwebs by us Canucks, but nettles are here in abundance! I’d suggest going out on a weekend with somebody who knows the foraging business (like my friend Toni) to find ’em. Having an Obi-Wan is essential.
      I miss Toronto… I wonder if the house Of Gourmet is still standing?
      Anyway, I’ve permalinked your site, and can’t wait for each and every post.
      You are sunshine and applesauce incarnate!
      Big love.

      1. I’d love to meet up with your Obi-Wan Toni if he’s in Toronto. I read a bit about foraging and gorilla gardening in a great book called “The Urban Homestead”, would love to put it into practice!

        According to the world wide web, House of Gourmet is indeed still standing, it’s not too far from me, I’ll have to check it out 🙂

        Thanks again for the praise and the love, blog buddies foreva! 😉 Hope all’s well out there in the west, a trip back east is long overdue my friend!

  2. Funny thing — I was trying to figure out what to do with the pile of awesome stinging nettles I picked a few a days ago… and then a friend mentioned making spinach gomae — and I thought *Nettle would be great this way!*.

    I just finished eating my lunch of stinging nettle gomae and thought — *I need to tell Shawn how good this was*. Then I found this page! I’m sure I read this 7 years ago when you published, but apparently forgot and thought my nettle gomae recipe was going to blow your mind 😉

    Then I saw the comments calling me Obi-Wan Toni — lol.
    Miss you and misses, hope all is well. Hugs!

    1. Hey Obi-Wan.
      I still reference all the foraging/cooking wisdom you’ve imparted to me on a weekly basis!
      My prep cooks think you must be some sort of hermit living somewhere around Snowden picking nettles and magic mushrooms. Let’s never change that!
      Miss you too!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *