The sesame seeds used to make gomashio may be either tan or black in color. They are toasted before being mixed together with the salt. Occasionally the salt is also toasted. The ratio of sesame seeds to salt varies according to taste and diet, generally ranging between 5:1 (5 parts sesame seeds to 1 part salt) and 15:1. Gomashio is often homemade, though it is also commercially available in glass or plastic containers.
Gomashio is also a part of the macrobiotic diet, where it is used as a more healthful alternative to ordinary salt. Generally, the gomashio used in macrobiotic cuisine will contain less salt than traditional Japanese gomashio (a ratio of 18 parts sesame seeds to 1 part salt is recommended for some individuals with a particularly restricted diet) and made by hand grinding in a suribachi.
Gomashio is also used in the Japanese language to refer to describe a head of hair containing both gray and black hair strands that intermingle, similar to the English idiom "salt and pepper".