I always keep a bottle of sesame oil in my pantry for Asian dressings, sauces, and marinades. It adds this rich, umami flavor like nothing else.
But what exactly is sesame oil?
What is sesame oil?
Sesame oil is a type of oil derived from sesame seeds. Those little seeds are tiny but flavorful!
Sesame seeds are pressed to extract sesame oil, which has a distinct nutty flavor and a characteristic aroma. The color of sesame oil can range from pale yellow to golden brown, depending on the variety and level of processing.
Sesame oil is commonly used in Asian cuisines for stir-frying, dressings, marinades, and sauces. It can also be used as a finishing oil for flavoring soups or noodles.
How is sesame oil made?
Sesame oil is typically made from sesame seeds through a process called cold-pressing.
First, the sesame seeds are cleaned to remove any impurities and then dried.
They are then roasted, which enhances the flavor of the oil.
After roasting, the seeds are ground into a paste or meal. The paste is then pressed using a mechanical expeller or hydraulic press to extract the oil. This extraction method ensures that the oil retains its natural properties and flavors.
The oil is then filtered to remove any remaining solids, resulting in a clear, golden-colored liquid.
Some producers may also use a refining process to further purify the oil…
Types of sesame oil
There are three main types of sesame oil:
Unrefined sesame oil: Also known as “raw” or “virgin” sesame oil, this type is made from mechanically pressed sesame seeds without any additional processing. It retains a rich flavor, nutty aroma, and a golden hue. Unrefined sesame oil is often used as a finishing oil in salads, dressings, and marinades to add flavor.
Refined sesame oil: Refined sesame oil undergoes a refining process that involves removing impurities, including free fatty acids, gums, and pigments. This results in a lighter-colored oil with a milder flavor and higher smoke point. Refined sesame oil is suitable for high-heat cooking methods such as stir-frying, sautéing, and deep-frying, as it can withstand higher temperatures without smoking.
Toasted/dark sesame oil: Toasted sesame oil is made from toasted sesame seeds, imparting a deep, dark brown color and a strong, distinct nutty flavor. It is commonly used as a flavoring agent in Asian cooking, adding a rich and aromatic element to dishes such as stir-fries, noodles, dressings, and dipping sauces. Due to its intense flavor, it is usually added in small amounts as a finishing touch.
Benefits of sesame oil
Sesame oil offers several nutritional benefits. It’s rich in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, which are healthy fats that promote heart health and reduce cholesterol levels.
Sesame oil also is also full of antioxidants, such as a compound called sesamol, vitamin E, and phytosterols.
It is important to note that while sesame oil can enhance the flavor of dishes, it should be used in moderation due to its high caloric content.
Sesame oil nutrition facts
|Serving size||1 tbsp (15mL)|
|Total Fat||13.6 g|
The primary fat source is bolded.
How to cook and bake with sesame oil
Mostly used in Asian cuisine, sesame oil adds a depth of flavor to marinades, salad dressings, stir-fries, noodles, and roasted vegetables (eggplant, broccoli, etc.). Sesame oil can also be used to make sauces and dips, such as tahini.
Use toasted sesame oil if you want a robust nutty taste. Refined or “light” sesame oil has a milder flavor.
Sesame oil has a moderate smoke point, which means it can be used for raw, light, and moderate heat cooking. The only type of sesame oil that is suited for high-heat cooking such as deep-frying tempura and other fried foods is refined, untoasted sesame oil.
But in general, when cooking with sesame oil, it’s best to use it as a finishing touch or in the early stages of cooking to preserve its flavor.
Sesame oil is not a common ingredient for baking, but balanced with the right flavors and mixed with other oils, it can add unique nutty complexity to desserts, such as lemon cake. And of course, sesame cookies, bagels, and bread!
Ways to use sesame oil
- Sesame chicken
- Salad dressings
- Roasted meats
- Sautéed and roasted vegetables
- Sauces and dips
- Sesame bread
- Sesame bagels
- Sesame cookies
How to make sesame oil at home
With a LOT of sesame seeds, you can make your own sesame oil at home:
- Toast sesame seeds in a pan on medium heat until they smell nutty. Avoid browning them too much.
- Transfer the toasted seeds to a cool plate to cool down.
- Blend the cooled sesame seeds into a paste using a powerful blender.
- Pour the paste into a deep bowl and add warmish water to the paste.
- Mix the paste and water by hand until the paste dissolves, creating a milky liquid with seed fragments.
- Strain the mixture through cheesecloth into a glass container to achieve a smooth consistency. Repeat the straining process if necessary.
- Cover the container and freeze it for around 2 hours to separate the water and oil.
- Use a stainless steel spoon to carefully scoop the oil from the top of the separated water.
- Transfer the oil to a separate jar and store it in the refrigerator.
How to store sesame oil
Sesame oil has good resistance to rancidity due to its natural antioxidants. While it can eventually become rancid when exposed to air, light, and heat, its high antioxidant content slows down the oxidation process.
Storing it in a cool, dark place in an airtight container and refrigerating it can help preserve its freshness. However, it’s important to check the expiration date and discard the oil if it develops a sour odor or bitter taste.
Unopened sesame oil can last for about six months in your pantry and up to a year in the fridge.
What are the best substitutes for sesame oil?
There’s nothing else like the rich, toasty flavor of sesame oil, but if you don’t have sesame oil on hand or need a substitute due to allergies or taste preferences, you have options.
Perilla oil is a Korean cooking oil that is made from perilla plant seeds, which have a similar taste to sesame seeds. If you can find it, this is the best substitute for sesame oil.
However, peanut oil (refined or unrefined) is much more widely available and works well as a substitute for sesame oil in various recipes due to its similar nutty flavor and high smoke point.
Peanut oil or perilla oil can be used as substitutes for sesame oil, depending on the recipe and desired flavor.
Sesame oil is used for flavoring and enhancing various dishes, including stir-fries, salads, marinades, sauces, and even baked goods.
Sesame oil can be part of a healthy diet when consumed in moderation. It contains healthy fats and beneficial nutrients. However, it is high in calories, so portion control is important.
If a recipe calls for sesame oil, I wouldn’t skip it. It adds a unique nutty flavor and aroma to dishes. If you don’t have sesame oil, use peanut oil, perilla oil, or something similar.