Sesame oil is a cooking oil made from pressed sesame seeds that’s very popular in Asian cooking. It generally comes in untoasted or toasted varieties. Let’s discover its many uses, recommended brands, health benefits, storage, and delicious recipes using this wonderful oil.
Sesame Oil (胡麻油・ごま油) is made from sesame seeds that have been crushed to produce its rich aroma. The oil—available in both untoasted and toasted—has been used for centuries in different cultures. It is a primary flavor element in East Asian cuisines like Chinese, Korean, and Japanese cooking. So, if you enjoy Japanese and Asian cooking in general, you need a bottle of sesame oil in your kitchen!
Sesame oil can be made from raw or toasted sesame seeds. But what’s the difference between untoasted and toasted sesame oil in terms of flavor and cooking uses?
Toasted (Roasted) Sesame Oil
Let’s start with toasted sesame oil first because this is more commonly used in Japanese and other East Asian Cooking. Also known as Asian sesame oil or dark sesame oil, toasted sesame oil has an ember to dark-brown color and is beloved for its rich, nutty, and toasty taste.
The color and the intense aroma come from the roasting process. When you toast the seeds, it releases the oil and intensifies the flavors. But the toasted process also modifies its smoke point, so it’s better suited for finishing than cooking.
That said, I sometimes still use the toasted sesame oil for frying when I want to add that nutty aroma to the dish. For example, I use it for cooking Salmon Fried Rice, as a marinade for the popular Miso Salmon, or to pan-fry Korean Pancakes. Just be sure to heat it over medium to low heat to avoid any burnt or bitter taste.
How to Use Toasted Sesame Oil
The distinct toasted sesame aroma adds a punch of flavor to your dishes. We typically drizzle it at the end of a prepared dish or after cooking. It is wonderful as a finishing oil for soups, hot or cold noodle salad, or as a flavor enhancer for dressings, marinades, and sauces. I love it on blanched vegetables like Broccoli Blanched with Sesame Oil or a truly simple cucumber salad.
Untoasted Sesame Oil
The untoasted sesame oil (also known as unrefined sesame oil) is made from raw, pressed sesame seeds and has a more neutral flavor. Since it doesn’t go through any roasting process, the color of the oil is light and clear. In Japanese, the unroasted sesame oil is called taihaku goma abura (太白胡麻油) and it is my go-to oil. Some other cultures such as South India and the Middle East commonly use untoasted variety in their cooking.
Because of its neutral taste and high smoke point, it makes a great and healthier choice of oil for cooking Japanese and Asian dishes. However, good quality untoasted sesame oil can be more expensive, so many households are still using the cheaper options when it comes to cooking oil.
How to Use Untoasted Sesame Oil
Use it like you would with canola oil or vegetable oil. I’ve been using it as my primary cooking oil. So think stir-fries, sautéing, or any recipes that call for a neutral-tasting oil. It also withstands high heat very well, so you can use it safely for frying or roasting.
My Recommended Brands of Sesame Oil
I personally use either Maruhon Sesame Oil or Kadoya Sesame Oil. Both are trusted brands in Japanese cooking. Maruhon has different varieties, including the untoasted version. You can also use find Spectrum Organic Sesame Oil for untoasted sesame oil.
Where To Buy
You can purchase it on Amazon or in Japanese/Asian grocery stores and supermarkets in plastic bottles or glass. The Spectrum brand is available at major grocery stores in the US.
You may be able to find a variety imported from various countries in Asia. Ensure the ingredient list notes that it contains 100% pure sesame oil and isn’t a blend.
How To Store Sesame Oil
Store the bottles in a dark, cool place in your pantry with other oils.
Delicious Recipes with Sesame Oil
4. Miso Ramen
Potential Health Benefits of Sesame Oil
Untoasted (unrefined) sesame oil has 74% more saturated fat than other seed oils, making it a better choice for Asian cooking that requires neutral-tasting oil. Saturated fat is much more stable and less likely to oxidize into harmful byproducts in our bodies.
In traditional Asian medicine, sesame oil—both toasted or untoasted—is believed to have important health benefits. It is full of antioxidants and vitamin E, which helps to combat inflammation and protect skin from sun damage. It also contains essential fatty acids like omega-3 and 6 that help protect your heart and improve immunity.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on September 21, 2013. It’s been republished with more additional content on July 5, 2023.