Sesame oil is a cooking fat that takes a dish from delicious to outstanding. Pressed from sesame seeds or toasted sesame seeds, it is considered an edible vegetable.
Also known as light sesame oil, is made from raw seeds and is one of the first known vegetable oils to be used in cooking. People have used it in kitchens of all kinds and cuisines for thousands of years.
It has a light nutty flavor, but it is neutral enough for you to use without impacting the flavor of a dish too greatly. It has a higher smoke point, between 410F – 446F, which makes it great deep-frying and high heat cooking oil.
Also known as dark sesame oil, toasted sesame oil is made from, you guessed it already, toasted sesame seeds. The color of this variety is darker and the consistency thicker than regular sesame oil. It also has a much stronger sesame essence in both taste and aroma than its lighter counterparts.
Because this oil has already been heated when the seeds were toasted, it has a lower smoke point which makes it suitable for quick stir-frying or raw applications like a salad dressing or finishing oil.
Sesame seeds are roughly 45-60% oil and that oil can be extracted by expeller-pressing (think high tech squishing) or chemical solvents. When the seeds are expeller-pressed at lower temps, it is considered cold-pressed. This type of oil is considered superior and will often demand a higher price at the store.
Toasted sesame oil can be made using the aforementioned processes. The only difference here is that the seeds have been toasted before extracting the oil from them.
Storing it in a cool dark place is going to be your best bet when it comes to these oils. The light variety has a longer shelf life; about a year from when you open the bottom. The darker, toasted variety has a shorter shelf life; a few months after you open the bottle.
You can also store either in the fridge to help extend their life a bit longer. Fair warning, the oil will be a bit thicker, but still pourable.
You will know your oil is past its prime if it has a stale, musty smell to it. It is the same smell you get when nuts have gone rancid.
Most grocery stores will have a few choices when it comes to these oils. You will want to look for an oil that is 100% sesame which means it hasn’t been blended with anything. For the toasted kind, a dark color typically translates to more flavor so keep that in mind when you are putting things in your cart.
If you can’t find it at your grocery store, try a local Asian market or purchase one online.
In terms of calories, this oil is similar to that of olive oil. That said, sesame seeds contain more phytosterols (read – steroids that regulate cholesterol) than any other seeds or nuts. These benefits are best reaped with seeds in their raw form, but some evidence suggests that they can also be reaped from the oils. It also contains antioxidants like vitamin E and sesamin.
Fun fact: Sesame oil is used in natural and ayurvedic medicines for its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties
This oil will add depth and dimension to any dish it is included in. I like adding it into salad dressings, marinades for meat, drizzled over soups, tossed with noodles, as a base for a stir fry, and when I am feeling really adventurous, drizzled over my hummus.
Peanut oil will be the closest substitute for this, but if you can’t find that or don’t have that, olive oil will work in most cases as long as it isn’t deep frying or shallow frying. Keep in mind that neither of these will be able to compare in terms of flavor.