June 18, 2024

Walking along the oil aisle in the grocery store, you may have come across sesame oil sitting next to olive oil and other varieties of plant-based oil. Ever wondered if you should pick up a bottle? Is it a healthy oil? Keep reading to learn why this Asian and Middle Eastern staple deserves a spot in your kitchen pantry.

What Is Sesame Oil? 

Sesame oil is an edible cooking oil extracted from sesame seeds. It is a common cooking oil in Asian and Middle Eastern cuisines. The sesame plant is mainly grown in Sudan, India, Myanmar and Tanzania. In the U.S., southern states with warmer climates, like Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas and Florida, are the country’s largest producers of sesame plants.

Like other cooking oils such as canola and sunflower, sesame oil is extracted from raw and untoasted seeds. It is a stable oil with a smoke point of 410°F (210°C)—best used as an all-purpose cooking oil that is also well suited for high-heat cooking like deep frying and roasting.

Untoasted sesame oil–cold-pressed (virgin) or refined–has a mild and neutral flavor. You will also find toasted sesame oil varieties in the grocery aisle. Toasted sesame oil is made the same way as its untoasted cousin, except the seeds are toasted or roasted before the extraction. It has a thicker consistency, and toasting the seeds amplifies the oil’s color, flavor and aroma. The darker the roast, the darker the oil color and the more intense the nutty and earthy flavor.

Toasted or roasted sesame oil has a lower smoker point—it can become burnt and bitter under prolonged heating. As such, it’s best suited for low to medium-heat cooking, like stir-fries, or used as a condiment at the final stages of cooking. While you can use untoasted sesame oil as an ingredient in marinades, sauces and salad dressing, toasted sesame oil adds a layer to the recipes’ flavor.

Health Benefits of Sesame Oil

May Improve Your Cholesterol Levels

Sesame oil is rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which may help improve “good” HDL cholesterol and lower “bad” LDL cholesterol levels. Sesame oil also contains phytosterols, compounds found in plants with antioxidant and heart-healthy properties. Specifically, sesamol is a type of phytosterol present in sesame seeds and oils that may help protect your heart by improving cholesterol. 

May Better Your Blood Pressure 

Sesame seeds and sesame oil contain sesamin, a type of lignan (plant compound) with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that could protect cells from damage and reduce inflammation. A systematic review concluded that compared to a control group, consuming sesame regularly is associated with lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure, as well as body weight and waist circumference, which can also help reduce blood pressure.

May Reduce Your Risk of Certain Types of Cancer

The lignans in sesame seeds may have potentially cancer-protective properties. The research is still very preliminary, but it may be that these sesame lignans may help quell inflammation and oxidative stress that may guard against cellular damage that may lead to cancer.

Nutrition Facts

  One tablespoon of sesame oil provides:

  • Calories: 120
  • Total Carbohydrates: 0 g
  • Dietary Fiber: 0 g
  • Total Sugars: 0 g
  • Protein: 0 g
  • Total Fat: 14 g
  • Saturated Fat: 2 g
  • Monounsaturated Fat: 5 g 
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: 6 g 

Potential Risks 

Sesame is one of the nine common allergens in the U.S., impacting 1.1 million American adults and children. People allergic to sesame should avoid sesame oil and any products that contain sesame. You can now easily identify whether a food product contains sesame, as the FDA requires food products and supplements to list sesame on the package. You can also rest assured that our Sesame-Free Recipes do not have any hidden sources of sesame. 

How to Add Sesame Oil to Your Diet

Sesame oil offers a mild, nutty and earthy flavor and enhances the flavor profile of a variety of Asian and Middle-Eastern-inspired dishes. 

Untoasted (Neutral) Sesame Oil

Best for savory dishes with cooking methods like stir-frying, pan-frying or baking, such as

Toasted Sesame Oil

Using a small amount of toasted sesame oil amplifies the dishes’ flavor and aroma. While it is suitable for low to medium-heat cooking, toasted sesame oil is best used for adding a finishing touch at the final stages of cooking. Some of our favorite recipes that use toasted sesame oil include:

Toasted sesame oil is also a perfect ingredient for marinades, sauces, dressings and vinaigrettes like our Hoisin-Sesame Dressing and Sesame-Tamari Vinaigrette. 

The Bottom line

Sesame oil is a versatile cooking oil that deserves a space in your pantry. Untoasted sesame oil offers a mild taste that is best used for everyday cooking, while toasted sesame oil adds a nutty dimension to enhancing the recipes’ flavor and aroma. Depending on what and how you use sesame oil, you may want to choose one over the other or have both in your kitchen—start browsing our collection of recipes using sesame oil to inspire you on your culinary creations.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is sesame oil better than olive oil?

    Both sesame oil and olive oil have healthy fats but in varying amounts, and both oils can be a part of a balanced diet. Sesame oil is best for dishes inspired by Asian and Middle Eastern cuisines, while olive oil suits Mediterranean dishes. 

  • What are the disadvantages of sesame oil?

    Sesame oil is unsuitable for those with a sesame allergy or sensitivity. Those with sesame allergy or sensitivity should use other plant-based cooking oils. Our Sesame-Free Recipes also offer inspiration for making delicious dishes without the allergen.

  • Which cooking oil is the healthiest?

    All plant-based cooking oils can be a part of your balanced diet as each type of oil offers different nutritional attributes. The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend no more than 27 grams of oils per day, based on a 2,000-calorie diet. This amount includes oils from plant-based oils and those in food like nuts and seafood.


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