Oil 101: Sesame Oil



Do you have a little brown bottle of sesame oil in your cupboard? You should, because it is an amazing ingredient that can be used in a variety of dishes adding a slightly exotic and aromatic touch to stir fries, rice dishes, vegetables and soups.

The more we delve into the history of cooking, and the cuisines of the world, the more we realize that most ingredients have been utilized for thousands of years, and sesame oil is no exception. In Asia and South Asia it has figured prominently since the third millennia B.C. and has been called, “The Queen of Oils”

Because of the difficulties associated with extracting the oil from the seeds, sesame oil has traditionally been somewhat expensive to produce, and thus was used primarily by the wealthy classes. Even today, world-wide production appears to be somewhat limited, and most sesame oil is produced in developing countries, extracted using ages-old, manually intensive techniques like hot water flotation, presses and expellers.



It’s worth the effort. Used as a food, for medicinal and religious ceremonies and considered sacred by Hindus, this oil is so esteemed by many cultures that it is synonymous with the word “good.” For countless generations, sesame oil has been used in traditional and Ayurvedic medicine, and many practitioners of holistic and alternative medicine espouse its benefits .

In the Tamil language of India, Sesame Oil is called “Nalla Ennai” and in Malayalam language it’s called “Nalla Enna”, both literally translated in English to “good oil”. In the Telugu language of India, Sesame Oil is called “Nuvvula Noone” (Nuvvulu means sesame and Noone means oil) or “Manchi Noone” (Manchi means good and Noone means oil). In the Kannada language of India, Sesame Oil is called “yellenne” (from “yellu” for sesame) and “Ollenne”  meaning “good oil“-Wikipedia


And indeed, it is good; good tasting, and good for you. One of the more stable natural oils, sesame oil is high in polyunsaturated Omega-6 fatty acids like oleic and linoleic acid. High in anti-oxidants like vitamin E, believed to reduce blood pressure, it also contains magnesium, copper, calcium, iron, zinc, and vitamin B6. It is easy to work with and store, possessing a relatively stable shelf life and high smoking point, making it good for frying and distinctive enough in flavor that you do not need to use a whole lot of it to impart the unmistakable sesame flavor to your cooking.


Here we should point out that sesame oil can be divided into two types; light and dark. The former is more suitable deep frying, while dark sesame oil is made from roasted seeds, and has a deeper flavor, making it less suitable for deep frying, but better for adding flavor to dishes.

A half teaspoon mixed with a little soy and ginger will enliven any fried rice dish, and it is a must have ingredient in dipping sauces for dumplings or pot stickers. Just remember; a little goes a long way.

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From noodle dishes to dumplings, there are so many uses for sesame oil it may seem overwhelming to know where to begin. Our advice? Keep it simple. One of our favourite ways to enjoy it is to use it in place of butter on freshly steamed green beans or bok choy. Steam your veggies and toss with a little sesame oil, maybe add some toasted seeds and a pinch of sea-salt. Fresh, healthy, distinctive and delicious.

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