Ingredient Spotlight: Sesame Oil

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Who’d ever think that the oil squeezed from teeny tiny little sesame seeds could pack such a big punch? Just crack open a bottle and you’ll fill the entire kitchen with its intense toasted aroma. Sesame oil plays such a major supporting role in so many of our favorite Asian dishes, we doubt we could get along without it.

Sesame oil is generally more of a finishing oil than a cooking oil. We toss it into a stir fry just before serving, whisk it into Asian-style vinaigrettes, and make it into a dipping sauce for dumplings. A little drizzle is really all you need to add that sesame flavor and aroma to your dish – a little goes a long way.

There are two kinds of sesame oil available: dark/toasted and regular/light. By and large, you want the darker, toasted variety for its flavor and fragrance. Light sesame oil has a more mild, neutral flavor that is good for cooking.

Store both kinds of oil in a cool dark cupboard, where it can be kept for several months without turning rancid. If your kitchen gets really hot in the summer, sesame oil can go in the fridge for safe-keeping. It will solidify somewhat when cool, but will quickly liquidize again at room temperature.

If you’re new to sesame oil, give it a try in these recipes:

How do you use sesame oil in your cooking?