Sesame Oil: Ancient, Versatile, And Flavorful

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Sesame oil was used in Mesopotamia and Assyria, with the sesame seed prized as a crop in both places. Sesame oil was the only oil that the Babylonians used. Historians believe that the sesame seed may have been the world’s first cultivated oilseed. While there are different claims as to where sesame seeds originated, they were most likely domesticated for the first time on the Indian Subcontinent.

The oldest sesame seeds archeologists have found were in the Indus Valley in what is now Pakistan. Sesame seeds most likely went from there to Mesopotamia. Some historians believe that the place of origin was Africa.

The Chinese have also been using sesame oil as food and medicine for thousands of years. Some Chinese historians claim that the seeds were being used in China 5,000 years ago and suggest that they are native to China. Sesame seeds would spread to the West from China via the silk roads. Sesame oil has become one of the most essential ingredients in Chinese cooking.

As far back as 1500 BCE, the Ancient Egyptians were using sesame oil for cooking, for medicine, and as lamp fuel.

Historians believe that sesame came to the US via slaves in the 17th century.

Sesame oil plays a crucial role in India’s Ayurvedic medicine. Practitioners of Ayurveda use it as an ointment for wounds and burns.

Today, the world’s leading producers of the sesame seed used to make sesame oil are India and China, but the seed is also grown commercially in Africa and Latin America. Sesame oil is the eight most widely used cooking oil.

The word sesame has its roots in the Akkadian language as well as in Aramaic and Ancient Arabic.

Sesame oil flavor profile

Sesame seeds have a sharp and nutty flavor, and sesame oil offers a more concentrated version of that accompanied by a deep earthiness. Light sesame seed oil is made with untoasted sesame seeds. It has a mild flavor but may be used to fry foods over high heat. Cold-pressed sesame oil is not as intense as other sesame oil varieties and is slightly sweet.

Health benefits of sesame oil

Sesame oil is widely considered to be a very healthy oil. The benefits come from the fact that it contains nutrients like these:

  • Vitamins: Sesame oil can provide you with high levels of various vitamins per serving. These vitamins include vitamins A, some B vitamins, and vitamin E.
  • Antioxidants: Sesame oil contains an array of antioxidants in the form of phenolic compounds. The list includes tocopherol, sesamin, and sesamolin.

Consuming sesame oil can help you treat or forestall conditions like:

  • High blood pressure: Sesame oil can help to lower high blood pressure and thus prevent the illnesses that it can cause.
  • Heart disease: Studies have shown that sesame oil can lower cholesterol when used as the primary cooking oil. Lower cholesterol levels in the blood can reduce the risk of heart disease.
  • High blood sugar: Researchers have found that sesame oil can lower blood glucose. This means that it may be beneficial for people with diabetes or who are at risk of developing it.

Common uses

Sesame oil is a popular addition to Chinese stir-fries, where its nuttiness brings rich complexity to stir-fried dishes. It can be used as a cooking oil since it has a moderately high smoke point, or you can drizzle it on at the end of cooking. You can also use sesame oil in vinaigrettes and marinades.


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