Toasted Sesame Oil: Intensely Nutty

Toasted sesame oil is a version of sesame oil, which is believed to have first been used in Mesopotamia and Assyria. The sesame plant may first have been used in either India or Africa. It made its way to China at some point.

According to some sources, the Chinese were using sesame oil as lamp fuel 5,000 years ago. Later on, they learned its value as food. The practice of toasting the seeds before extracting the oil most likely began after that point as people learned that toasting improved the oil’s taste and extended its shelf life.

Today, toasted sesame oil is widely used throughout Asia and is heavily imported into the US.

Toasted sesame oil flavor profile

Toasted sesame oil has an intensely nutty aroma and flavor. The toasting of the sesame seeds brings out their nuttiness. The flavor intensity varies from brand to brand as different makers have their own trademarked roasting processes. In all cases, the flavor is a product of the Maillard reaction. The reaction is caused by the application of heat to the seeds.

The Maillard reaction generates new flavor compounds and can boost flavor in the same way that roasting spices can enhance their flavors. How much or how little roasting the seeds have undergone will impact their color and flavor profile significantly. While some varieties will be mild and nutty, others can be intensely flavored and even bitter.

Health benefits

Toasted sesame oil is not particularly good for health. It has a similar nutritional profile as sesame oil, which means that it contains a few nutrients like:

  • Vitamins: Some sources state that sesame oil contains modest amounts of vitamins E and K.
  • Polyunsaturated fat: Polyunsaturated fat can be a healthier fat when compared to saturated fats and trans fats.
  • Antioxidants: Along with vitamin E, sesame oil contains other antioxidants that fight free radicals like lignans and sesamol.

Toasted sesame oil has many of the same benefits as regular sesame oil. With it in your diet, you may be able to treat or prevent health concerns like:

  • Heart disease: Enjoyed in moderation, the polyunsaturated fats in toasted sesame oil may help to lessen your risk of developing heart disease.
  • Inflammation: Sesame oil has anti-inflammatory benefits, possibly because of the antioxidants it contains.
  • Arthritis: Researchers have found that sesame oil can help to improve arthritis symptoms.

Health concerns

Toasted sesame oil is still fat, which means that it is calorie-dense and can contribute to obesity if consumed in excess. Note that some research suggests that polyunsaturated fat can lower levels of good cholesterol and can cause inflammation if your diet contains too much of it. It may be a good idea to consult your doctor if toasted sesame oil makes up a significant part of your diet.

Common uses

The flavor of toasted sesame oil is too strong and its smoke point is too low for it to be a good cooking oil but is used as a seasoning. It is typically drizzled onto food at the end of the cooking time to enhance flavor.

Most of the sesame oil used in Chinese and Japanese cooking is toasted sesame oil. You can drizzle it into Chinese or Japanese soups such as miso soup or use it as the oil component in a vinaigrette. Toasted sesame oil is a great finishing oil for stir-fries and fried rice as well.