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How Sesame Oil is Used in Chinese Cooking

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Commonly used in Asian cuisine, sesame oil can often be found at the heart of your favourite Chinese dishes. Sesame is the preferred oil because of two main factors, the first is the unique flavour that can benefit the dish, the second is the benefits to health and wellbeing; we’ll talk about these health benefits in more detail later in the article. Make sure you’re cooking with the correct oriental cooking oils as this can really make or break your dish.


Varieties of Sesame Oil

Although there are a wide selection of variants and brands available on the market, the main three categories are Unrefined, Refined and Toasted.


This variant traditionally has a light amber colour which is accompanied by a nutty flavour. Sesame oil offers the wellbeing benefits of having the most antioxidants between the three varieties, additionally unrefined contains a selection of minerals and vitamins such as Calcium, Copper, Magnesium and Vitamin B6.



Often has a lighter colour than unrefined and comes with a more neutral flavour which will not typically impart flavour into the food cooked with it. It also has a higher smoke point than the unrefined variety which means this oil is perfectly suited to stir-frying and deep frying. 



This variety comes with a deep golden-brown colour, this is due to the toasting of the sesame seeds before expelling the oil. Because of the toasting process the oil is left with a very rich, nutty flavour which means that only a small amount is required when cooking in order to add a strong and intense flavour to the dish. Because of the low smoke point it is not suited to stir-frying or deep frying, resulting in the oil most commonly being used as flavouring for dressings, dips and marinades.


Health and Wellbeing 

The health benefits that come with the use of sesame oil are hugely varied and fascinating as it can benefit very different areas of the body and health conditions. We have provided a small list here; however, this is only a few of the many:


Dental Health

The powerful anti-bacterial affect of the oil is the reason it is highly recommended by dental professionals as it can offer benefits such as whiter teeth and lower levels of plaque. The process is called oil pulling which involves swishing a small amount around your mouth before spitting it out again.


Hair Care

Rubbing it into your hair and scalp can be a contributor to prevent premature graying, allowing you to retain your natural hair colour for longer. Additionally, it can improve blood circulation in the scalp which, in turn, promotes hair growth. 


Skeletal Integrity

Sesame is rich in copper, zinc and calcium which are vital to bone growth and repair in the body. Adding the oil into a balanced diet can provide numerous benefits such as bone development and healing or regrowth.


How to Use it in Chinese Dishes


There are limitless ways in which to use this wonderful ingredient in your Oriental dishes, so we encourage you to go out and experiment with the different flavours and varieties of the sesame.


It is important when cooking to remember the difference between the three main categories and to adhere to the suggestions of which ones to use when cooking. With refined and unrefined being used as cooking oils and the toasted being used as a flavouring oil after the cooking has stopped. Use the latter sparingly as the flavour is intense. 


We would also recommend using a very small amount when cooking rice. This will give the rice a glow on the surface and will help to keep the rice juicy. When adding to rice, use 1 tablespoon of oil to around 2-3 cups of rice. 


Unexpected Alternatives

Drizzled On Soup

Topping soup with a swirl of toasted Sesame Oil will add a depth to the flavour and can provide a lighter alternative to heavier cream or yoghurt.


Boost Your Stir Fry

Toasted sesame won’t work as a cooking ingredient for stir fries because of the low smoking point however adding after the cooking has finished will provide a strong complimentary flavour.


Add Pop to Your Popcorn

Adding sesame oil to the popped kernels, along with some salt, will really give your treats a kick of flavour.


Got a favourite recipe that uses sesame oil? Make sure to let us know on Facebook or Twitter. You’ll also be kept up to date with all of our blog articles and ideas for new dishes to try.

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