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Simply Nutritious, Quick and Delicious

Cooking with heart-healthy sesame oil

A small tan bowl containing a dark, viscous liquid. On a white mat. Contains an orange I block logo and Illinois Extension wordmark.

Back when I was living on my own with my first big job, my confidence in the kitchen grew and my food repertoire became bigger. It was then that I realized my love for Asian cuisine revolves around one main ingredient: sesame oil. If you’ve cooked with sesame oil, you know of its distinct aroma and flavor, offering a nutty, toasty profile. A little goes a long way, so many recipes may only use a teaspoon or less and combine it with other oils.

There are mainly two varieties of sesame oil: toasted and non-toasted. Toasted sesame oil is oil made from toasted sesame seeds. It is darker in color than non-toasted oil and is sometimes labeled as “pure.” Because it has a very strong, nutty flavor, it’s used more as a seasoning rather than a cooking oil. It has a lower smoke point than regular sesame oil so it’s usually best when added toward the end of the cooking time. It also works well in salad dressings, sauces, and marinades. On the other hand, non-toasted sesame oil is oil made from raw sesame seeds. The oil is lighter in color and lower in flavor. It also has a higher smoke point, granting it a good oil for deep-frying.

Keep sesame oil in the pantry in a cool, dark area. There’s no need for refrigeration. In fact, storing it in the refrigerator may cause the oil to become cloudy and solidify, but it shouldn’t affect the quality or flavor. Sesame oil is a heart-healthy oil made up of mostly mono and polyunsaturated fats, which may lower the risk of heart disease. Use this distinctive oil in your next stir-fry or noodle dish and you’ll be amazed at the flavor it brings!

Chinese Chicken Salad

(Printable PDF)

2 cups cooked, shredded chicken

1 cup shredded red cabbage

½ cucumber, chopped

1 ½ cups romaine lettuce, torn

1 green onion, chopped

2 Tablespoons sliced almonds

1 Tablespoon sesame seeds



⅛ teaspoon black pepper                                                       

½ teaspoon salt                                                         

1 Tablespoon sugar

2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar                                                                    

1 ½ teaspoons toasted sesame oil

2 teaspoons olive oil

Combine chicken, cabbage, cucumber, lettuce and green onion in a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together all ingredients for dressing. Toss salad with dressing until evenly coated. Top with sliced almonds and sesame seeds.

Yield: 2 servings


Nutrition Facts (per serving): 375 calories, 23 grams fat, 188 milligrams sodium, 11 grams carbohydrate, 3 grams fiber, 32 grams protein


PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by Derek Duran on Unsplash

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jenna Smith is a Nutrition and Wellness Educator with University of Illinois Extension, serving Livingston, McLean, and Woodford Counties. Smith uses her experience as a registered dietitian nutritionist to deliver impactful information and cutting-edge programs to Livingston, McLean, and Woodford Counties and beyond.