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A staple in Asian-inspired cooking, sesame oil adds a nutty, slightly sweet flavor to meat, roasted vegetables, and salad dressings. But all sesame oils aren’t created equal. For starters, there are two varieties—regular and toasted—and they’re used in different ways. Regular sesame oil is an excellent choice for cooking and stir-frying, while toasted sesame oil fares best as a finishing oil for already-cooked foods, or as an ingredient in a homemade vinaigrette.
Because they each elevate dishes, both types of sesame oil deserve a spot in your pantry. To make sure you're getting a deep, rich flavor that really shines, you need to choose the best sesame oils in each category. To make things easier, we narrowed it down to the best sesame oils you can buy.
Napa Valley Naturals specializes in creating high-quality oils and vinegars, so it’s no surprise that this organic sesame oil is one of the very best sesame oils you can get. Napa Valley Naturals, a company owned by Stonewall Kitchen, uses a cold-pressing technique to create an unrefined oil that has all of the naturally-rich nuttiness that sesame seeds offer. This method also preserves the oil’s full nutritional value, so you get a product that’s as good for you as it is delicious. This oil is ideal for dressings, sauces, and marinades but can also be used for medium-high heat cooking.
Made with the highest-quality, USDA organic-certified sesame seeds from Mexico, the Kevala Organic Extra Virgin Sesame Oil is unrefined and cold-pressed with low-heat extraction techniques to maximize flavor and nutrition. Even though it’s unrefined, it still has a high smoke point, so you can use it for low-, medium-, and high-heat cooking. It also has non-cooking purposes and can be used for ayurvedic and massage treatments.
It is also available in four sizes—from 8 to 128 ounces—so you can get as little or as much as you need. Keep in mind that if you buy it in bulk, you’ll save almost 50 percent.
There are other cold-pressed sesame oils out there, but Flora uses a special technique to create one of the highest-quality sesame oils you can buy. Using a state-of-the-art low heat technique, Flora cold presses sprouted sesame seeds in small batches in a light- and oxygen-free environment to protect the oil as it’s made. Once the oil is pressed, it’s then flushed with nitrogen to ensure the oil stays fresh and completely free of oxidation.
Because of its delicate processing, the smoke point is a little lower than some of the others on this list, making it ideal for low- to medium-heat cooking or as a finishing oil for your favorite cooked dishes.
The Spectrum Naturals Sesame Oil is an excellent all-purpose sesame oil that’s suitable for all of your cooking needs. Thanks to the light refining during manufacturing it can stand up to higher heat better than other unrefined oils. This particular sesame oil has a smoke point of 445 degrees Fahrenheit, making it ideal for stir-frying, sauteing, and almost any other type of cooking you need to do. The refining process also mutes the flavor a little bit, so it adds a delicious, slightly nutty taste to your dishes without overpowering them.
La Tourangelle is known for making handcrafted, artisan-style oils that consistently get rave reviews across the board. To make this toasted sesame oil, La Tourangelle harvests its sesame seeds from South America or Africa and then uses a mill to slowly roast and toast the seeds over low temperatures. After the seeds are toasted, they are expeller-pressed and then gently filtered several times to create a golden-brown oil with a deep, nutty flavor that works well as a medium-heat cooking oil and a finishing oil.
The toasted sesame oil is bottled in a BPA-free tin can which protects it from light to maintain quality and freshness, even when stored outside of the refrigerator.
Eden Foods also makes an excellent toasted sesame oil, but because of its slightly higher price tag and unrefined finish, it works better as a finishing oil than a cooking oil. Eden Foods slow roasts whole sesame seeds in a rotary kiln until their full flavor and aroma is released, and the oil is then expeller-pressed and gently filtered before it’s bottled in a dark, amber glass that helps improve its shelf-life and stability. The end result is a dark, Asian-inspired sesame oil with a nutty flavor and slightly sweet aroma that can enhance the flavor of any cooked dish.
Black sesame oil is in a class of its own. It has a smokier, nuttier taste that lends itself well to all different types of savory dishes. It also has more antioxidants than most other plant oils and is considered antibacterial, anti-fungal, anti-viral, and anti-inflammatory. And when it comes to the best black sesame oil, the Foods Alive Organic Artisan Cold-Pressed Black Sesame Oil takes top billing.
Foods Alive starts by gathering samples of different sesame seeds from organic farmers and then taste-testing to find the most delicious variety. The oil is cold-pressed in small batches with very low temperatures to retain as many nutrients as possible. Organic, cold-pressed, and unrefined, it’s really the highest quality oil you can get.
If you’re looking for a cooking or finishing oil with a little kick, the Chosen Foods Spicy Sesame Oil is the perfect complement to any dish. Chosen Foods combines sesame oil with real Mexican Chile de Arbol and garlic to create a deep flavor and medium spice level that adds just the right amount of heat to stir-frys, soups, and pasta dishes. If you want to dial it back, a little drizzle will do, or you can pump up the intensity by being a little more generous with your pour.
Chosen Foods also emphasizes quality by using a 100 percent chemical-free, natural refining process to make its certified non-GMO sesame oil.
Napa Valley Naturals Organic Cold Pressed Sesame Oil and Kevala Organic Extra Virgin Sesame Oil are excellent options for all types of cooking, but if you’re looking for a really great finishing sesame oil, try the Eden Foods Toasted Sesame Oil.
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Lindsay Boyers is a certified holistic nutritionist with extensive nutrition knowledge and food and beverage-testing experience. She’s developed over 1,000 original recipes and is constantly on a mission to find the healthiest, best-tasting options and ingredients across all food and drink categories.