There are two varieties of sesame oil: cold-pressed and toasted. People tend to use the cold-pressed type for cooking and the toasted variety for seasoning.

This article outlines what sesame oil is, its nutritional content, and its health benefits. We also provide some recipes incorporating sesame oil and list alternatives to this healthy oil.

Sesame oil in a glass dish on a table with sesame seeds.Share on Pinterest
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Sesame oil is derived from the seeds of the plant Sesamum indicium.

Manufacturers produce sesame oil by pressing either raw or toasted sesame seeds. Pressing the raw seeds produces a cold-pressed oil that is suitable for cooking, whereas pressing the toasted seeds produces an oil with a nutty aroma and flavor that is suitable for seasoning.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), 1 tablespoon (tbsp) of sesame oil contains the following:

ConstituentsAmounts
energy124 kilocalories
protein0 grams (g)
carbohydrates0 g
total fat14 g
fatty acids, total saturated1.99 g
fatty acids, total monounsaturated5.56 g
fatty acids, total polyunsaturated 5.84 g
vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)0.196 milligrams (mg)
choline0.028 mg
vitamin K1.9 micrograms

A 2022 study notes that sesame oil also contains the following natural substances that may be beneficial to health:

  • Lignans: plant compounds that mimic the effects of estrogen in the body and may yield anticancer properties
  • Phytosterols: plant compounds that can help lower cholesterol levels
  • Antioxidants: compounds that protect cells from disease-causing free radicals

Below are some of the potential health benefits of sesame oil, according to scientific research.

Cardiovascular health

Atherosclerosis is the medical term for the narrowing of arteries due to a buildup of plaques along arterial walls. Plaques are an accumulation of fatty deposits and wastes that impair blood flow through the arteries.

Researchers believe that an inflammatory response contributes to the formation of arterial plaques. Without treatment, atherosclerosis can lead to cardiovascular complications, such as heart attack and stroke.

A 2017 review investigated sesame oil’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects on atherosclerosis. According to the review, sesame oil may help by:

  • lowering inflammation
  • reducing high levels of cholesterol
  • decreasing the risk of atherosclerosis
  • delaying the onset of cardiovascular disease

The authors suggest that further studies are necessary to explore the potential of sesame oil in treating atherosclerosis.

Arthritis relief

People in some parts of the world use sesame oil as a traditional medicine for joint pain. In a 2019 study, researchers compared the effectiveness of sesame oil with the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) diclofenac gel in treating knee arthritis.

The research involved 104 people who applied either sesame oil or diclofenac gel to the knee three times per day for 4 weeks.

Analysis of the results suggested no significant difference between the two treatments in decreasing pain and increasing knee function. Thus, we can conclude that sesame oil is a good alternative to certain topical treatments.

However, more research is required to determine the effectiveness of sesame oil.

Gingivitis treatment

Oil pulling is a technique that involves swishing oil in the mouth for 20 minutes and then spitting it out. Proponents of oil pulling claim that it boosts oral health by sweeping away and dissolving bad bacteria inside the mouth.

A 2016 review states that traditional Indian medicine uses oil pulling to maintain oral hygiene. The research found that sesame oil reduced plaque-induced gingivitis.

Memory improvement

A 2021 clinical trial notes that mild memory impairment may be a precursor to dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

The trial investigated the safety and efficacy of sesame oil cake extract (SOCE) on memory function improvement. Sesame oil cake extract is a byproduct of the process that removes sesame oil from sesame seeds.

The 12-week trial included 70 participants with memory impairment. One group took the SOCE supplement, while the other took a placebo.

Results suggested that the SOCE significantly increased verbal memory and reduced blood plasma levels of amyloid proteins. These proteins tend to be at higher levels among people with Alzheimer’s.

Diabetes management

A 2018 study investigated the effectiveness of white sesame seed oil (WSSO) against a placebo on type 2 diabetes. The study involved 46 participants.

At 90 days, researchers identified significant differences between the two groups. Compared with the placebo group, participants who took WSSO experienced a significant reduction in fasting blood glucose and HbA1c, a measure of average blood glucose. They also showed significant improvements in biomarkers of heart, liver, and kidney function.

The authors concluded that WSSO may have value in regulating blood glucose and protecting against the harmful effects of diabetes.

Below are a few recipe ideas incorporating sesame oil:

Sesame oil salad dressing

Ingredients

  • 10 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 3 tbsp white sugar
  • 1 tbsp of toasted sesame seeds

Instructions

Whisk ingredients together.

Hummus

Ingredients

  • 15-ounce (oz) can of chickpeas, drained
  • 3 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves of peeled and crushed garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon (tsp) cumin
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp of black pepper
  • 2 tbsp warm water

Instructions

Place all the ingredients in a food processor. Add the water last, and blend until smooth. If desired, add a little more water to thin the mixture.

Spicy Asian chicken soup

Ingredients

  • 48-oz can of nonfat chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp Asian chili sauce
  • 2 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into 8 slices
  • 3/4 pounds of boneless chicken breasts
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 cup sliced shiitake mushrooms (or white button mushrooms)
  • 1 cup snap peas (or snow peas)
  • 1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and julienned
  • 1 tsp lime zest
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

Instructions

  1. Combine broth, soy sauce, sugar, chili sauce, lime juice, and ginger, and boil for 5 minutes.
  2. Toss chicken with cornstarch until completely coated.
  3. Add chicken and shiitakes to the broth and simmer for 15 minutes.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in snap peas, red pepper, zest, and cilantro.
  5. Let soup stand 2–3 minutes before serving.

Below are some alternative oils to sesame oil.

Olive oil

Olive oil is one alternative to sesame oil. It is rich in polyphenols, which are plant compounds with antioxidant properties.

A 2019 report notes that consumption of virgin olive oil is associated with the following health benefits:

The research from this report came from in vitro and animal studies, so more human trials are needed.

Avocado oil

Avocado oil is another alternative that compares favorably to sesame oil.

A 2019 review notes that avocado oil has anti-inflammatory properties similar to the NSAID ibuprofen. The review also cites research that found that replacing butter with avocado oil for breakfast resulted in improvements in the following:

  • blood sugar levels
  • insulin levels
  • total cholesterol
  • low-density lipoproteins (LDL), the type of cholesterol that accumulates in blood vessels

This study was short and had a small sample size, so more research is needed in this area.

Coconut oil

Coconut oil has a reputation as a healthy oil, but excessive consumption of coconut oil may have negative health effects.

A 2018 review notes that research supports the topical use of coconut oil for atopic dermatitis and oil pulling to prevent dental cavities. However, evidence supporting other purported benefits is either limited or nonexistent.

A separate 2018 review states that coconut oil may have a harmful effect on cardiovascular health because it increases LDL cholesterol.

Sesame oil is derived from the seeds of the Sesamum indicum plant. Toasted sesame oil is popular in Asian cuisine.

Studies suggest that sesame oil may benefit numerous health conditions, including cardiovascular disease, gingivitis, arthritis, dementia, and diabetes. However, more research is needed to determine the long-term effectiveness.

People looking for a healthy oil may wish to try alternatives, such as virgin olive oil or avocado oil. Coconut oil is another alternative, although it may increase LDL cholesterol.