Food & Drink5 Simple Dishes Made Special by Sesame Oil

5 Simple Dishes Made Special by Sesame Oil


When you encounter Asian cuisine, you might remember a peculiar fragrance that distinguishes it from other dishes. Perhaps you’re thinking of sesame oil — a mainstay in Asian cuisine and an ingredient that makes some dishes stand out both in their odor and taste profile. You might recognize sesame oil as having a strong, nutty fragrance, with a toasty flavor usually used in dressings, marinades, or drizzled over stir-fried dishes.

It stands out a lot, so you would easily recognize if a dish has sesame oil or not. Here, we list seven dishes that you could prepare with sesame oil. As a bonus, we’ll also give out sesame oil substitute tips, in case you run out of them in your pantry.

1) Japchae

You’ve probably seen this in your favorite K-drama on Netflix with other Korean dishes, such as Samgyupsal and Bulgogi. Japchae is a starch noodle dish typically served as a side dish or sometimes on rice.

Korean glass noodles are stir-fried alongside a colorful variety of vegetables, usually julienned carrots, spinach, julienned bell peppers of various colors, onions, and fresh shiitake mushrooms. Mixed into the array of vegetables are strips of meat, usually pork, to give a savory twist to the noodles.

Japchae is also seasoned with salt, soy sauce, or dark soy sauce for a darker color, sesame oil, and toasted sesame seeds. The sesame oil here gives Japchae a unique fragrance and flavor profile compared to other noodle dishes.

2) Mapo Tofu

Mapo Tofu is another dish that makes use of sesame oil. It’s a dish originating from Szechuan cuisine in China. It is quite a popular dish across the world, may it be in restaurants or in-home cooking.

Mapo Tofu has a hot and spicy flavor profile with an aromatic fragrance from a mix of flavor-rich spices. Its main ingredients include doubanjiang or chili bean paste, douchi or fermented black beans, tofu, ground meat, garlic, ginger, white scallions, and soy sauce.

You can add freshly ground Szechuan peppercorn powder to taste and chopped garlic greens. Adding sesame oil also adds more to the fragrance and flavor profile of the dish, compounding the toasty and nutty flavor with the already-spicy Mapo Tofu.

3) Fried Rice

Want to prepare an easy dish made special with sesame oil? Got some cold rice as leftovers from last night’s dinner? Then fried rice is the perfect dish! There are tons of ways to prepare fried rice. But a simple recipe would be sauteing garlic and onion with butter and adding scrambled eggs. You can also add a mix of vegetables, may it be chopped cabbage, minced carrots, corn, and green peas.

After sauteing, you could add a batch of cold leftover rice, refrigerate overnight and add in your favorite seasonings such as salt, pepper, soy sauce, and oyster sauce. Toasted sesame oil is also the finishing touch for this recipe and is a must-have for fried rice as the nutty fragrance makes it even more tempting to eat.

4) Sesame Chicken

If you want to twist your fried chicken, mixing sesame oil with a couple of ingredients might do the trick. Sesame Chicken are small pieces of tender chicken, usually making use of fileted thigh or breast parts, coated in egg and cornstarch and perhaps a couple of spices such as salt, pepper, and paprika, deep-fried until crispy and golden brown.

The twist here is the delicious sauce which is usually a combination of honey or sugar, soy sauce, ketchup, garlic, water, grated ginger, cornstarch sesame seeds, and sesame oil. This combination of ingredients gives the sauce a sweet, tangy, and nutty flavor.

The ingredients of the sauce are combined in a pan and brought up to a simmer, and then you can immediately add the deep-fried chicken to combine it with the sauce. Serve the chicken over a bed of white steamed rice and sprinkle green onions on top.

Bonus: Sesame Oil Substitute

What if you were in the middle of cooking and you forgot to pack in sesame oil along with your groceries from yesterday? Don’t worry — there are some alternatives that you can use instead of sesame oil.

One is making use of sesame seeds to create your sesame oil. You’ll just have to first toast the sesame seeds until lightly golden and aromatic, then add neutral-flavored oil. Continue heating it for 2-3 minutes, and remove the pan from the heat when your sesame seeds start to brown. Mix the oil and sesame seeds and allow the oil to cool before transferring it to a clean glass container or jar. Other alternatives would include olive oil, peanut oil, or sunflower oil.

Final Thoughts

Now that you know some of the ideas for taking your meals to the next level with sesame oil, you can try them out and see if it’s approved by your taste buds. After trying out these dishes, we won’t be surprised if you hoard some sesame oil bottles in your local groceries — it can make any meal special! If you want to know more recipes with sesame oil or other alternatives, you may visit

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