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Global Pantry: What is Sesame Oil?

Photo: Randy Mayor
Sesame oil makes for a simple, versatile sauce that can be used as a zippy condiment or drizzle on everything from meat to veggies.

For people who are cutting back on sodium, roasted sesame oil is a great ingredient to keep on hand. It's used primarily in Asian cooking, but the deep, toasty flavor is friendly to many other dishes, where it adds intense flavor in place of salt. Rather than sprinkling extra salt on a salad, drizzle on a little dark sesame oil (and perhaps slightly increase the amount of lemon juice or vinegar you use in your dressing). This works best with a salad made from vegetables—raw or cooked—that have a more robust flavor, such as arugula, carrots, or beets.

Once you have sesame oil in your cupboard (it keeps well if stored in a cool, dark place), you'll find that it has all kinds of flexible uses. I use it not for cooking but as a top dressing or final flavoring: It's great drizzled on meat, stirred into rice, or dribbled onto soup. Combine it with a few more ingredients, as in the recipe below, for a dipping/drizzling sauce for which you'll find myriad uses.

View Recipe: Sesame Dipping Sauce