Perhaps no other salad dressing is as versatile as sesame dressing. The simple mixture of sesame seeds, rice vinegar, toasted sesame oil, and brown sugar has the ideal balance of nutty, salty, tart, and lightly sweet. It turns plain greens into a shining salad and coats chopped veggies to create something truly memorable.
But don’t stop at salad. You can use sesame dressing as a marinade for any type of meat, or on top of sashimi, noodle salads, and rice bowls. Serve it as a dip for dumplings or sliced cucumbers and bell peppers in every color. It’s the kind of dressing you’ll be shaking up by the jar-full again and again.
For More Flavor, Toast the Sesame Seeds
For an extra flavorful dressing, toast the sesame seeds in a skillet. This can be done up to a day or two ahead of time—store the toasted seeds in an airtight container. I like grinding them up using a spice grinder or mortar and pestle to make a creamier dressing with a little body. Leave them whole for a thinner dressing with the occasional crunch.
Delicious Substitutions that Work
This dressing is easy to adjust according to your diet, taste, and what you have in the pantry:
- Soy sauce: Low-sodium is preferred, but regular soy sauce works too. Start with a little less, 2 1/2 tablespoons. You can also swap the soy sauce out for liquid aminos.
- Olive oil: For oil with a more neutral flavor, use canola or vegetable oil.
- Brown sugar: Replace with an equal amount of honey, adding more to taste.
- Rice vinegar: White vinegar, apple cider vinegar, and red wine vinegar all make good substitutions.
Ways to Play with the Recipe
Fresh ginger is optional, but it adds a really nice zing. You can also add thinly sliced scallions or a grated garlic clove for even more flavor. A tablespoon or two of fresh orange juice adds a citrusy, fruity element.
A Million-ish Ways to Use Sesame Dressing
Sesame dressing is delightful simply tossed with mixed greens. Try this sesame dressing in these recipes:
Or use it to dress these bowls and veggies:
Try it as a marinade or sauce for meats:
Easy Sesame Dressing
You can buy toasted sesame seeds. They’re not quite as flavorful, but they work. No need to toast them again. Using untoasted sesame seeds will give you a milder dressing.
- 3 tablespoons raw sesame seeds
- 1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger (optional)
- 1/4 cup rice vinegar
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon light brown sugar, tightly packed
Toast the sesame seeds:
In a medium skillet, add the sesame seeds and spread them out into an even layer. Set it over medium-low heat. Toast, stirring occasionally, until the seeds are light golden brown and fragrant, 10 to 12 minutes.
Grind the sesame seeds:
Transfer the toasted seeds into a clean spice grinder, small food processor, or mortar and pestle. Grind until a fine powder forms. Alternatively, you can leave the seeds whole for a thinner dressing with a bit of crunch.
Assemble the dressing:
Add the ground sesame seeds, ginger, vinegar, olive oil, soy sauce, sesame oil, and brown sugar into a lidded jar.
Screw on the lid and shake until the sugar has dissolved and the dressing is combined well, about 30 seconds. The dressing should be a little creamy, especially if you ground the seeds.
Alternatively, combine the ingredients in a small mixing bowl and whisk until the sugar is fully dissolved.
Taste and serve:
Taste the dressing and, if needed, add more sugar, vinegar, or a pinch or two of salt so that it suits your tastes. Use right away or store in the fridge for up to a week, shaking before using.
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