Home Korean Ingredient Glossary Toasted Sesame Oil in Korean Cooking (Chamgireum)

Toasted Sesame Oil in Korean Cooking (Chamgireum)

by Emily
A closeup shot of a small white bowl of toasted sesame oil. A container of sesame oil sits in the background.

 This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for details at the bottom of this page. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases on this article about chamgireum, otherwise known as toasted sesame oil. We hope you enjoy learning about sesame oil in Korean cooking!

To many, toasted sesame oil is the finishing ingredient that defines Korean flavor. While gochujang, soy sauce, and doenjang are considered the most famous ingredients in Korean cooking, you will often note the nutty sesame flavor present in the background of most of the popular Korean dishes. Let’s learn about this subtle ingredient commonly used in Korean cooking.

What is Sesame Oil (Chamgireum)?

‘Chamgireum’ (참기름), known as sesame oil in English, is an amber-colored, fragrant oil used in South Korea as a cooking and finishing ingredient. In Korea, people make this aromatic oil by pressing toasted sesame seeds until they extract the oil. While you can buy sesame oils that are not toasted, almost all Korean-made brands toast the sesame seeds before pressing them into oil. This toasting method gives the oil a bolder, nuttier flavor. 

As I stated above, you can buy two types of sesame oil. Both types have different purposes which I list below: 

A closeup side shot of toasted sesame oil in a small white bowl. The bowl sits on a cream table cloth.

Types of Sesame Oil

  • Regular (Refined) Sesame Oil: Refined sesame oil is made by pressing raw sesame seeds. Typically, people use this more for cooking around the world as the smoking point is high (410°F). You can use this for sauteing, shallow frying, and roasting, much like you would with canola, olive, or grapeseed oil. This type of sesame oil is not used in South Korea. 
  • Toasted Sesame Oil: Once again, as I stated above, toasted sesame oil is made by pressing toasted sesame seeds until the oil is extracted. The toasting process makes the nutty flavor more intense, allowing it to be the perfect flavorful finisher of a dish. Because of the toasting process, this type of sesame oil has a lower smoking point, making it unsuitable as the main oil used for shallow frying or sauteing. When cooking Korean food, this is the recommended variety. You can buy this ingredient via online stores like Amazon.

Note: Because of the intense nutty aroma of chamgireum, you only need to use a small amount in any given dish. 

To learn further about toasted sesame oil, I recommend watching a video produced by Eater about sesame oil production in South Korea. In this video, you follow Nam Seon-Sik as he makes it. At the beginning of the video, he states, ‘In Korea, many, if not most, foods include sesame oil.’

Sesame Oil in Korean Cooking:

Below, I list a few of my recipes that include toasted sesame oil as an ingredient. Let me know if you try making them at home!

  • Gamja Jorim (감자조림): In English, we can translate this to ‘braised potatoes.’ People in Korea make this delicious side dish by cooking small potatoes in a soy-based sauce until the sauce completely reduces. Often, this dish is finished with toasted sesame oil and sesame seeds. Try making my recipe for this dish
  • Kongnamul Muchim (콩나물 무침): In English, this translates to Korean soybean sprout salad. This light and refreshing salad is quick and easy to make. My recipe included nutty sesame oil as an ingredient! Try making it! 
  • Jumeokbap (주먹밥): In English, jumeokbap refers to a type of Korean handmade rice ball. Often, people eat these with spicy food! Use sesame by adding it to the rice before mixing and molding it by hand. Try making it at home with my recipe! 

Like always, this is just a short list of dishes we wrote about on our blog. Toasted sesame oil is such a popular and common ingredient, making it impossible to list every recipe!

Sesame Oil Frequently Asked Questions: 

Now that we learned about toasted sesame oil, I want to answer some potential questions you may have about this ingredient as well! If I do not answer your question, feel free to leave a comment in the section below or email me at [email protected]

What Is a Toasted Sesame Oil Substitute?

If you do not have toasted sesame oil at home but need a quick fix, I recommend toasting some sesame seeds in a bit of neutral oil. This adds sesame flavor to the oil that you can then add to the dish. While this is a quick fix, it does not completely replace the real thing! 

Is Sesame Oil the Same as Perilla Oil?

You should not confuse toasted sesame oil, ‘chamgireum’ (참기름), with perilla oil known as ‘deulgireum’ (들기름). While people in South Korea refer to both as ‘sesame,’ they are not the same plant and do not have the same flavor. 

A side shot of chamgireum in a white bowl. The container of sesame oil sits behind the bowl.

Is Chamgireum Gluten-Free?

Sesame oil is naturally gluten-free! As someone with celiac disease, I do not worry about cooking with or consuming sesame oil. As always, check the ingredients to make sure the product you choose does not have any cross-contamination. 

What About Other Allergens? 

Sesame oil does not contain any other major allergens (besides sesame). It does not contain:

  • Wheat (Gluten)
  • Soy
  • Dairy 
  • Peanuts
  • Tree Nuts 
  • Shellfish
  • Eggs 
  • Milk 

That being said, sesame is now considered a major allergen. If you cannot safely eat sesame seeds, avoid sesame oil as it is made from those same seeds. 

How Should I Store Sesame Oil?

Store sesame oil in a cool, dark, and dry location. I recommend keeping it in your pantry away from direct sunlight. You can also store it in the refrigerator, though it is not necessary. 

Chamgireum in a white bowl sitting on a cream table cloth.

How Long Does Sesame Oil Stay Good?

You can keep sesame oil for over a year unopened. Once opened, you can keep it fresh for up to 6 months. 

Where Can I Buy Chamgireum? 

You can buy toasted sesame oil in any well-stocked grocery store. Instead of looking in the oil section of the store (where you will find olive, grapeseed, avocado, and canola oil), shop in the Asian section of the International food aisle. 

You can also buy Korean toasted sesame oil in any Asian grocery store such as H-Mart. Or, you can buy it online via stores like Amazon

I Hope You Enjoyed Learning About Toasted Sesame Oil (Chamgireum) in Korean Cooking!

In the end, I hope you enjoyed learning about toasted sesame oil (chamgireum) in Korean cooking. If so, let me know in the comment section! 

If you would like to read more about cooking, you can find recipes as well as further Korean ingredient articles on my blog. I listed some of our favorite Carving A Journey recipes below! For reference, many recipes are influenced by my family’s blended Korean and Southern heritage.

Further Carving A Journey Recipes:

If you have any questions or comments, you can also email me at [email protected]. And, finally, I would love to hear from you through my social media as well! You can follow me at @carvingajourney on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest. I also started a vlog YouTube channel with my husband! Or, if you would like more articles like these, you can subscribe to the blog by joining the mailing list. Let me know if you try cooking with toasted sesame oil. Thank you so much for stopping by!

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