Have you ever wondered why recipes often call for a specific type of oil? Many of us end up with several different bottles of oil on the pantry shelves, gathering dust as they only seem to be used occasionally.
But is there really that much difference between them?
When it comes to mustard oil vs sunflower oil vs sesame oil, sunflower oil is the most versatile of the three. It is the mildest in flavor and can be used for cooking and in salad dressings.
Sesame seed oil has a nutty flavor that works well in dressings and marinades, while food-grade mustard oil adds peppery notes to sizzling stir-fries.
Whether you’re trying a new type of oil for the first time or are trying to find out more about specialist cooking oils, keep reading to find out everything you need to know about these versatile ingredients!
What Is Sunflower Oil?
My favorite Sunflower oil is this one from Amazon
Pop into your grocery store for some cooking oil, and you’ll notice a wide array of specialist culinary oils made from a range of different ingredients.
And while we’ve all normally got a bottle of basic vegetable oil in the pantry, exploring these artisan oils will open up a whole new world of flavors and recipes!
Of the three oils we are comparing today, sunflower is the one that the majority of people will be familiar with. In fact, if you’ve bought a bottle of vegetable oil, it may well have contained sunflower oil blended with other types of oil.
Sunflower oil is extracted from the seeds of the Helianthus flower, commonly known as sunflowers.
There are many different species of sunflower, some grown for eating whole as snacks or in baked goods, others for animal fodder, and the final type grown for oil production.
Sunflower seeds grown for oil are packed full of fats – every 10kg of sunflower seeds can produce over four liters of oil. Growing sunflowers for oil is a huge agricultural industry, particularly in countries such as Ukraine and Russia.
The oil extracted from sunflower seeds is light yellow in color and has a very light smell. There are different methods used to extract sunflower oil, which can affect the final quality of the oil:
- Cold-pressed sunflower oil is extracted using traditional methods. Less oil is produced using this method, but it is considered to be the purest form of sunflower oil.
- Warm or hot pressing methods extract a larger quantity of oil from the seeds, but this method can affect the flavor and purity of the oil.
As sunflower oil has many beneficial properties, it is used for cosmetic purposes as well as for cooking. It is important to ensure that you are buying food-grade sunflower oil if it is intended for human consumption.
You may also notice several types of sunflower oil available, which can range considerably in price. Refined sunflower oil is more stable, while unrefined sunflower oil has a stronger flavor.
Most sunflower oil is organic and there are no GMO sunflower oils currently on the market.
Some sunflower oils are also labeled as high-oleic or mid-oleic. This means they contain a higher proportion of oleic acids, a naturally occurring fatty acid that is considered to be the healthiest type.
Other sunflower oils will be higher in linoleic acid, which is not so healthy.
For home cooking and consumption, opt for high or mid-oleic sunflower oils wherever possible.
Linoleic sunflower oil is commonly used in the manufacture of products such as margarine, salad dressings, and shortening, but consuming too much of this oil is thought to be detrimental to heart health and cholesterol levels.
Sunflower oil high in oleic acid is the opposite and is known to have many health benefits when consumed in moderate quantities.
What Is Sesame Oil?
My favorite Sesame oil is this one from Amazon.
If your family are huge fans of Chinese or Middle Eastern cuisine, you will undoubtedly have a bottle of sesame oil on your pantry shelf!
Sesame oil is made by extracting oil from the seeds of the sesame plant and is thought to be the oldest oil seed crop produced by humans.
Harvesting the seeds and extracting the oil from sesame seeds is a labor-intensive process, which is why sesame oil tends to cost more than other vegetable oils.
There are various types of sesame oil to suit a range of different culinary needs.
The most common is toasted sesame oil, which is a strong-flavored oil with intense nuttiness and aroma. The seeds are toasted before pressing, intensifying the flavor and producing a light brown oil.
Light sesame oil is not so strong and is also known as white or plain sesame oil. It is very pale in color and is made using raw sesame seeds.
You may also come across cold-pressed sesame oil, made using traditional processing methods. This tends to be more expensive and is often only available in health food stores.
What Is Mustard Oil?
My favorite Mustard oil is this one from Amazon.
Our final oil of the day, mustard oil, might be one you have yet to come across.
Mustard oil is made by extracting oil from either brown or black mustard seeds, depending on where it is made. You may also come across oils infused with mustard seeds, but these are not true mustard oil.
Mustard oil is widely used in South Asia, China, and Russia, but in the US it is not commonly available. The reason for this is that mustard oil contains a particular type of fatty acid called erucic acid, which is believed to increase the risk of heart disease.
So, you will commonly see mustard oil in some countries labeled as ‘for external use only’, while in other countries it is widely consumed.
Luckily, FDA-approved edible mustard oil is now available to purchase online, which is lower in erucic acid.
Mustard Oil Vs Sunflower Oil Vs Sesame Oil – Taste Comparison
Of the three types of oil, sunflower oil is the mildest in terms of taste and aroma. This oil tastes of very little at all, and is barely detectable when used in a dish.
The flavor of sesame oil will depend on the type you use. Light sesame oil is fairly neutral and has only a mild flavor which is barely noticeable.
However, toasted sesame oil is rich, nutty, and earthy, with a distinctive toasted sesame aroma.
For this reason, toasted sesame oil is generally only used in small quantities, as it tends to overwhelm other flavors in the dish.
Of the three oils, mustard oil has the spiciest flavor, with a pepperiness similar to wasabi or horseradish. The flavor is strongest when the oil is used without heating it.
However, heating mustard oil releases its pungent flavor, which adds to the overall aroma of your dish.
Mustard Oil Vs Sunflower Oil Vs Sesame Oil – Nutritional Comparison
Each of the three oils on our list has different nutritional benefits. Sunflower oil is commonly chosen as a healthy option instead of canola oil as it is low in cholesterol and high in unsaturated fats, which helps to maintain heart health.
The high vitamin E levels provide antioxidants to boost the immune system and help to maintain healthy skin.
For this reason, sunflower oil is commonly used in cosmetic products, as it is thought to reduce aging!
Sesame oil is also considered to be a healthier choice of oil, as it is high in several types of antioxidants. It is high in polyunsaturated fats that help to prevent heart disease and cancer, and improve immune function.
It is also believed that sesame oil could help to reduce inflammation, and also play a role in blood sugar regulation.
When it comes to mustard oil, make sure to only use food-grade versions that are safe for human consumption. The high levels of erucic acid in many types of mustard oil are thought to be detrimental to heart health.
However, food-grade mustard oil is lower in erucic acid and contains many beneficial antioxidants and other nutrients.
Mustard Oil Vs Sunflower Oil Vs Sesame Oil – Best Use Comparison
The choice of oil you select will ultimately come down to the type of recipe you are making and the flavor you desire.
Sunflower oil has an almost neutral flavor which does not affect the overall taste of your dish. This means it can be used for frying, roasting, or as a base for dressings, and will not overpower the other ingredients in the dish.
Both sesame oil and mustard oil have a stronger flavor than sunflower oil, which will considerably alter the outcome of your recipe. Select mustard oil if you want a pepper flavor, and sesame oil if an earthy, nutty taste is desired.
Another factor to consider when cooking with oil is the smoke point of the oil. This is the temperature at which the fats in oil begin to break down and oxidize, creating unpleasant flavors and potentially harmful carcinogens.
For cooking, particularly at high temperatures such as roasting, it is important to select an oil with a high smoke point. Oils with low smoke points are normally only used for salad dressings, dips, and drizzling over cooked food.
Sunflower oil has a smoke point of 450 degrees Fahrenheit, making it suitable for deep frying, sautéing, roasting, stir-frying, and baking.
Food-grade mustard oil has an even higher smoke point, at 480 degrees Fahrenheit. This makes it ideal for frying at hot temperatures, and it is often used to sizzle spices to release their flavor.
As for sesame oil, the smoke point depends on the type of oil. Unrefined sesame oil is not suitable for cooking at high temperatures, as it has a low smoke point of around 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Refined sesame oil has a higher smoke point, but it will lose some of its flavors if cooked for too long.
So, which oil is best?
It is clear that sunflower oil is the most versatile, but adds little to the dish in terms of flavor. Food-grade mustard oil will add a distinctive peppery flavor when used for cooking, while sesame oil is more commonly used in dressings, marinades, or drizzled over cooked food.