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Ask Dr. Gourmet

What can I substitute for sesame oil and peanuts in Asian foods?

My daughter is allergic to all forms of sesame and peanuts. What can I use in stir fries to substitute for sesame oil yet maintain a nice Asian flavour?

Dr. Gourmet Says...

Raw Ginger

This is a bit of a challenge and I don't feel you will get all the flavor that comes with sesame oil with any alternative oil. Your best bet would be to use an oil with less flavor, such as canola or grapeseed oil, and enhance the Asian flavor in other ways.

In stir fry recipes, for example, look for soy or tamari sauce, Chinese mustard, fresh ginger, wasabi, lemongrass, lime, cardamom, or cilantro. With some experimenting you may find that using a little more of these ingredients may help balance out the loss of sesame flavor in the oil. Start cautiously, with one ingredient at a time.

Here are a few stir fry recipes you could use as a basis for your experiments. Try just substituting canola oil for the sesame oil at first. They have a lot of other flavors so you may find you don't miss the sesame oil.

Garlic Chicken Stir Fry
Miso Eggplant Stir Fry
Five Spice Pork Stir Fry
Eggplant Fried Rice

Thanks for writing.

Timothy S. Harlan, MD, FACP
Dr. Gourmet