Sesame oil is delicious and therefore called for in many recipes. It’s very popular in both Asian and Middle Eastern cuisines and has picked up enormous popularity in most other countries of the world as well.
It’s considered a healthy oil and is mid-range as far as price goes. But still, not everyone has this oil in their cupboards.
So what are the best substitutes for sesame oil? The absolute best sesame oil substitute is one you make yourself. Using sesame seeds, it’s easy to make your own sesame-infused oil that’s perfect as a replacement to the store-bought stuff.
To help you make your decision, this article will give a brief description of each of the substitute options and explain when to use each one, as well as any benefits or drawbacks that might be related to the substitution.
We’ll also answer a few of your most pressing sesame oil questions.
Types of Sesame Oil
This article is going to primarily focus on how to substitute sesame oil, but before we get into that, it might be useful to understand the different types of sesame oil and what they’re typically used for so that you know what best to replace it with depending on your recipe.
When it comes to sesame oil, you can find dark or light options, toasted or untoasted, refined or unrefined and even cold-pressed or extra virgin.
Extra Virgin Sesame Oil and Cold Pressed Sesame Oil
You’ve probably heard of extra virgin olive oil, and maybe even cold-pressed oil, but you don’t necessarily know what the title means.
When oil is cold-pressed, it’s made without using any heat or chemicals. This retains the nutritional quality better and they’re typically deemed much higher quality. It’s extracted from raw, dry seeds and is considered a good oil for cooking with since it will stand up to high temperatures and has a very light, neutral flavor.
For an oil to be given the coveted title of Extra Virgin, it must be the first-pressed batch of oil, made without any heat or chemical solvents. If oil is pressed more than once, it’s considered refined.
Refined vs Unrefined Sesame Oil
The more times a seed is pressed to extract the oil, the more refined it becomes. There are pros and cons to each.
Refined oils typically have a higher smoke point, making them healthier to cook with at high temperatures. However the more refined a product is, the less natural nutrition is retained and less healthy it becomes in and of itself.
Unrefined oils also retain more of their natural flavor, so the more refined it becomes, the more neutral it will taste. Unrefined oils, therefore, are perfect for use in uncooked dishes or as an added oil after cooking, whereas refined sesame oil is more common for use in high heat stirfries, etc.
Toasted Sesame Oil
When sesame seeds are toasted or roasted, their nutty, smoky flavor is enhanced substantially. Regular or untoasted sesame oil is remarkably light in flavor, almost neutral even.
Toasted sesame oil, like this one, is very distinct and a little goes a very long way. It’s darker in color, ranging from golden to brown with a flavor that gets stronger as the color gets darker.
Toasted sesame oil is very popular in Asian cuisines, whereas you’re more likely to see untoasted or regular oil called for in Middle Eastern dishes.
Black Sesame Oil
This type of sesame oil is named for the type of seed it’s made from: black sesame seeds. The flavor is very rich and some even call it creamy.
It’s perfect for use in uncooked dishes such as salad dressings, or to drizzle over rice or grains after they’re cooked.
It’s important to note that black sesame oil is different from dark sesame oil, which usually simply means toasted. They will have very different flavors!
The 13 Best Sesame Oil Substitutes
Whenever you’re substituting one thing for another in a recipe there are two main elements you want to consider: flavor and health.
Depending on what you’re subbing out, you may also have to worry about consistency, but most oils and oil alternatives are roughly the same texture, so you don’t have to worry about that here.
The next section of this article is going to break down the best substitutes for sesame oil, with notes about which option to chose for different situations.
1. DIY Sesame Seed Flavored Oil
If you don’t have sesame oil but you happen to have some sesame seeds, you can DIY your own sesame flavored oil. This will come in handy if you really want the flavor of sesame oil to come through in your recipe.
The first thing you’ll need to do is carefully toast your sesame seeds in a pan over low heat. Stir them frequently so that they don’t burn and when they’re nice and fragrant and lightly browned, they’ll be ready for an alternative oil.
You can use just about any oil, but the more neutral your oil is, the more the flavor of the sesame seeds will come through. Try grapeseed oil, light olive oil (not extra virgin), or sunflower oil.
Add 1 cup of oil for every 1/4 cup of toasted seeds.
Let the oil simmer on the lowest heat possible for 30 minutes and then transfer it to a glass jar, dark if possible.
Once it has cooled, you can keep this sesame seed flavored oil in your fridge, alongside your other nut or seed oils. When you’re ready to cook with it, you can either filter the seeds out or leave them in for extra flavor and texture.
Tahini is an oily paste made from sesame seeds, so it will work beautifully as a replacement for flavor. It is not an oil, however, so if you were planning on using it to keep chicken from sticking to your pan, you’ll need a bit of extra alternative oil as well.
Again, use a neutrally flavored oil to allow the nuttiness of the tahini to shine in your cooking.
Simply add a small amount of paste to the amount of alternative oil called for in your recipe and mix together well before adding the rest of your ingredients.
3. Peanut Oil and Other Nut Oils
Peanut oil is a great substitute for sesame oil because you get a light nutty flavor and a similar health profile. It has a slightly higher smoke point than sesame oil and it’s usually a bit lower in price.
It can be used either for cooking or for adding oil to uncooked or previously cooked foods, much like sesame oil.
There are other nut oils that can also be used, but they each transfer their own unique nutty flavor a bit more.
Almond oil is very high in Vitamin E, and walnut oil is known to be great for brain health. Both of them have very distinct flavors, however.
Hazelnut and macadamia nut oils are both very creamy and delicious, though the priciest of the nut oil options.
If you’re going to use any of these nutty options, they’ll work best for uncooked recipes that lend well to their unique flavors or baked goods.
4. Flax Oil and Other Seed Oils
Flax oil is very popular within the plant-based community because it’s high in Omega 3 fatty acids, which are otherwise mainly only found in fish and animal products.
It has a nice, slightly nutty flavor that makes is a good solution for sesame oil in recipes that are uncooked, such as dips and dressings. It has a relatively low smoke point, so it’s not ideal for cooking with.
There are other seed oils that will also work similarly, most notably hemp and pumpkin seed oils. Hemp seed oil is actually quite similar to sesame seed oil in that you can find it unrefined and cold-pressed for the highest quality.
It also has a similar seedy, nutty flavor and it’s great used topically as well. These last two oils can be more difficult to find, however, and more expensive options.
5. Grapeseed Oil
This is one of the most neutral-tasting oils available, it doesn’t get cloudy when it’s cold and it has a high smoke point. Combined, these features make the oil pressed out of the seeds of grapes ideal for almost every occasion.
While it won’t have the signature flavor of sesame, it will work fantastically well as a substitute in every application.
Many people use sesame oil in their skin and hair care routines and grapeseed oil is even a good substitute in this situation. It’s anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and full of antioxidants, just like sesame seed oil.
The only reason it doesn’t come in at number one is because of the flavor difference.
6. Olive Oil
Olive oil is one of the most popular oils on the market, touted for its health benefits. Depending on what you’re cooking, it may work as a good substitute for your sesame oil.
If you’re working with a recipe that calls for regular, untoasted sesame oil, you can use a light olive oil to get a similarly neutral flavor.
Extra virgin olive oil is quite noticeable for its tangy, fresh green olive flavor which is very different from the toasted, nutty flavor of dark sesame oil, so be aware of this difference in your recipe.
It stands up well to heat though, so if you’re stir-frying something, it will suit your needs well. Even if the flavor is slightly different, that doesn’t necessarily mean it will be unpleasant!
7. Avocado Oil
Avocado oil is made from the pit of avocados and is very similar to olive oil. It’s rich in Omega 9, which is somewhat unique and very healthy. It’s versatile and can be used for both cooking and cold or uncooked recipes.
The flavor is light and almost buttery so, although it can be used in much the same way as olive oil, it doesn’t have the tang that will stand out in recipes that call for sesame oil, a distinctly tang-less flavor.
Cold-pressed avocado oil will have the nicest flavor and the most health benefits.
8. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is one of the healthiest oils you can cook with or use in pretty much any capacity, but we’ve listed it quite far down the substitution scale because the flavor is very different from sesame oil.
If your recipe calls for refined, regular sesame oil, coconut oil will work quite well as a substitution, though it will lend some of its signature coconut flavors to your dish.
It doesn’t sub well for a toasted sesame oil simply because instead of a nutty, earthy flavor you’ll end up with a sweeter, creamier touch.
If you’re not bothered by this, coconut oil is a great product to work with as a healthy option that is also fairly resistant to heat.
If you’re cooking with your sesame oil, butter can make an acceptable substitute, especially if it’s browned in a pan to develop some flavor, just be careful not to le the sugars and proteins in the dairy burn.
A clarified butter like ghee will work even better because it isn’t as heavy or creamy as most commercial butter and doesn’t burn as easily.
A good quality butter is also surprisingly nutritious, especially if you opt for the organic, hormone-free dairy options.
The type of nutrition will be different from what you enjoy with sesame oil, but there’s nothing wrong with getting some extra Vitamins A, E, and K into your life.
10. Animal Fat – Lard or Drippings
Animal fat in the form of lard or drippings is very similar to working with butter.
You can lightly brown the fat, being careful not to burn it, and get a slightly toasted flavor that is a decent substitute for sesame oil.
It’s obviously not plant-based if that’s something you’re looking for, but it can be relatively healthy, depending on the quality of the product you use.
In general, the health and nutrition that you get from the fat of an animal will depend largely on what that animal was fed and how it was treated.
Organic, grass-fed and finished, hormone and antibiotic-free animals will produce fat that has plenty of nutritional value. Factory farmed animals are going to be decidedly less good for you overall, whether you’re eating the flesh or the fat.
In either case, however, the flavor and texture will function as a substitute for sesame oil, in a pinch.
11. Vegetable Oils
There are a great variety of oils in this category that will all act comparably as a substitute for sesame oil and have similar health benefits/disadvantages. Some options that fall under the umbrella of vegetable oil include palm, soy, canola/rapeseed, sunflower, corn, and safflower.
Each is fairly neutral in flavor, so they can be used without altering your recipe any more than simply not having the sesame flavor, and most of them stand up to high heat relatively well. Often you’ll find vegetable oils that are a blend of some of the above ingredients.
There are a few that have specific concerns.
Palm oil, for example, is healthier than some other options but is very controversial from an environmental standpoint.
Soy is best if it’s organic and used in very small doses to limit the effects of compounds that mimic the hormone estrogen.
Canola seed is one of the healthy seeds you can find, but the process it goes through to become an oil leaves a highly refined product with much less nutritional value and a lot of added toxic chemicals.
Overall the category of vegetable oils is health-suspect, and if this is a concern for you, they really should only be used if other options aren’t available.
12. Margarine or Vegan Butter Alternative
Margarine or vegan butter alternatives are very similar and can be used to substitute sesame oil if you have none of the other options available. They’re relatively neutral in flavor and are almost a cross between butter and vegetable oil.
They’re more oily and less creamy than butter, since they’re largely made from a combination of vegetable oils, but have additives to give them a taste and texture that is more similar to butter.
They’re low on our list of substitutes because they’re highly processed and not very healthy, especially if being compared to a clean, nutritious product like sesame oil.
13. Fish Oil
We saved fish oil for last because, although it will technically serve the purpose of an oil for your cooking, it is generally taken as a supplement and therefore to get an equivalent quantity, it will be much more expensive.
Fish oil also tastes very fishy. Depending on what you’re cooking, this might be ok, but in most cases, it will add more flavor than you’ve bargained for.
From a health perspective, fish oil is full of healthy Omega 3 fatty acids so, even if you’re not going to use it to sub for your sesame oil, you may want to still consider adding it to your day.
Here are all of the oils nicely compiled into this helpful chart.
|DIY Sesame Seed Oil||Best Overall|
|Tahini||Best for Sauces|
|Peanut Oil and Other Nut Oils||Best for High Heat, Nutty Flavor|
|Flax Oil and Other Seed Oils||Best for Uncooked Dishes|
|Grapeseed Oil||Best Neutral Oil|
|Olive Oil||Best Versatility|
|Avocado Oil||Best for Omega-9s|
|Coconut Oil||Best for Creamy Dishes|
|Butter||Best for Extra Flavor|
|Animal Fat - Lard or Drippings||Best Texture|
|Vegetable Oils||Best Budget Option|
|Margarine or Vegan Butter Alternative||Best Vegan Alternative for a Buttery Flavor|
|Fish Oil||Best Supplement|
What is a good substitute for sesame seeds?
If you’re looking strictly for flavor, you can add a little sesame oil or tahini in substitution for sesame seeds.
If you’re looking for texture as well as a bit of flavor, sunflower seeds work wonderfully well. They’re slightly larger and softer, but they have a light seedy flavor that resembles sesame seeds and a lot of similar health benefits.
Poppy seeds, flax seeds, and hemp seeds are also great alternatives, but they may be slightly more expensive and a bit more difficult to find compared to sunflower seeds. They’re each highly nutritious and absolutely delicious in their own rights.
Are there sesame oil disadvantages?
All seed oils are highly processed and quite high in Omega 6s. Omega 6s are healthy, but they need to be balanced by a specific ratio of Omega 3s and, unfortunately, most of us are consuming a diet that is highly unbalanced with too much Omega 6 fatty acid and too little Omega 3.
Sesame seed oil is monounsaturated, which is quite controversial. For many years this was thought to be the most heart-healthy type of fat but is more recently being challenged by new studies.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that all oil should be consumed only in moderation. Aside from that, some people may be allergic to sesame seeds, as some people may be allergic to literally any food on the planet.
What are sesame oil benefits?
Sesame oil is rich with anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds that both keep you healthy and thriving.
As with most oils, it is high in fat, but it is mainly monounsaturated fats which are great for the health of your heart, helping to lower cholesterol and possibly even protect against plaque build-up in your arteries when consumed in moderation.
Having healthy fats in your diet also improves metabolism, brain health and the function of your joints.
Sesame oil has many different benefits when used topically, ranging from UV protection to the prevention of hair loss. It is an emollient or something that soothes and softens, so it works great to heal cracked, dry skin and also dry scalp conditions.
The fatty acids along with the potent antioxidants and the anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory compounds also help skin irritations, resolving inflammation and healing wounds quickly.
What are the most popular sesame oil recipes?
Sesame oil is very popular for sautéing meats and vegetables because it adds a layer of nutty, toasted flavor that pairs beautifully with soy sauce.
It’s commonly used for stirfries, kababs, or marinating meats and tofu before grilling. It can also be used without being cooked to add the flavor to dips like hummus or salad dressings.