Sesame oil is a fairly common oil that’s known for its golden brown color and rich nutty taste. It’s often used in Asian cooking but is also found in a lot of other recipes. If you’ve run out of it or you just don’t like it, then you’ll be looking for an alternative oil substitute. This article will explain all the different sesame oil substitutes.
The first thing to note is that there are two basic types of sesame oil. There’s light (or plain) sesame oil and there’s toasted (or dark) sesame oil. The two are quite different. Toasted sesame oil is made from toasted sesame seeds and has a much stronger flavor than light sesame oil. Light sesame oil is just made from raw sesame seeds.
Generally, toasted sesame oil is used in small amounts as a finishing oil to add a touch of its strong flavor to a dish right at the end. Light sesame oil can be used in larger quantities and is a more multi-purpose cooking oil
That means that finding a replacement for toasted sesame oil is different from finding a replacement for light sesame oil.
Substitutes for Light Sesame Oil
Light, untoasted sesame oil isn’t that hard to substitute. Sesame oil does have a distinctive taste due to the fact that sesame seeds are used to make it. A lot of other oils won’t replicate that taste exactly. But, nonetheless, some of them do come close.
As well as trying to match the taste, sesame oil has a high heat tolerance. You have to get it very hot before it starts to smoke or burn. This makes it ideal for frying and cooking that requires high heat. And so, any substitute for sesame oil should ideally have a good heat tolerance as well, so it can be used in the same applications.
A lot of other nut oils and seed oils will do the job, but here are the best ones to choose…
Perilla oil comes from the Perilla plant, otherwise knows as the beefsteak plant, which is native to China and parts of India. Perilla oil is probably the closest match to sesame oil in terms of flavor, with a rich and earthy taste. However, it’s hard to come by.
Normally perilla oil is used in Asian cuisine. So, if you’re looking for it, then you can try an Asian supermarket. Alternatively, go online and order it. Perilla oil is great if you’re looking for something similar to sesame oil and you’ve got the time to wait. As well as being hard to come by, perilla oil also contains allergens and people who are allergic to sesame oil might be allergic to perilla oil as well.
Note: A lot of people use perilla oil for medicinal purposes. It is believed to have anti-inflammatory properties amongst other things. After you’re done cooking with it, why not use it for a spa evening.
Peanut oil is a lot easier to come by and is most people’s go-to sesame oil substitute. It has a similar nutty taste and a savoriness that sesame oil also has. On top of that, it can handle high heat and so makes a good substitute.
You can just swap peanut oil in at like-for-like ratios.
Walnut oil isn’t always readily available but is one of the best substitutes for sesame oil when you’re cooking something that doesn’t need to be heated up. Walnut oil has a low smoke point and so is best as a substitute for salad dressings and things like that, rather than as an oil for cooking.
One of the benefits of walnut oil is that it’s rich in omega 3 fatty acids and has other health benefits. It has a nice nutty flavor, which is slightly different from sesame oil, but it tastes great and is still one of the best sesame oil alternatives.
Canola oil is a great substitute for sesame oil if you don’t like sesame oil or you’re looking to escape from nutty tastes in general. Canola oil doesn’t have any of the sesame flavor or much other nuttiness and is a very plain flavored oil.
Canola oil won’t add much, except texture, to a salad dressing or a sauce. But it does have a high smoke point and so can be used in a stir fry, for deep frying, or for other cooking applications where high heat tolerance is required. Canola oil is best when you just want plain oil.
Avocado oil makes a great sesame oil substitute when the oil needs to add flavor to a dish. While you won’t get any nuttiness from avocado oil, you will get the avocado flavor. A lot of people really love avocado oil and it’s growing in popularity.
Avocado oil has a lot of health benefits and is probably the best substitute for sesame oil if you’re looking for something healthy. It’s commonly used for salad dressings and is great for this purpose.
Olive oil is a good substitute for sesame oil that you’ll probably have available at home. Made from the ground and cold-pressed olives, olive oil has a higher smoke point than a lot of the other alternatives and so can be used for high heat cooking methods like stir-frying. As well as that it’s a classic in cold dishes, such as salads.
Olive oil is probably the most versatile of the sesame oil substitutes and is a great alternative. You won’t get any of the nutty flavors of sesame oil, but it’s readily available and will add something different to your dish. For added health benefits, try extra virgin olive oil.
Like olive oil, sunflower oil is a very versatile oil that you can use for virtually anything. It has a more neutral flavor and is probably best for frying and other high-heat styles of cooking. Just swap it in and see what you think.
Rapeseed oil is similar to sunflower oil, except that it has a slightly more nutty flavor. If you’re able to get hold of it and you’re trying to replicate the taste of sesame oil, then use rapeseed oil instead of sunflower oil as a sesame oil substitute.
While tahini is not an oil, like our other sesame oil substitutes, it’s made with sesame seeds and has a mild sesame taste that you can use in place of sesame oil.
The best thing to do with tahini is to mix it with another oil, like olive oil, and to use your mixture as you would otherwise have used sesame oil. Remember to use an oil with a high heat tolerance if you are cooking at a high temperature.
Toasted sesame oil
If you’ve got any toasted sesame oil, then you can use it in small quantities to add sesame flavor to your dish. The important thing to remember is to not add it in like-for-like quantities. Toasted sesame oil is really strong and it’ll knock your socks off if you do that. Just mix a small amount of it in with another neutrally flavored carrier, like olive oil, and it should add a slight sesame nuttiness to the dish.
Substitute for Toasted Sesame Oil
Toasted sesame oil, or dark sesame oil as it’s otherwise known, is made from toasted sesame seeds and is quite a bit different from light sesame oil. It’s a lot stronger and is usually added in small quantities at the end of preparing a dish to add a distinctive sesame flavor. Unfortunately, finding a replacement for toasted sesame oil isn’t that easy.
There are other alternatives (listed below), but the best thing is to make your own toasted sesame seed oil…
Make your own toasted sesame seed oil
The best toasted sesame oil substitute is toasted sesame oil itself. If you’ve got some sesame seeds and the time to do it then here is how to make your own toasted sesame oil.
First, you will need to roast some sesame seeds. To do this spread some sesame seeds in a single layer, on top of a sheet of baking paper in a pan. Heat your oven to 35o degrees Fahrenheit and add the pan. It should take about 7-10 minutes for them to roast properly. Shake or stir the pan every now and then to stop them from sticking.
After that add 1/4 cup of the sesame seeds that you’ve just toasted to one cup of neutral oil, like vegetable oil, grapeseed oil, or canola oil. Cook them on medium heat until the seeds turn brown. This usually only takes 3-5 minutes. Stop as soon as the seeds start to look like they’re burning.
You’ll need to let your freshly made sesame oil cool down for a couple of hours before you can use it. When it’s cooled down, there you have it, sesame oil… the perfect sesame oil substitute.
Other toasted seed oils
The toasting is what makes toasted sesame oil so strong. If you can find other toasted seed oils they will have a similarly strong flavor and will make a great toasted sesame oil substitute.
Other toasted oils you can buy are toasted (or roasted) peanut oil and toasted sunflower oil. Unfortunately, these are often hard to come by and so most people will have to rely on our other alternatives.
Plain roasted sesame seeds
If you have any sesame seeds, then you can roast them in your oven and use them as flavoring for your dish.
It’s pretty simple. What you need to do is spread your seeds in a single layer, evenly on top of some baking paper in a pan. Then heat your oven to about 35o degrees Fahrenheit and add your pan. You should cook them until they’re golden in color. This usually takes about 7-1o minutes. Be careful to stir or shake the pan from time to time to stop them from sticking.
After this, crush your roasted/toasted sesame seeds. You can either sprinkle them directly onto your dish or you can mix them with another oil first.
Similar to roasted sesame seeds, you can roast your own peanuts and use them to add a strong, roasted, nutty flavor to your dish.
Just like with sesame seeds, arrange your peanuts in a single layer on top of a baking sheet in a pan and then put them in an oven heated to about 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Peanuts will take about 15 minutes to roast. Remember to stir or shake the pan every now and then to stop them from sticking.
After you’ve finished roasting them, you’ll need to crush them. This will work best in a blender or a food processor. Again, you can either use your crushed roasted peanuts alone or you can add them to another kind of oil, like olive oil, first.
Melted butter/beurre noir
Some people use melted butter or beurre noir as it’s officially called, as a substitute for sesame oil. Done correctly, melted butter has quite a strong taste and can work nicely. It will have a different taste but can be used to fill the space that’s left by your missing sesame oil.
The ‘noir’ part means that you have to make it dark. This is to be more like dark sesame oil. Cook your butter in a pan under low heat until it turns dark brown. You can add other flavorings, such as lemon juice or vinegar if you like. Remember to use low heat because butter does not have a high smoke point.