A great gathering of Sesame Oil Substitute ideas to suit your cooking and baking needs! From similar cooking oils with high smoke points to the best alternatives for that awesome nutty sesame seed oil flavor!
16 Easy Sesame Oil Substitutes
Sesame oil is an integral part of Asian cooking, imparting its distinctive flavor to so many of our favorite dishes! Sesame seed oil is used in my hibachi cooking oil blend to make all of these easy hibachi recipes at home, as well as any great stir-fry, fried rice, sesame chicken, and many, many more recipes!
Ordinarily, when you are looking for a sesame oil alternative you are looking for something that can match the wonderfully unique toasted, nutty taste of dark sesame oil. You can read more about the types of sesame oil below, but it is the dark sesame seed oil that is commonly used in Chinese cooking.
With the shortages due to the events of the last year, this is one item that I could not find on the shelves at my local grocery stores. I was very patient, then I got impatient and started testing alternatives!
Table of contents
- 16 Easy Sesame Oil Substitutes
- What's the Difference Between Sesame Oil and Sesame Seed Oil
- Types Of Sesame Seed Oil
- Best Options For Substituting Sesame Seed Oil
- The Best Light Sesame Oil Substitutes for Cooking
- The Best Toasted Sesame Oil Alternatives Based on Flavor
What's the Difference Between Sesame Oil and Sesame Seed Oil
Are they the same thing? Yes and no! Both are made from sesame seeds. The really confusing thing to note is that the two varieties are sometimes labeled interchangeably!
Generally speaking, 'sesame oil' is the light variety of sesame seed oil noted below. 'Sesame seed oil' is the darker variety that you find in smaller bottles in the store. Search for either online in the shopping tab and both of the searches will bring up the same sesame seed-based oil results.
Types Of Sesame Seed Oil
Sesame oil is sold in multiple forms but the most common are dark and light oils.
- Light (typically untoasted) - and usually labeled as 'Sesame Oil' and is made with untoasted sesame seeds, has a mild flavor, and is lighter in color. Light sesame oil can be used just like any other cooking oil and is the top choice for cooking oil in many countries. Light sesame oil's mild, neutral flavor makes it an ideal choice for all-purpose cooking and frying. The high smoke point of sesame oil makes it a wonderful choice for frying and high-heat searing, sauteing, and more. Light sesame oil has a smoke point of 410ºF ( 210ºC ).
- Dark (typically toasted) - can be found labeled as either 'Sesame Oil' or 'Sesame Seed Oil' and may or may not describe the sesame seed oil as toasted. The color of dark sesame seed oil ranges from gold to brown and sometimes has an amber hue. Dark sesame oil has a high smoke point at 450ºF ( 232ºC ) but I do not suggest cooking at high heat for long periods of time as the flavor is diminished.
- Unrefined (not usually found in grocery stores) - also called cold-pressed, expeller pressed, organic, virgin, or extra virgin sesame oil that has the nutty sesame flavor but without toasting. Organic sesame oil can be found in health food stores and is also used for botanical hair and skin products. Best for sauteing and sauces, with a medium heat smoke point of 350ºF ( 175ºC ).
- Black Sesame Oil - is made entirely from black sesame seeds. It has a rich, nutty flavor with a creamy texture. Black sesame oil can be purchased as toasted oil ( by Lee Kum Kee brand ) that is suitable for cooking. The cold-pressed variety is extremely flavorful, is used for many botanical purposes, and is an excellent addition to salad dressings.
Best Options For Substituting Sesame Seed Oil
I have compiled a list of the best ideas for alternatives for sesame oil below. The list is broken down into two sections, based on whether you need light sesame oil for cooking or looking for a comparable flavor substitution.
In short, the best oil to replace the flavor of dark or toasted sesame oil is perilla oil. The best oil to use as a replacement for light or untoasted sesame oil in cooking is virgin olive oil, light, or extra light olive oil.
The Best Light Sesame Oil Substitutes for Cooking
1. Olive Oil
Olive oil is the best replacement for light sesame seed oil in cooking. To closely match the neutral sesame oil flavor, use virgin, light, or extra light olive oil.
The consistency of olive oil is also very similar to sesame oil, making it a great match for texture. Additionally, the higher smoke point of the olive oil varieties ( other than EVOO ) makes it a perfect oil for deep-frying.
Best Used: for pan-searing, deep-frying, dressings, and baking.
smoke point: 405ºF+ ( up to 465ºF )
2. Canola Oil
Canola oil is a great neutral-flavored oil with a similar smoke point to sesame oil. Since canola oil is a commonly used oil, there's a great chance that you already have it on hand!
Best Used: in baking, frying, and especially deep-frying.
smoke point: 400ºF
3. Coconut Oil or MCT Oil
Coconut oil is a great oil to use in cooking where the nutty toasted sesame seed flavor is not needed. The light coconut flavor may be slightly noticeable, but this is one of my favorite substitutions.
When cooking with MCT oil there is no flavor or odor to the oil, which makes it a great flavorless option. However, due to the low smoke point, it is only suitable for low to medium temperature cooking.
Best Used: in baking, frying, or deep-frying.
smoke point: 350ºF / 175ºC ( unrefined ), 400ºF / 205ºC ( refined ), 320ºF / 160ºC ( MCT Oil )
4. Sunflower Oil
Sunflower oil is a relatively flavor-less oil that is made from sunflower seeds. Sunflower oil is an ideal cooking oil to use for high-heat cooking. It makes a great sesame oil alternative to use for wok-frying, deep-frying, and sautéing.
Best Used: baking, frying, and deep-frying.
smoke point: 450ºF
5. Safflower Oil
Like sunflower oil above, safflower oil is made from the seeds of the safflower plant. Safflower oil has a very mild flavor and neutral aroma which makes it ideal for baking, wok-frying, and more!
Best Used: in baking, frying, and deep-frying.
smoke point: 510ºF
6. Grapeseed Oil
Grapeseed oil is another relatively flavor-less cooking oil that can be used as a light sesame oil alternative. It also makes a great base for your homemade sesame oil shared below.
What I love about grapeseed oil in cooking is that it works well with any flavors in your recipe. This is a great oil to use with pricier ingredients, to really let the flavors shine!
Best Used: baking, frying, sauteing, wok-frying, and deep-frying.
smoke point: 420ºF
The Best Toasted Sesame Oil Alternatives Based on Flavor
1. Homemade Sesame Oil (DIY Recipe)
This trustee chef hack is an easy sesame seed oil alternative that produces a great flavored oil and it's easy to make at home! If you have sesame seeds on hand, simply toast them in a single layer in a frying pan.
Heat ¼ cup of sesame seeds slowly over low heat, so they don't burn. Once the seeds are lightly golden and aromatic, add 1 cup of a neutral-flavored oil listed above - or my favorite, avocado oil. Continue heating over low heat for about 2 - 3 minutes, but remove from heat immediately if your sesame seeds start to brown.
For best flavor, use a hand blender and mix the oil and toasted sesame seeds then allow the oil to cool for two hours. Strain and transfer to a clean glass container or jar. Your homemade sesame oil can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
Best Used: in any recipe that calls for toasted sesame oil.
smoke point: will vary based upon your base cooking oil.
2. Tahini (Sesame Paste)
Tahini is made from raw sesame seeds that have been soaked and then ground down into an oily paste. Sesame seed oil is made from toasted sesame seeds, so tahini is arguably the best option for a similar taste.
To substitute for sesame oil, use a ratio of ¾ tablespoon of tahini to 1 tablespoon of sesame oil. For smaller amounts use ¾ teaspoon Tahini for each 1 teaspoon of sesame oil called for in a recipe.
If you have tahini on hand, it can also be combined with one of the neutral-flavored cooking oils mentioned above. In combination, the tahini and oil work very much like sesame oil in sautéed or stir-fried recipes.
Best Used: in dressings, recipes that will be lightly cooked, and as a finishing touch to a cooked dish.
3. Perilla Oil
Perilla oil is similar to sesame oil in more ways than one. Like sesame oil, perilla oil is also made from pressed seeds. Perilla plant seeds are pressed and the oil is also available with both toasted and untoasted options.
The perilla seeds produce an oil that has its own unique, nutty, earthy flavor. Additionally, perilla oil also has a hint of licorice flavor similar to anise but still has a 'sesame' aroma.
Perilla oil is a commonly used ingredient in Korean cuisine. You can buy perilla oil at specialty ethnic stores or Asian markets.
Best Used: in dressings and for sautéing.
smoke point: 372ºF
4. Toasted Sesame Seeds
Toasted, or roasted, sesame seeds are a great flavor replacement if you don't need the oil to work as a binding agent for your recipe. Use a small amount of your toasted sesame seeds as a flavor replacement. The toasted sesame seeds can easily overpower the flavor of your dish.
Lightly toast sesame seeds in a non-stick skillet over low heat until golden and aromatic. Sprinkle into stir-fried recipes or use as a garnish when serving to add that perfectly matched sesame oil flavor.
Best Used: as a last-minute addition or garnish.
5. Walnut Oil
Walnut oil features its own mild nutty flavor and is available with roasted walnut flavor options to compliment your foods. Walnut oil is available in expeller-pressed and cold-pressed varieties, with the cold-pressed oil being pricier.
The low smoke point of walnut oil means it is less suitable to using for sautéing or stir-frying and best used as a finishing touch. High heat will change the flavor of the walnut oil, and potentially make your foods bitter.
Best Used: in marinades, uncooked sauce, salad dressings, and as a flavor addition to finished dishes.
smoke point: 320ºF
6. Olive Oil
Olive oil is also noted above as the best overall substitute for light sesame oil when you use virgin or extra light olive oil for their neutral flavors. However, extra virgin olive oil is also a substitute for sesame oil for being a great alternative to achieve a similar flavor.
The consistency of olive oil is very similar to sesame oil, making it a great match for texture. The olive oil will also bind your recipe in the same manner that sesame seed oil would.
Best Used: for pan-searing, deep-frying, dressings, marinades, and baking.
smoke point: 405ºF
7. Avocado Oil
While avocado oil doesn't add the characteristic nutty, toasted sesame flavor in cooking it does add a delightfully rich taste. It's a wonderful sesame oil substitution to use where the richness and texture need to be matched, rather than flavor.
The chef hack mentioned above in the DIY sesame oil recommends a neutral oil base. Use whatever neutral-flavored oil that you have readily available to you. However, if you happen to have avocado oil or want the very best homemade sesame seed oil, do use this oil as your base!
Best Used: wok-frying, sautéing, deep-frying, dressings, marinades, and baking.
smoke point: 520ºF
8. Peanut Oil
Peanut oil is a great oil to use as a sesame oil substitute. It has a high smoke point that makes it a highly suitable choice for wok-frying. This is the best choice among oils to use for stir-fry recipes.
Plus, the inherent nutty flavor in peanuts comes through in this affordable cooking oil. This mild, but rich and nutty flavored oil is commonly used in Asian cooking alongside sesame oil!
Best Used: sautéing, frying, deep-frying, and stir-fry.
smoke point: 440ºF
9. Toasted Peanuts
If you want to add some nuttiness to your recipe, but don't have sesame seeds or other sesame oil alternatives on hand, peanuts are a great addition. Toasted or plain, roughly chopped peanuts can be added to stir-fry dishes and your favorite Asian recipes for an easy flavor enhancement!
Best Used: as a last-minute addition to stir-fry dinners or as a garnish.
10. Almond Oil
Almond oil has its own distinctive flavor that while not the same as dark sesame oil, is still a great flavor addition to Asian cooking. The high smoke point means that this oil is well-suited for wok-frying and stir-fry recipes.
Other nut oils like hazelnut or macadamia nut oil are also good flavor alternatives. However, they are high-cost oils that are best suited to adding to dishes as a finishing touch. Their rich, creamy texture makes these oils ideal for dressings as well.
Best Used: sauteing, stir-frying, wok-frying, and dressings.
smoke point: 420ºF
11. Butter or Ghee (Clarified Butter)
Butter does not have the characteristic sesame seed flavor, but it can be stirred into dishes at the end of the cooking process to add a rich, creamy texture that tastes amazing. Your butter can also be browned before using to add a much deeper and intensely rich flavor with hints of nuttiness.
Due to the high smoke point of ghee, or clarified butter, you can use the ghee at any point in the cooking process. It adds a light buttery richness to your dishes without burning like butter is apt to do.
Best Used: sauteing, stir-frying, or baking.
smoke point: butter 302ºF, clarified butter 482ºF
Sesame Oil Substitute
Light Sesame Oil Option 1 - Olive Oil
- 1 tablespoon olive oil (virgin, light, or extra light olive oil)
Light Sesame Oil Option 2 - Canola Oil
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
Light Sesame Oil Option 3 - Coconut Oil or MCT Oil
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil or MCT oil
Light Sesame Oil Option 4 - Sunflower Oil
- 1 tablespoon sunflower oil
Light Sesame Oil Option 5 - Safflower Oil
- 1 Tbsp safflower oil
Light Sesame Oil Option 6 - Grapeseed Oil
- 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
Dark Sesame Oil Option 1 - Homemade Sesame Oil
- ¼ cup sesame seeds
- 1 cup neutral flavor cooking oil (from light sesame oil alternatives)
Dark Sesame Oil Option 2 - Tahini
- ¾ teaspoon tahini
- ¼ teaspoon neutral flavor cooking oil (from light sesame oil alternatives)
Dark Sesame Oil Option 3 - Perilla Oil
- 1 tablespoon perilla oil
Dark Sesame Oil Option 4 - Toasted Sesame Seeds
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds (or to taste)
Dark Sesame Oil Option 5 - Walnut Oil
- 1 tablespoon walnut oil
Dark Sesame Oil Option 6 - Olive Oil
- 1 tablespoon olive oil (extra virgin)
Dark Sesame Oil Option 7 - Avocado Oil
- 1 tablespoon avocado oil
Dark Sesame Oil Option 8 - Peanut Oil
- 1 tablespoon peanut oil
Dark Sesame Oil Option 9 - Toasted Peanuts
- 1 tablespoon toasted peanuts (or to taste)
Dark Sesame Oil Option 10 - Almond Oil
- 1 tablespoon almond oil
Dark Sesame Oil Option 11 - Butter or Ghee (Clarified Butter)
- 1 tablespoon butter or ghee
- Choose a substitute from the list.
- Use the substitute in your recipe.
Angela is an at home chef that developed a passion for all things cooking and baking at a young age in her Grandma's kitchen. After many years in the food service industry, she now enjoys sharing all of her family favorite recipes and creating tasty dinner and amazing dessert recipes here at Bake It With Love!