Chances are, if you’re wondering “what can I substitute for sesame oil?” you’re in the middle of cooking something and noticed that you’ve ran out of this kitchen staple. Don’t jump ship. We’ve compiled a list of suitable sesame oil replacement ideas.
Sesame oil is a type of vegetable oil that is derived from sesame seeds. It is known for being heart healthy and surprisingly, good for dental hygiene. For decades, both professional chefs and home cooks alike have used sesame oil as a cooking essential in all types of dishes, especially in Chinese, Korean, and Indian cuisines. What is olive oil in the Mediterranean is sesame oil in Asia.
Unlike some other oils used for cooking, sesame oil is rich in poly unsaturated and monounsaturated fats, and low in saturated fats. These are fats that have traditionally been known to help keep cholesterol under control.
Sesame oil has become a cult favourite for cooking enthusiasts because it provides a distinctively nutty taste to each dish. It is known to be used in salad dressings and marinades or in dishes such as stir-fries, Korean bibimbap, and Korean-style tacos. Pro tip: remember to put your sesame oil inside the fridge to keep it from spoiling!
There are a lot of sesame oil alternatives that can be used to achieve either that distinct nutty taste or provide similar health benefits.
- Avocado oil
- Canola oil
- DIY sesame oil
- Olive oil
- Peanut oil
- Perilla oil
- Roasted peanuts
- Tahini or sesame paste
- Toasted sesame seeds
- Toasted sesame oil or dark sesame oil
- Walnut oil
1. Avocado oil
Being rich in monounsaturated fats, avocado oil has slowly been gaining traction when it comes to healthy, everyday cooking. While it does not offer the same nutty taste sesame oil provides, its versatility in high heat and amenability to deep frying make it a worthy sesame oil substitute.
Best used for: sauteéing, grilling, roasting or using in salad dressings.
2. Canola oil
Everyone has had Canola Oil in their pantry at one point or another. Canola oil is a genetically modified version of grapeseed oil. It was put into circulation mainly as a substitute for grapeseed oil because natural grapeseed oil was believed to be toxic for human consumption. Although it’s still debatable whether canola oil does your health any good or not, what’s good about it is its neutrality. It can be used as a medium for all kinds of mixes, even DIY sesame oil (which we will get at in a bit).
Best use for: frying at high heat.
3. DIY sesame oil
This is a hack a lot of cooks swear by. Create your own sesame oil by adding a neutral oil (such as canola) into already toasted sesame seeds. Place ¼ cup of sesame seeds to 1 cup of canola or vegetable oil, and mix them together on a skillet at medium heat. Cook the mixture for two minutes or until the seeds start to brown. If some of the seeds are starting to burn, take the skillet off the stove immediately. Let the mixture cool down, and then mix them into a blender. Let the mixture rest for 2 hours, strain the seeds, and use the oil as you wish.
Best used for: marinating and stir-frying.
4. Olive oil
Although both seem very different in composition, olive oil is a popular alternative for sesame oil because both are considered to be extremely healthy oils. Some home cooks believe that if you were to use sesame oil solely for it's health benefits, then you can use olive oil interchangeably. Both oils are perfect as salad dressings or as seasoning that is drizzled on top of dishes.
Best used for: deep or shallow frying and cooking in cakes.
5. Peanut oil
Nut oils, such as peanut oil, are very good alternatives to sesame oil. Both have similar health benefits, high heat tolerance and a naturally rich, nutty flavour. Although nut oils like peanut oil are, by nature, milder tasting, with the right amount, they can spice up any dish as much as sesame oil can.
Best used for for: Asian cooking/stir-frys.
6. Perilla oil
Chances are, you may not have heard of perilla oil. Mostly found in Asian grocery stores, Perilla oil is most often used in Chinese or Indian dishes and is known for its deeply earthy rich taste. The only downside is that Perilla oil contains a lot of allergens and calories so it isn’t really the healthiest alternative out there.
Best used for: sauteéing, dressings.
7. Roasted peanuts
If your dish requires that rich, nutty flavour and there are no oils in sight, you can try using small roasted chunks of peanuts. Roasted peanuts will give a strong Asian flavour as well as a little crunch.
Best used for: adding nutty flavour, Asian foods.
8. Tahini or sesame paste
What used to be an obscure, exotic ingredient is now turning out to be a most-coveted ingredient all over the world. You know tahini best when mixed with your favourite hummus (yum!), and yet there are so many more ways to incorporate tahini into your everyday dishes. At its best, tahini should be mildly nutty, creamy, and savoury, making it a perfect sesame oil replacement.
Best used for: roasting or spreading on raw foods.
9. Toasted sesame seeds
Instead of sesame oil, toasted sesame seeds could be your next best bet to achieving that unique nutty flavour. Be extra careful about how much you put in though. Toasted sesame seeds can be quite overpowering.
Toast the seeds over high heat on a non-stick skillet. Shake the pan to make sure that all the seeds are equally toasted. Toast for 2 minutes or until the seeds emit a fragrant sesame smell. Add the seeds teaspoon by teaspoon into your recipe and taste accordingly.
Best used for: baking, in salads.
10. Toasted sesame oil or dark sesame oil (vs. regular sesame oil)
Don’t get confused. These two types of sesame oil are exactly what they claim to be. Regular sesame oil, which comes in a pale-yellow liquid with a pleasant grain-like order, is made from raw, pressed sesame oils and is an all-purpose oil which people use for frying and salad dressing. On the other hand, toasted sesame oil, which is darker in colour and more aromatic, is made from toasted sesame seeds and is used as flavouring to top off a dish.
Light sesame oil is usually used for deep-frying while dark sesame oil is used for sautéeing, stir frying, or making omelettes. Generally, the rule of thumb is to start off with light sesame oil then finish off with dark sesame oil.
Best used for: marinades, dressings, sautés and stir-frys.
11. Walnut oil
Although a bit on the pricier side, walnut oil is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, making it a relatively healthy option in the oil spectrum. Much like sesame oil, walnut oil’s rich, nutty flavour is perfect for salad dressings and marinade for fish and steaks, to mix in pasta, and to spice up desserts.
Best use for: uncooked sauces and dressings.