8 Good Sesame Oil Substitutes
Sesame oil is one of the most ancient condiments in the world! Sesame seeds require less water than most crops, so they were able to thrive during many droughts, and farmers caught on!
Sesame oil has been popular in many cultures around the world for thousands of years, and it’s easy to see why.
Sesame oil’s distinct rich, strong aroma and nutty flavor make it much more interesting than most oils out there. It is popular in Indian cuisine, as well as in many Asian dishes.
It is also used for medicinal purposes in Chinese medicine, believed to help heal the skin, increase blood flow and improve libido. Some Chinese cultures use sesame oil as a lotion or ointment as it is believed to heal cracks in the skin (this oil is different than cooking oil and has a much milder scent.)
Sesame oil is a popular oil in the Western world as well for its health properties! Sesame oil is incredibly high in calcium and magnesium and is therefore a much better option than many of the oils on the market. Sesame oil is very high in fat and often stored in steel containers because it oxidizes and spoils more quickly than other oils.
Sesame oil does have a very strong flavor, so it is not suitable for every recipe. It is also dark brown in color, making it less than ideal for certain applications where a clear oil or neutral flavor is desired. It is also not suitable for people who have sesame allergies, which are becoming more prevalent, so we’ve collected the following alternatives for sesame oil.
1. Canola, Grapeseed or Vegetable Oil
You can substitute vegetable oil for sesame oil at a 1:1 ratio and it will not impact your recipe much. The flavor might be slightly less rich, but overall, these two products act very similar and have almost identical fat content.
Vegetable oil is clear and pure and is suitable for most people with allergies. One of the best reasons to use canola or vegetable oil is that it is very cheap, much cheaper than sesame oil, drop for drop, so you can use it if you’re on a budget and get similar results, but sacrifice a bit of flavor.
Grapeseed oil is another healthy fat that will work in place of sesame oil, however, it will burn if cooked at a high temperature. Use grapeseed oil as a 1:1 ratio for sesame oil, and feel free to add some sesame seeds to the top of your dish for that added flavor. Note that grapeseed is sometimes called rapeseed oil.
2. Coconut Oil
The downside of coconut oil is that it can have a strong flavor and will burn if cooked at high temperatures, but the benefits far outweigh any downsides. Coconut oil is rich in minerals and high in vitamin E.
Like sesame oil, coconut oil is often used for medical purposes (talk about great skin and hair!) but it also makes a great substitute when cooking. It is important to note that, unlike most oils, coconut oil is solid when at room temperature so it may not work out in applications like salad dressings.
3. Gingelly Oil
Gingelly oil is made from raw sesame seeds that are cooked at a very high temperature to release their oils early, resulting in a light, amber color.
This is different from traditional sesame oil which is cooked longer and sometimes even roasted, resulting in a very dark color and strong flavor. Gingelly oil is much milder and therefore works as a great substitute for sesame oil in stovetop cooking or grilling, especially in Indian food, where it is most popular.
4. Olive Oil or Flaxseed Oil
We recommend either of these oils in place of sesame oil because although you won’t be getting the same flavor, you will be getting plenty of the health benefits!
Olive oil and flaxseed oil are both low in harmful saturated fat, but high in things like vitamins E and K.
They can both reduce inflammation and will work best when substituting sesame oil in dressings or raw applications. If you need a substitute for cooking oil, olive oil has a high smoke point, so it might be best to choose a different option from this list in that case.
5. Sesame Paste or Tahini
Tahini (or Chinese Sesame Paste) will work as a sesame oil alternative, but you may need to use them in combination with sesame oil, or some other neutral-tasting oil from this list. These will be best used in dressings or as flavorings, rather than for cooking but will give an almost identical flavor!
You can try combining tahini with equal parts oil (olive, grapeseed or canola) and then cooking this on a low heat, however be very careful not to burn this. This option however will not work for anyone with a sesame allergy, so if that’s the reason for substituting, we suggest finding a different option from this list
6. Fish Oil
Fish oil is another popular oil in Asian cuisine because it is readily available and cost-effective. It is also very strong in flavor, so will make a good alternative to sesame oil for applications where you are using a lot of spice or other strong flavors.
Fish oil is an especially popular option for things like stir fries or fried noodles! It is often super high in omega 3 and 6, making it a healthy choice, but should be used relatively quickly as this is an oil that can so rancid very quickly!
7. Peanut or Sunflower Oil
Peanut oil is another oil that is quite similar to sesame oil. It isn’t quite as dark, but peanut oil is a golden, amber color and has a stronger flavor than some of the neutral ones on this list. It is a good choice for stir-fries and fried noodles or soup making.
Peanut oil will be suitable for those with sesame allergies, but beware! Peanut allergies are just as prevalent, if not more so, so if you’re cooking with peanut oil, make sure you let your guests know! Sunflower oil is a good solution but will have less flavor than peanut oil.
Overall, sesame oil is a special ingredient for several reasons and is hard to replace. There are certain recipes that just aren’t the same without them. In those situations, we recommend tahini or peanut oil as the best options. When the flavor isn’t as big of a deal, olive, avocado, vegetable or grapeseed are all great options that all have their own benefits.
If you love the smell of sesame oil, you can try using it on your skin and follow some of the old Chinese medicine ways, or just reap its benefits by adding it to dressings, seafood, or as your favorite cooking oil. It goes especially well with mushrooms, drizzle in soups, or cooking tofu or meat. But don’t trust us, give sesame oil (or any of these substitutions a try tonight!)