Sesame oil is something I always try to have in my kitchen. 100% pure, toasted sesame oil tastes like nothing else, and my Asian food tastes so much better with a dash of it in there. So what to do when you don’t have any on hand? Well, you could try to make it yourself or go with an alternative! Here are the 6 best sesame oil substitutes:
- Peanut oil
- Perilla oil
- Canola oil
- Walnut oil
- Macadamia oil
- Almond oil
Before we jump into what substitute to use in what situation, let’s run through the different kinds of sesame oil, you can find because it seems no two brands are alike. Firstly, you have 100% sesame oil, or you have sesame oil, but it is mixed with cheaper oil. The 100% sesame oil is much more expensive and has a much stronger flavor; best to use just a tiny amount as a finishing oil.
You also have toasted and untoasted sesame oil. Untoasted is pale in color and lighter in flavor, while toasted is a darker color and stronger in flavor. I personally prefer the toasted one. I think for the best taste, look for 100% pure toasted sesame oil to keep in your kitchen.
Best All-Around Substitute For Sesame Oil: Peanut Oil
The best all-around substitute for sesame oil is peanut oil, both refined and unrefined. Unrefined peanut oil has a nutty flavor, similar to sesame, to impart into your dishes, and refined peanut oil is what you would use for any high-heat cooking, though it has a lot less flavor.
Refined peanut oil is easy to find and will be labeled ‘peanut oil’ at the supermarket, usually in a large bottle. The unrefined is a little more difficult, as it isn’t as widely used as the refined version. Look for ‘cold-pressed’ or ‘expeller-pressed’ peanut oil in a smaller bottle, usually found in health food stores or online.
Best Raw Cooking Substitute For Sesame Oil: Perilla Oil
Perilla oil might be a new one for you. This is a Korean cooking oil made from the seeds of the perilla plant and is used in many Korean dishes. The perilla plant leaves are also used in cooking, and you may have heard of them as Japanese shiso, Chinese basil, or kkae-nip.
The seeds taste a lot like sesame, with an earthy and nutty flavor, and you can buy the oil both in toasted and untoasted varieties.
If you have ever been to a Korean restaurant, you may find the flavor familiar, as it seems to be added to everything! It is excellent as a finishing oil, but also for regular heat cooking (not too high or it tastes bitter, just like sesame oil!)
Best Sesame Oil Substitute for Regular Cooking: Perilla Oil
Perilla oil can also be used for low to regular-heat cooking, with a smoke point of around 320 degrees. Any higher, and it will taste way too bitter to enjoy. It is a great substitute if you don’t have sesame oil on hand, and the flavor it gives is similar enough that you won’t miss out. It can be used in salad dressings, stir-fries, and even marinades.
You can find it at most Asian grocery stores, too, so it’s easy to stock up on when you’re in need! Be sure to store it in a cool, dry place and use it within 6 months to ensure it doesn’t go rancid (bitter).
Best Sesame Oil Substitute for High-Heat Cooking: Peanut Oil
Perilla oil, as great as it is, is not great for high-heat cooking, so for this, peanut oil steps in. Refined peanut oil has a smoke point of around 440 degrees and is used in many Asian countries as the primary frying oil. It’s budget-friendly and has a more neutral flavor which can be used in many applications – unless you have a peanut allergy, and then we don’t recommend it!
Sesame Oil Substitute that is Closest in Flavor: Perilla Oil
Gosh, with perilla oil being the winner in so many categories, I bet you are wondering why it isn’t listed as the best overall substitute, and peanut oil is. It is simply because it is not as easy to find and purchase as peanut oil. In fact, except for online, I have never seen it outside a specialty Asian supermarket. Peanut oil can work in all cooking temperatures, from raw to high heat, plus it’s cheap and widely available.
In saying that, perilla oil does have the closest flavor to sesame oil. It is like sesame oil with an added herby layer, which is unique, and worth trying if you see it around.
Best Neutral-Flavored Sesame Oil Substitute: Canola Oil
If you are looking for a sesame oil substitute that is even more neutral flavored than refined peanut oil and has no nutty taste at all, canola oil is a simple and easy swap. It tastes like nothing oil, and you can use it for almost anything.
Best Healthy Sesame Oil Substitute: Walnut Oil/Macadamia Oil/Almond Oil
When it comes to health, this is where the delightful cold-pressed nut oils come in. As useful as peanut oil and perilla oil are, they aren’t super healthy as they are often refined and highly processed.
So, if you want nutty flavors with added nutrition, cold-pressed walnut oil would be my first choice, as it has that earthy tone like sesame oil. Macadamia would be my second choice. It is a little more buttery and sweet, but I put it in my coconut aminos beef and broccoli stir fry last week, as I was out of sesame oil, and it worked really well. Almond oil is also in there, as it is easy to find and have on hand and can also add nutty tones to dishes.
Best Keto/Paleo/Whole30 Sesame Oil Substitute: Walnut Oil/Macadamia Oil/Almond Oil
All three healthy oils are also suitable for the big three diets. Walnut oil contains omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants; macadamia oil is high in oleic acid and monounsaturated fats; almond oil is also high in healthy fats, giving you significant nutrition boosts on what can often be restrictive diets.
Sesame oil is usually good for the skin due to its high levels of healthy fats, but there is always the possibility it may irritate people who are sensitive to it. It’s always a good idea to test a small amount of the oil on the skin before using it more widely. People allergic to sesame seed proteins should take extra precautions just in case.
A study done in 2013 investigated the impact of sesame consumption on sperm quality in men. Sesame has been previously studied for its potential health benefits, including antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. The study found a possible link that sesame consumption positively affected sperm quality in the participants. So, perhaps!