Q: What is the best substitute for sesame oil?
A: Sesame oil substitutes vary depending on the type of taste you are after. Although generally speaking the best substitute for sesame oil would have to be perilla oil. Perilla oil is an oil used frequently in Korean and Chinese dishes and it has a similar flavour, taste and smell to sesame oil. If you don’t have perilla oil any other nut or seed oil would suffice. Alternatively if you require a substitute for untoasted sesame oil, and the nutty flavour is irrelevant, light olive oil is the best replacement.
According to Balanced Care some of the health benefits associated with sesame oil include:
- Lowering cholesterol;
- Keep bones strong because it contains plant hormones;
- Potent anti-inflammatory effects for improved heart health;
- Lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk of heart disease; and
- Good for dental hygiene.
Types of sesame oil
There are two types of sesame oil, and choosing which one to use depends on the purpose the oil is meant to serve. The Spruce eats suggests that toasted sesame oil is made from toasted sesame seeds and can range from gold to brown in colour. It has a definable strong nutty flavour making it ideal for seasoning Asian stir fries, soup or noodle dishes. Given the potency of the nutty taste, a little goes a long way when it comes to this oil, and should be used sparingly.
Light sesame oil is made with un-toasted sesame seeds and can usually be purchased from Middle Eastern or continental grocers as well as some health food stores. Light sesame oil has a mild flavour and is lighter in colour. The combination of the flavour and high smoke point make this oil most suitable for cooking methods such as stir frying and deep frying.
1. Perilla oil
Perilla oil is a seed oil, with a nutty earthy flavour similar to sesame oil. It can be substituted to replicate the flavour of toasted sesame oil but is also suitable for frying. Perilla oil has many health benefits, but must be used with caution as it has possible anticoagulant effects and the potential for pulmonary toxicity.
2. Walnut oil
With a rich nutty flavour walnut oil is the perfect substitute to use in uncooked sauces and dressings that would usually call for toasted sesame oil. Walnut oil is particularly suitable as a seasoning for Asian dishes.
3. Olive oil
Despite the difference in composition, olive oil is a good substitute for sesame oil as they are both considered to be healthy fats. Where a strong flavour is required from the oil extra virgin Olive oil works best instead of toasted sesame oil. Although there’s nothing you can do about the missing nutty flavour. Alternatively, a lighter olive oil would work as an alternative to light sesame oil in circumstances where you need the oil for cooking purposes.
4. Canola oil
This neutral oil is a great light sesame oil substitute as it doesn't have a very strong taste. You can use it for frying, deep frying or baking as well as any other instance where you don't require the oil to contribute to the overall flavour of the dish.
5. DIY sesame seed oil
If you are desperate for sesame oil and are just not happy with any of the alternatives you can always make your own sesame oil. All you need to do is follow the ratio of 1/4 cup of toasted sesame seeds to one cup of neutral oil (i.e. canola oil or vegetable oil). Mix the seeds and oil together in a skillet, then cook over medium heat until the seeds brown. Take care to ensure the seeds don't burn and if you notice they are starting to brown remove them from the heat immediately. Then just cool, blend and rest the oil for two hours, before strain. A DIY oil such as this is a great option if you are wanting to use the oil for marinating or frying.
6. Avocado oil
This is another great oil substitute, in circumstances where flavour is key. Despite lacking the nutty taste of sesame oil you will achieve a creamy avocado flavour. Unfortunately avocado oil is not available in regular grocery stores. In a situation where you are able to source avocado oil, it's good to keep its versatility in mind particularly the oils ability to withstand high heat.
Tahini also known as sesame seed paste is a popular middle eastern ingredient that can be substituted for sesame oil. It has a mild nutty, savoury flavour and a creamy texture that you can spread on raw foods or add to your recipes. If you need the texture to resemble the liquidity of your standard oils, you can always dilute it with another neutral oil, ensuring that you don't lose any of the nutty flavour.
8. Roasted sesame seeds
In the absence of any oil simply toast sesame seeds in a nonstick skillet till they are fragrant and brown. Then sprinkle teaspoons over your cooking until you are happy with the taste. While this is the closest flavour match and a good alternative if taste is your main focus, the fact that it lacks oil makes it a poor binding agent.