Just Another Food Blog

Substitutes for Sesame Oil – What can I use instead?

Substitutes for Sesame Oil – What can I use instead?

.

If you’re cooking East Asian cuisine then sesame oil is an ingredient that appears again and again. In fact, it’s so popular that sesame is a characteristic flavor of stir-fries, dumplings, salad dressings and noodle dishes from the region. If you love Asian food, sesame oil can feel unavoidable. But the good news is that there are many good substitutes for sesame oil.

.

Sesame oil comes in two varieties – toasted and untoasted. Each of these has a rich and nutty flavor profile, but the toasted variety is more potent – and more delicious. As well as having a stronger nutty aroma and flavor, toasted sesame oil has a darker, earthy and roasted flavor to it.

.

Toasted and untoasted sesame oil are also used differently in the kitchen. Untoasted sesame oil (usually just labelled sesame oil) has a high smoke point and is an all-purpose cooking oil, but it’s especially good for cooking Asian dishes where the sesame flavor perfectly complements the spices and veggies in the dish.

.

Toasted sesame oil, with its stronger flavor, can be added into those same dishes by the dash towards the end – it will bring the sesame flavor to life. Toasted sesame oil also makes an excellent base for a salad dressing – a splash of sesame with its nutty bouquet can take your vinaigrette to a whole new level.

.

Sesame Oil – Why You Might Avoid It

.

There are plenty of reasons why you might need a substitute for sesame oil. On the one hand, maybe this just isn’t an ingredient you keep in stock. Sesame oil is fairly uncommon in traditional Western cooking so if you’re browsing recipes and you feel like a spontaneous stir fry you might not have this in the cupboard.

.

Additionally, sesame is an allergen so some people can’t consume anything made with sesame products – it’s estimated around 0.2% or one in every 500 people in the United States has a sesame allergy. If you’re cooking up an Asian storm you should check with your dinner guests – and what do you do if someone has a sesame allergy? Reach for the substitutes…

.

Despite the position of sesame oil as a foundational ingredient in Chinese and South Asian cooking, there are plenty of substitutes. Even if you’re allergic to sesame yourself you can still enjoy sticky stir-fries and nutty salads with these sesame oil substitutes.

.

The Best Sesame Oil Substitutes

.

Sesame oil is favored for its flavors so if you’re swapping it out you’re likely to be looking for an alternative nutty tang. Untoasted, sesame oil makes a great all-purpose oil so in a pinch you can use whatever you have around the house. Here are the best sesame oil substitutes for frying and flavor.

.

Peanut Oil

.

If your recipe calls for sesame and there’s none to hand, peanut oil can be a good place to turn. Sesame oil’s flavor features a strong nuttiness, so an oil made entirely of nuts is a good place to start. When cooking with sesame the bouquet can even be mistaken for peanuts, so peanut oil makes a great substitute.

.

Peanut oil has a high smoke point too, making it suitable as an all-purpose oil for frying, roasting and sauteing. Used to flash fry your veggies, your stir fry will have a nuanced nuttiness that’ll make your guests go, well, nuts.

.

When compared to toasted sesame oil, peanut oil has a milder taste – add an extra splash of this nutty oil at the end to boost the flavor. The good news for sesame allergies is that there’s no link between sesame and peanut – but as peanut allergies are common, you should ask around before putting peanut oil in your dish.

.

Canola Oil

.

So you’ve already started chopping the veggies when you’ve realised you’re all out of sesame oil. You don’t need to abandon ship as if you’re in a real pinch you can use any all-purpose oil in place of sesame, with just a small sacrifice of flavor.

.

Canola oil probably has its place in your pantry, so if your recipe calls for sesame oil for frying or roasting you can toss the veggies in canola oil instead. Canola oil has a neutral flavor, so your final dish will lack that base nuttiness that sesame brings – you can try recreating this with other ingredients, such as tahini or sesame seeds. We’ll cover some of these options below.

.

Olive oil is another neutral oil but it has a stronger, buttery flavor. You can use it when a recipe calls for sesame oil, but the flavor might stand out, at odds with your East Asian ingredients. If there’s no other alternatives, however, olive oil can save your stir fry.

.

Tahini

.

Tahini, like sesame oil, is produced from sesame seeds. Whereas sesame oil sees the seeds pressed to extract the oil, tahini is produced by grinding the seeds into a smooth paste – thus, tahini is packed with sesame flavor and, because the sesame oil is pressed in the paste, it’s oily too. Tahini is a good substitute for sesame, in certain contexts.

.

Because tahini is a paste and not an oil, you can’t use it to fry up your veggies or for roasting. Under extreme heat, tahini is going to burn before you know it. However, when it comes to dressings and vinaigrettes, tahini can infuse your salads with a sesame punch.

.

Because the flavors in tahini aren’t as concentrated as in sesame oil, if you’re whipping up a dressing I would add around double the tahini – your dressing will still need an oily base also, but a neutral oil will do the trick. Shake it up!

.

Sesame Seeds

.

If you have sesame seeds to hand then you’ve got sesame flavor sorted. There are many ways to use sesame seeds to infuse your dishes with flavor. Sesame seeds make a gorgeous garnish sprinkled atop your stir fries, noodles and practically every other East Asian dish.

.

If you want to extract even more flavor from your sesame seeds you can toast them before tossing them into your dish. Toast your sesame seeds over a high heat until they turn a golden brown and offer a beautiful aroma.

.

The extraction process of sesame oil also strips sesame seeds of a number of their nutritional properties. Sesame seeds, unlike their oily alternative, are a great source of protein. These seeds make a fabulous finishing touch to any dish.

.

Perilla Oil

.

Perilla oil is a specialty oil, popular in East Asian cuisine and with a similar flavor profile to sesame oil. This oil is produced by pressing the nutty perilla seed, and the result is such a perfect substitute for sesame oil that even a refined nose might not sniff out the difference.

.

Whilst you’re unlikely to find perilla oil on the shelves of your usual grocery store, check out your local Chinese supermarket to see if you can find this secret Chinese treat in stock. Perilla oil can be substituted in at a 1:1 ratio for sesame oil – if you’re planning an East Asian banquet in advance then stocking up on perilla oil can ensure that anyone with a sesame allergy gets to enjoy the rich nutty flavors of your dumplings and other dishes.

.

Can You Make Your Own?

.

DIY sesame oil can be whipped up in a stitch if you’ve found yourself all out. You can use your homemade sesame oil to fry, roast or saute your veggies as well as boost the flavor of your East Asian creations.

.

You’ll need a neutral vegetable oil and sesame seeds to create sesame magic in the pan. Toast your sesame seeds as described above, before adding oil to the skillet and mixing them together over a medium heat. Your seeds should further brown and they’ll flavor the oil with their roasted nuttiness.

.

Conclusion

.

Whilst sesame oil is an integral ingredient to many dishes, with a bit of know-how you can recreate these flavors in your stir fries and salad dressings. If you’re catering for sesame allergies you can explore the wider world of nut oils but if you’ve just forgotten to add it to the basket you can whip up your homemade sesame oil in a flash.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *