Toasted sesame oil is one of the more popular oils for cooking Chinese and Japanese dishes. It is responsible for some of the distinctive flavor notes of those cuisines. If you are out of it, you run the risk of bland and boring food. You can get many of the flavors you want with the toasted sesame oil substitutes below.
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Your best bet: Chinese sesame paste
Like toasted sesame oil, Chinese sesame paste is made with toasted sesame seeds. These seeds are heavily toasted to bring out the same strong nutty flavor that you would get from toasted sesame oil. They get ground to a paste similar in consistency and appearance to peanut butter without having their oil extracted. Chinese sesame paste typically shows up in dishes like sesame noodles and desserts like mooncakes, but you may be able to add it to some dishes like fried rice or salad dressings where toasted sesame oil would normally be used.
Chinese sesame paste is not an oil, which means that you can’t cook with it, and it won’t drizzle on in the same way that toasted sesame oil would. You can get around this by mixing it with another oil. Canola oil or vegetable oil can both be used to get something with a closer consistency to toasted sesame oil.
A decent second choice: Toasted sesame seeds + neutral oil
Instead of sesame oil, try using a neutral oil with the sesame flavor. To make this substitute, you need some sesame seeds and an oil with very little flavor such as canola oil or light olive oil. What you will need to do first is to toast the sesame seeds.
You can do this by placing them in a pan over very low heat. You will need to stir them often to keep them from burning. Add the toasted seeds to the oil. The greater the ratio of seeds to oil, the stronger the sesame flavor will be. One part sesame seeds to four parts oil should be sufficient to simulate toasted sesame oil.
In a pinch: Walnut oil
Walnuts are considered to be one of the world’s healthiest nuts and the oil extracted from them is believed to have many of their benefits, including antioxidant benefits like those of toasted sesame oil. It also has a lot in common with toasted sesame oil in terms of flavor since the walnut oil is also nutty and is also best used in uncooked preparations like salad dressings and as a finishing oil.
One of walnut oil’s downsides is the fact that it can be expensive and may not be easy to find everywhere. Walnut oil is notorious for its short shelf life, which is much shorter than that of toasted sesame oil.
Roasted peanut oil can provide a similar flavor to that of toasted sesame oil. If you can’t find roasted peanut oil but have peanuts available, try using a similar method to the toasted sesame seed flavored oil above. Steep the peanuts in a neutral oil until it takes on their flavor. You can then use that oil just as you would use toasted sesame oil.
Perilla oil tastes almost exactly like toasted sesame seed oil, and it comes with major health benefits including the ability to fight certain cancers as well as other conditions like asthma and heart disease. It does have a major downside, which is that it can be difficult to find outside of Asia.