A staple in Asian-inspired cooking, sesame oil adds a nutty, slightly sweet flavor to meat, roasted vegetables, and salad dressings. But all sesame oils aren’t created equal. For starters, there are two varieties—regular and toasted—and they’re used in different ways. Regular sesame oil is an excellent choice for cooking and stir-frying, while toasted sesame oil fares best as a finishing oil for already-cooked foods or as an ingredient in a homemade vinaigrette.
Since they each elevate dishes, both types of sesame oil deserve a spot in your pantry. To make sure you're getting a deep, rich flavor that really shines, you need to choose the best sesame oils in each category. To make things easier, we narrowed it down to the best sesame oils you can buy.
Napa Valley Naturals Cold Pressed Sesame Oil
Cold-pressed and unrefined
Rich nutty flavor that's not overpowering
Bottle might be too large for a lesser-used oil
Napa Valley Naturals specializes in creating high-quality oils and vinegars, and this organic sesame oil is no exception. Napa Valley Naturals, a company owned by Stonewall Kitchen, uses a cold-pressing technique to create an unrefined oil that has all of the rich nuttiness that sesame seeds offer. Since heating can break down nutrients and compounds, cold-pressing may help retain oil's nutritional value. This oil is ideal for dressings, sauces, and marinades but can also be used for medium-high heat cooking.
Price at time of publish: $14
Size: 12.7 fluid ounces | Origin: Mexico, California | Processing: Cold-pressed
“The difference [between toasted and regular sesame oil] is very simple. Regular, untoasted sesame oil is made from raw, pressed sesame seeds, and toasted sesame oil is made from toasted sesame seeds. Regular sesame oil is used for cooking. Toasted sesame oil is used mostly for finishing oil and for sauces. It has lots of flavors and it quickly can overtake the dish.” — Emil Merdzhanov, owner of Georgetown Olive Oil Co.
Flora Cold Pressed Organic Sesame Oil
Cold-pressed in small batches
Packaged in a light-resistant glass
Lower smoke point
There are other cold-pressed sesame oils out there, but Flora uses a special technique, cold-pressing sprouted sesame seeds in small batches in a light- and oxygen-free environment, then flushing with nitrogen to ensure the oil stays fresh and completely free of oxidation. To help keep its freshness, it's packaged in dark glass, which is perfect for resisting oil-spoiling light.
Due to of its delicate processing, the smoke point is a little lower than others on this list, making it ideal for low- to medium-heat cooking or as a finishing oil for your favorite cooked dishes.
Price at time of publish: $19
Size: 8.5 ounces | Origin: Washington | Processing: Cold-pressed
Spectrum Organics Refined Sesame Oil
Made with non-GMO sesame seeds
Medium-high smoke point
Not available in smaller sizes
The Spectrum Organics Refined Sesame Oil is an excellent all-purpose sesame oil that’s suitable for all of your cooking needs. Thanks to the light refining during manufacturing, it can stand up to higher heat better than other unrefined oils.
This particular sesame oil has a medium-high smoke point up to 445 degrees, making it ideal for stir-frying, sautéing, and almost any other type of cooking you need to do. The refining process also mutes the flavor a little bit, so it won't the mild, neutral taste won't be present in your final dish. Just be sure to store this correctly and to use it up within a few months, as refined oil has a shorter shelf life.
Price at time of publish: $12
Size: 16 ounces | Origin: Italy, USA | Processing: Expeller-pressed
La Tourangelle Toasted Sesame Oil
Bold sesame flavor
Medium smoke point
Stored in a light-resistant tin can
More intense flavor may not be suitable for all dishes
La Tourangelle is known for making handcrafted, artisan-style oils that consistently get rave reviews across the board. To make this toasted sesame oil, La Tourangelle harvests its sesame seeds in either Japan or Mexico and then slowly roasts and toasts the seeds over low temperatures. After the seeds are toasted, they are expeller-pressed and gently filtered several times to create a golden-brown oil with a deep, nutty flavor that works well as a medium-heat cooking oil and finishing oil.
The toasted sesame oil is bottled in a BPA-free tin can which protects it from light to maintain quality and freshness, even when stored outside the refrigerator.
Price at time of publish: $15
Sizes: 8.45 fluid ounces, 16.9 fluid ounces, 25.4 fluid ounces, 169 fluid ounces | Origin: Japan or Mexico, California | Processing: Expeller-pressed
Best for Finishing
Eden Foods Toasted Sesame Oil
Bold sesame flavor
Amber glass bottle protects oil quality
Pricey per ounce
Eden Foods also makes an excellent toasted sesame oil, but, because of its slightly higher price tag and unrefined finish, it works better as a finishing oil than cooking oil. Eden Foods slow roasts whole sesame seeds in a rotary kiln until their full flavor and aroma are released, and the oil is then expeller-pressed and gently filtered before it’s bottled in a dark, amber glass, which can protect light-sensitive contents. The result is dark, Asian-inspired sesame oil with a nutty flavor and slightly sweet aroma that can enhance the flavor of any cooked dish.
Price at time of publish: $14
Size: 5 fluid ounces, 10 fluid ounces | Origin: Japan, Michigan | Processing: Expeller-pressed
Foods Alive Organic Artisan Cold-Pressed Black Sesame Oil
Nutty black sesame flavor
Made in small batches
Pricey per ounce
Black sesame oil has a smokier, nuttier taste that lends itself well to all different types of savory dishes. And when it comes to the best black sesame oil, the Foods Alive Organic Artisan Cold-Pressed Black Sesame Oil takes top billing.
Foods Alive gathers samples of different sesame seeds from organic farmers and then taste-tests to find the most delicious variety. The oil is cold-pressed in small batches at very low temperatures to retain as much of the flavor as possible. Organic, cold-pressed, and unrefined, it’s really the highest quality oil you can get.
Price at time of publish: $15
Sizes: 8 fluid ounces, 16 fluid ounces, 32 fluid ounces | Origin: Indiana | Processing: Cold-pressed
“For cooking, regular sesame oil is much better than toasted sesame oil. Regular sesame oil has a much higher smoke point, where toasted sesame oil can get a burned, bitter taste very quickly if heated too high. Toasted sesame oil is a wonderful finishing oil and is great added to dishes towards the end of cooking or drizzled on top.” — Kathy Davis, owner of The Seasoned Olive
Chosen Foods Spicy Sesame Oil
Chile and garlic flavor infusion adds uniqueness to dishes
Mild spice level can be built upon
Made with unrefined sesame oil
Short shelf life
If you’re looking for a finishing oil with a little kick, the Chosen Foods Spicy Sesame Oil is the perfect complement to any dish. Chosen Foods combines unrefined sesame oil with real Mexican chile de àrbol and garlic to create a deep flavor and mild spice level that adds just the right amount of heat to stir-fry, soups, and pasta dishes. If you want to dial it back, a little drizzle will do, or you can pump up the intensity by being a little more generous with your pour.
Chosen Foods also emphasizes quality by using a natural refining process to make its certified non-GMO sesame oil. One thing to note is that Chosen Foods recommends using this up within six months.
Weight: 8.45 oz | Origin: Mexico/California | Processing: Expeller-Pressed | Flavor: Spicy sesame with chile and garlic
Napa Valley Naturals Cold-Pressed Organic Sesame Oil is an excellent option for all types of cooking. But if you’re looking for a really great finishing sesame oil, try the Eden Foods Toasted Sesame Oil.
What to Look for When Buying Sesame Oil
Sesame oil comes in a few versions. The first type, light golden (the regular or plain variety), comes in both unrefined or refined. This variety is made from uncooked sesame seeds that are pressed and have a higher smoke point. Those same sesame seeds can be roasted and made into toasted sesame oil, which has a richer, bolder, nutty flavor. A third version is made with black sesame seeds, which is the same beige seed, just with the seed's hull still attached.
Sesame oil has a nutty taste, and depending on the type of sesame oil you purchase, whether regular or toasted, the flavor will be mild or strong and nutty. Some sesame oils come with added flavors such as garlic or chile. Not all sesame oils are processed the same way; the way the oil is processed can also affect its taste and smell. If the hulls remain on the seeds during processing, the results can be an oil with a stronger odor and bitter taste.
What will you be using the sesame oil for in the kitchen? Plain sesame oil is the perfect choice for stir-fries, roasted meats or vegetables, and sautéing, as it is a good substitute for neutral oils such as canola or vegetable oil. On the other hand, toasted sesame oil is great as a finishing touch to toss fried rice or noodles, drizzle over soups or ice cream, and put in Asian sauces or marinades.
How should sesame oil be stored?
Keep this oil in your pantry or another cool, dark place. If the container has been opened, make sure that the cover is closed tightly to help keep it fresh. It is unnecessary to refrigerate it, but it can help lengthen its shelf life.
Does sesame oil go bad?
Like all oils, sesame oil is perishable and can go bad. An unopened bottle will last for approximately 18 months, while an opened bottle, stored properly, should keep for about 12 months with refined oil lasting a little less. Always check expiration dates on the bottle so that you are aware of the oil's freshness. If the oil has an off-putting odor, it has likely gone rancid and should not be used.
Can sesame oil be substituted for other oils?
Light, regular sesame oil is a popular oil used in Asian and Chinese cooking and a great choice when needing a neutral-flavored oil. It can be used in place of canola, vegetable, olive, sunflower, peanut, or other neutral oils.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Lindsay Boyers is a certified holistic nutritionist with extensive nutrition knowledge and food and beverage testing experience. She’s developed over 1,000 original recipes and is constantly on a mission to find the healthiest, best-tasting options and ingredients across all food and drink categories.
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