As you probably guessed, sesame oil is a cooking oil that comes from sesame seeds. It’s recognizable it by its distinctive nutty odor and rich color which ranges from gold to brown (depending on whether the seeds were roasted before the good stuff was extracted). So what makes sesame oil so special? For starters, a tablespoon of the stuff adds palate-pleasing complexity that can truly elevate your cooking.
We often think of cooking oil as a means to an end, but it’s actually a major component that can transform the taste of your meal. Roasted sesame oil, in particular—known for its earthy, toasty character—can have a significant impact on the flavor profile of your food. The lighter variety, on the other hand, is favored for its versatility and neutral taste. Whatever the recipe, there are plenty of great substitutes you can use to dish up something smoky, tasty and delightful. Tip: Try to suss out what sesame oil would have contributed to your cooking (i.e., flavor, mouthfeel, frying liquid or something else) before you pick a stand-in. Here are the best alternatives to sesame oil, plus the scoop on how they stack up to the real thing.