Sesame oil gives Asian stir fry, dressings and noodle dishes an addictive “roasty,” nutty depth. Refined sesame oil is clear and mild in flavor — and you can use it for sauteing or stir frying. Toasted sesame oil has an intensely deep flavor and is typically used for finishing, or drizzling at the end of the cooking process to add flavor. It’s sometimes added to marinades and condiments, as well. It has the potential to go rancid, especially if stored in less-than-optimal conditions. Refined sesame oil can also spoil if stored improperly.

Toasted sesame oil, which is darker and richer than refined sesame oil, spoils sooner. The signs of rancid sesame oil are similar to those signs in any other oil:

  • A sour or otherwise unpleasant odor. Sesame oil should be fragrant, with a pleasing smell of fresh sesame seeds.
  • A bad or off taste. Fresh sesame oil is nutty and slightly musky. 

Sesame oil, like other oils, is sensitive to oxygen, heat and light. Store both toasted and refined oil in a cool, dark place — such as a cupboard — away from heat-generating appliances.

You may also store toasted sesame oil, like other seed and nut oils, in the refrigerator too, but its amber hue may turn a little cloudy. This color change doesn’t affect its quality. The cool temperature of the refrigerator can slow spoilage.