Olive Oil vs. Sesame Oil: Which Is Better?

Olive oil and sesame oil are often shelved next to each other in the grocery store, leaving many consumers to wonder what the difference is between these two plant-based oils. In this guide, we break down the difference between olive oil vs. sesame oil in three key aspects: flavor, health benefits and smoke point for frying. Here is what you need to know before you make a decision between olive oil vs. sesame oil:

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Olive Oil vs. Sesame Oil: Taste

Sesame oil comes from sesame seeds, and as such it has a nutty, earthy taste. The flavor and aroma is very distinct and strong, so sesame oil is best used in small quantities, lest it overwhelm the entire dish. Sesame oil is often used in various Asian cuisines from different regions. It is an excellent complement to Asian salads as well as a stir fry.

Extra virgin olive oil comes from olives, which gives it a grassy, peppery, buttery, fruity and/or floral flavor, depending on the varietals of olives used. There are more varietals of olives than sesame seeds, so there is a much wider range of olive oil flavors available. Olive oil features prominently in Mediterranean cuisine, but it is used in many different recipes due to its versatile flavor. Olive oil really shines in salad dressings and pasta sauces, and it can also be used to marinate or roast vegetables.

Olive Oil vs. Sesame Oil: Health Benefits

Olive oil and sesame oil are both unsaturated fats, making them a better choice than saturated fats. Specifically, they both contain polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, the two subtypes of healthy fats, in similar amounts. (Learn more about “Is Olive Oil Healthy?”)

However, olive oil does contain more nutritional compounds beyond sesame oil. Olive oil has antioxidants, which can help protect against free radical damage. It also contains vitamin E, iron, potassium, vitamin K, phenol compounds and more. Sesame oil also contains vitamins E and K, but in much smaller amounts. It does not contain minerals, but some of the other compounds it contains can have antioxidant effects.

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Olive Oil vs. Sesame Oil: Frying

Olive oil and sesame oil have different smoke points when it comes to deep frying. High-quality, unrefined extra virgin olive oil has a smoke point of about 400 degrees Fahrenheit, which is usually suitable for home deep frying needs. Unrefined sesame oil has a lower smoke point, around 350 degrees Fahrenheit. (Both refined olive oil and refined sesame oil have a higher smoke point, but the refining process negatively impacts both the flavor and nutritional benefits, so it is a trade-off.)

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There is also another important concern to consider when deep frying with sesame oil, which is taste. The very strong and distinct taste of sesame oil can really affect a dish when it is used in large quantities for deep frying. If you do not want your dish overwhelmed by the nutty taste of sesame oil, olive oil will be a better choice for deep frying at home.

Olive Oil vs. Sesame Oil: Which Should You Use?

Both olive oil and sesame oil have different places in the kitchen. If you are only looking for one oil with a versatile taste and smoke point, then you should choose olive oil. However, sesame oil can be a great addition to your pantry, especially if you cook a lot of recipes from Asian cuisines. Sesame oil might not be as versatile as olive oil, but it offers a distinct taste that cannot be replicated by any other oil, similar to olive oil’s flavor. When it comes to taste, we would not recommend substituting one for the other since the flavors are so different.

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If you are looking for high-quality olive oil, then check out our selection of fresh olive oils harvested right here in California. Because of our domestic production, we can closely oversee production to ensure the freshest, tastiest California extra virgin olive oil. We package our olive oil in opaque glass bottles to keep it safe from UV rays and slow its degradation, so start browsing today to find your next favorite olive oil.