Does Sesame Oil Go Bad? How Long Does It Last?

This article is all about storage, shelf life, and spoilage of sesame oil. Learn how to tell if it’s bad, how long it lasts, and if you should refrigerate it.

Got an out-of-date half-open bottle of sesame oil, and not sure if you can still use it? Does sesame oil ever go bad?

Or you just opened yours, and you’re wondering if it requires refrigeration or not.

Sounds familiar?

If so, you’re in the right place. Let’s get right into it.

Trader Joe's Toasted Sesame Oil
(credit: Adam Engelhart)

Does Sesame Oil Go Bad?

Yes, sesame oil doesn’t last forever. It doesn’t typically grow mold, but its quality degrades over time, and at some point, it will end up rancid. That’s when you discard it.

Things work this way because oils (and fat-based products in general) are subject to the rancidification process. Over time, the fat slowly oxidizes and develops an unpleasant aroma and flavor.

The process is gradual and takes months. That means you won’t notice any changes if you use the oil regularly. You can only spot them if you compare a fresh bottle with one that’s been open for a couple of months.

Now, before we discuss how to tell if sesame oil is bad, you need to know the differences between plain sesame oil and toasted sesame oil. This way, you know what to expect from yours in terms of flavor and aroma.

Plain sesame oil is pressed from raw sesame seeds. That means it has little color, flavor, and its aroma is weak. That makes it a good substitute for vegetable oil for sauteing.

On the other hand, toasted sesame oil is made from toasted sesame seeds (as the name suggests), and it smells and tastes like, well, toasted sesame seeds.

Related: Do sesame seeds go bad?

Tip

Plain and toasted sesame oils aren’t interchangeable. The first is mostly used for cooking, while the other has a much lower smoke point and works best as a finishing oil.

How to Tell if Sesame Oil Has Gone Bad?

Discard your sesame oil if:

  • It smells off. If it smells like old paint or nail polish remover, it’s rancid. Same thing if it gives off a harsh smell that instantly repels you. Sesame oil should either smell neutral (if it’s the plain variety) or toasty and sesame-seeds-like. Anything else probably means that it’s off.
  • You notice visual changes. If the oil has changed color, or the texture has altered, something is going on. The exception here is slight crystallization or more thickness, which are normal if you store the oil in the fridge or any other cold spot. If that’s the case, everything should get back to normal when the oil warms up.
  • The taste is off. If everything seems okay up to this point, you need to try the oil to assess its flavor. If it tastes acidic, sour, soap-like, or unpleasant, it’s rancid, and you should discard it. Again, remember that plain and toasted have different flavors.

(The signs of spoilage for oils are pretty much the same. After learning the above, you also know how to tell if vegetable oil is bad and how to tell if peanut oil is rancid.)

Last but not least, if anything else seems off that isn’t mentioned above, trust that instinct and chuck the oil.

Now, what if your oil smells a bit rancid but tastes okay enough to use. Can you use it?

Empty jar of spicy sesame oil
(credit: Toshiyuki IMAI)

Is Rancid Sesame Oil Safe to Eat?

Eating rancid sesame oil probably won’t have any negative consequences in the short term, like a stomachache or nausea. In fact, many of us routinely consume rancid olive oil (more on that in my article on how long olive oil lasts), and we don’t even notice it or know it.

That said, eating rancid (highly oxidized, basically) oil in large amounts can have some severe long-term consequences. Because of that, it’s best to avoid it if you can.

The bottom line is if you notice that your sesame oil is rancid, throw it out immediately.

How Long Does Sesame Oil Last?

 PantryFridge
Sesame oil (unopened)Best-by + 6 months 
Plain sesame oil (opened)9 months1 year
Toasted sesame oil (opened)4 – 6 months6 – 9 months
Sesame oil shelf life. Please note that given periods are estimates only.

Unopened sesame oil lasts 1 to 3 years and usually keeps for a couple of months past the printed date. Once opened, sesame oil retains quality for 6 to 12 months, depending on the type (plain lasts longer than toasted) and how you store it.

Plain sesame seeds oil keeps longer than its toasted cousin and doesn’t need refrigeration to last a long time. It’s quite similar to vegetable oils in that regard, and you can use and store it the same way you go about cooking oils.

Toasted sesame oil has a somewhat shorter shelf life, but you can easily extend it by storing the oil in the fridge (more on that later).

One thing to note here is that the quality matters much more for toasted sesame oil than the plain one because it’s used as a finishing oil. If it tastes bad, the whole dish is ruined.

Because of that, it’s much more likely that you’ll discard toasted sesame oil for quality purposes than that you’ll chuck the other one.

Now, what if your sesame oil is out-of-date?

Let’s talk about how you should go about it.

Expired Sesame Oil

Sesame oil doesn’t expire the way dairy does, but its quality changes slowly over time. Because of that, there’s no set date or period past which you should discard the oil.

Of course, the best-by date on the label is a good starting point, but your sesame oil could keep for a couple of months past it just as well as it could go rancid a few weeks before it. It all depends on the quality of the oil, how long it’s been open, and where it was stored.

So if your sesame oil is “expired,” but you’re comfortable with how old it is (e.g., it’s two months past its date, not two years; it’s not soy sauce), check it against the signs of spoilage I outlined earlier in the article. If anything is suspicious or iffy, err on the side of caution. Otherwise, the oil is likely okay to use.

Now, we all know that you don’t have to refrigerate canola oil, but what about sesame oil?

Sesame oil and other condiments
(credit: @matpacker)

Does Sesame Oil Need to be Refrigerated?

Plain sesame oil doesn’t require refrigeration to last a long time but can benefit from it if you need to keep it for even longer. On the other hand, toasted sesame oil loses quality more quickly, and it’s a good idea to store it in the fridge if you want it to retain flavor for more than a few months.

(The same advice works for most other oils. For example, avocado oil doesn’t need to be refrigerated, but doing so will help extend its storage time.)

In other words, to maximize the shelf life of sesame oil, refrigerating it is the way to go, especially if we’re talking about toasted sesame oil.

Of course, if you use up sesame oil quickly (e.g., within a few weeks to a couple of months), it probably doesn’t matter all that much where you store it.

Last but not least, refrigeration helps much more after you open the bottle. A whole unopened one will probably keep fine for months in the pantry.

Now, let’s finish off with some other storage practices worth keeping in mind.

How to Store Sesame Oil

Store your sesame oil in a cool and dark place, away from sunlight and sources of heat. Make sure the bottle is always sealed tight, and consider refrigerating the oil after opening so that it lasts as long as possible.

If you decide to store the oil in the fridge, remember that it might thicken a bit and pour more slowly. That’s normal, and everything will get back to normal once you let the fat warm up at room temperature.

Sesame Oil Storage and Shelf Life Summary

Thanks for reading this piece. Here’s a short summary of what we’ve covered:

  • Does sesame oil go bad? Sesame oil doesn’t go bad once it passes its “expiration” date. It typically stays safe for weeks or even months after, although its quality may vary.
  • How long does sesame oil last? An unopened sesame oil lasts between one to three years. Once opened, plain sesame oil keeps for about nine months if you leave it at room temperature, or more than a year if you keep it in the fridge. Toasted sesame oil, on the other hand, retains quality ofr about half of that time.
  • Do you need to refrigerate sesame oil? You don’t need to keep sesame oil in the fridge, but it’s a good idea to do so. Refrigeration is especially beneficial to toasted sesame oil, and it’s what you should do if you need it to last for more than a couple of months.