Does Sesame Oil Go Bad?

So you have a half-opened bottle of sesame oil that’s pushing the date on the label. Or maybe it’s already past that date.

If you’re using sesame oil only in a handful of recipes, that’s a quite common scenario. The question is: does sesame oil go bad?

You know that oils tend to go rancid after storing for a long time but aren’t sure how long it might take for your sesame oil to become useless. If you’d like to learn about storage, shelf life, and going bad of sesame oil, read on.

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

How To Store Sesame Oil

Even though sesame oil comes in a few variations like cold-pressed, roasted, and unroasted, storage guidelines are the same for each variety. Basically, you should store sesame oil like you store any other vegetable oil.

That means you should keep unopened sesame it in a cool and dry area, away from sunlight or heat sources. The pantry is a perfect choice, but a cabinet in the kitchen will work too. Just make sure it’s not near the oven.

Once you open the bottle, make sure always to seal it tightly. If you expect to store it for a long time, like more than half a year, transfer the bottle to the fridge for the best quality. Otherwise, it’s okay to keep the bottle at room temperature.

The deal here is quite simple: after opening, most vegetable oils retain their quality better if stored at a colder temperature, and sesame oil isn’t an exception here. Please note, however, that freezing sesame oil isn’t a good idea. At about -4 degrees C (or -25 F) the oil will become butter-like in consistency. And that’s no good because you won’t be able to pour it without warming it up first.

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

How Long Does Sesame Oil Last

Each bottle of sesame oil comes with a ‘best by’ date on its label. It doesn’t mean that the oil will go bad shortly after that date. It’s only a rough estimate of how long it should retain its quality.

Similarly to other oils, like peanut oil or corn oil, sesame oil easily outlasts the date on the label. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to say how long will your sesame oil retain its quality exactly, so we’re just making educated guesses here.

For an unopened bottle, sesame oil should easily last about a year past the best-by date before it goes rancid. Possibly longer, but that depends on a number of factors like the quality, how it was stored, and so on.

Tip

It’s best to open the bottle and examine the liquid instead of guessing if it’s still okay or not. Even if it’s already a year or two past the date on the label.

When it comes to an opened bottle of sesame oil, the oil should retain good quality for at least 6 months if stored in the pantry and a year if it sits in the fridge. Of course, if it’s stored for longer, it might still be good enough to use, so the recommendation above holds true: examine the old sesame oil before using it.

 PantryFridge
Sesame oil (unopened)Best-by + 1 year 
Sesame oil (opened)6 months1 year

Please note that the periods above are only estimates for the best quality. Sesame oil can often last much longer without going rancid.

Sesame oil and other condiments
(credit: @matpacker)

How To Tell If Sesame Oil Is Bad

Sesame oil, like other oils, usually doesn’t go bad in a way it goes moldy. It much more often goes rancid.

Rancid oil is characterized by an unpleasant odor and taste. In most cases eating rancid oil won’t do you any harm, but it definitely won’t be a pleasant experience. In other words, we discard rancid oil not because it’s unsafe to consume, but because its quality is not good enough to use it.

That meant that if your sesame oil from roasted sesame seeds doesn’t have that nutty smell anymore, it’s probably rancid and you should discard it. If the smell is okay, try tasting the liquid. If both smell and taste are fine, feel free to continue using the oil. Otherwise, throw it out for quality purposes.

Of course, if you open a bottle of oil and it’s something clearly wrong with it, cut your losses and discard it right away. If your senses tell you the food is not safe, trust them.