Sweet Almond & Bitter Almond – Do You Want to Know the Difference?

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Jar of sweet almond oil and another jar of bitter almond oilPin
Sweet Almond Oil and Bitter Almond Oil

Sweet almond and bitter almond. What’s the difference?  Sweet Almond is a fixed oil while Bitter Almond is considered an essential oil.

That is the short answer but, there is a lot more to it than that.

I want to help you understand more about them and how we use them. Because they are indeed very different.

Note: The image here shows a vial of sweet almond oil on the left and natural benzaldehyde (which can be derived from bitter almonds) on the right. Edible almonds (sweet almonds) surround both jars.

Sweet Almond for Skin

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We use refined sweet almond oil or what you may think of as regular almond oil in our most delicate product; our Face Serums. Both Anti-Aging and Susan’s Own each have their own unique blend of essential oils to benefit particular skin types or conditions. They do not smell like Almond at all even though sweet almond oil is used as their base oil.

To use either of our Face Serums:

  1. Wash your face, perhaps with our Carrot Seed Complexion Bar and pat dry.
  2. Tip about 5 – 6 drops of face serum onto your fingertip and smooth over face.
  3. That’s it, but it’s a ritual I follow every morning and evening.

Bitter Almond for Scent

Bitter Almond, on the other hand, we use exclusively for its scent. It is how we create our Almond Oatmeal Soap and our other almond products, including Almond Lotion Bars, Almond Body Oil, and Almond Salt Glows.

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Sweet Almond and Bitter Almond Differ for Internal Use

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Sweet almond has many culinary uses.  Many of us eat almonds on their own or roasted with various seasonings.

French cuisine uses almond extract in macaroons, marzipan, nougat, and almond butter.  Pakistan and India use them in curries and China uses them in a favorite dessert, mixed with milk and served hot. 

They can be made into a milk product similar to soy for those who are lactose intolerant or vegan.  Almond flour is gluten-free and contains almost no carbohydrates. You can now find many products on grocery store shelves using almond flour for this reason.  The popular Keto diet of today makes extensive use of almond flour. 

Bitter almond liqueurs are produced in Portugal by the name of Licor de Amêndoa Amarga. Many people like Amaretto, myself included which is an almond-flavored liqueur. Disaronno and luxardo amaretto can be consumed as an aperitif or used as a flavoring ingredient itself.

Sweet Almond Oil for Skin Care

The two oils are very different from a skincare perspective as well.  Sweet almond oil is an excellent carrier oil and has many health benefits for sensitive, dry skin.  Often massage therapists and estheticians use sweet almond oil with their clients because it is so easily absorbed. 

Sweet almond oil is primarily composed of olein and also contains linoleic acid and glucosides.  With its high level of protein, vitamins, and minerals it is nourishing and revitalizing.  We use it as the carrier oil in our Susan’s Own Face Serum and Anti-aging Face Serum.  Sweet almond oil is one of the most versatile, multipurpose skincare oils available.

Benefits of Bitter Almond Oil

Bitter almond oil as mentioned before is an essential oil.  It is not appropriate for any direct skincare use.  Its usefulness is simply for its wonderful almond scent or flavor.  Bitter Almond also doesn’t have any aromatherapy benefits like most of the essential oils we use.  Lavender, for example, has a wonderful scent as well as great skincare benefits. 

We use Bitter Almond simply because our customers love the way it smells.  You can find that luscious bitter almond scent in our Almond Oatmeal Soap and Almond Salt Glow. We also use it in our Almond Body Oil and Almond Lotion Bar.  The Bitter Almond we use is a food-grade product that is 100% benzaldehyde and contains absolutely no cyanide.  It is natural and completely safe.

Sweet almond and bitter almond: Summary of the differences.

Sweet Almond oil is moisturizing and good for dry and sensitive skin.  It has numerous benefits including being great for massage and face care. As noted above we use it in our Face Serums because its fatty acids benefit the skin cells with moisture retention as well as help to prevent the adverse effects of premature aging.

Bitter Almond oil (or natural benzaldehyde) is an extract that provides a wonderful scent and/or flavor.

Read the ingredient labels of the products you are purchasing. Then make your purchase decision based on your own needs.

For example, our Almond Oatmeal Soap smells wonderful but it’s the oatmeal and rice bran oil in it that makes your skin feel so great, not the Bitter Almond.  Our Anti Aging Face Serum, on the other hand, feels fabulous on your skin and does a superb job of moisturizing due to being made with Sweet Almond Oil.


What is the difference between Sweet Almond Oil and Bitter Almond Oil?

Sweet almond oil is a fixed oil while bitter almond oil is considered an essential oil.   Fixed oils are the carrier oils we use as a base oil whereas essential oils are extracts from plant material.

Fixed oils don’t evaporate and are typically what you think of when you hear the word oil.  Sweet almond oil is actually a vegetable oil. Essential oils can evaporate and are not really oil at all as they are the “essence” of the plant material from which they come.  They are generally used for scent, flavor, and aromatherapy properties.

Where does Bitter Almond come from?

It comes from a tree but a different one from Sweet Almonds. Raw bitter almonds come from (Prunus dulcis, var. Amara) while Sweet Almonds come from ( Prunus Dulcis, var. Amygdalus) The sweet almond tree usually has white flowers while the bitter almond tree has pink flowers. Both the bitter almond trees as well the sweet almond trees are small deciduous trees growing between 4 – 10 meters in height and were originally native to an area in the middle east stretching from Pakistan west to Syria, Israel, and Turkey.

The bitter almonds produce a small quantity of fixed oil along with an emulsion that yields glucose, hydrogen cyanide (aka prussic acid) , and the essential oil of bitter almonds, which is nearly pure benzaldehyde.

Is Bitter Almond safe to use?

Bitter almond has been used historically in small amounts for flavoring in certain dishes such as almond syrup and the Italian amaretti.  However, due to its potential for toxicity, its use internally has been discontinued in the present day. This is why we use pure natural benzaldehyde in our almond-scented products so that they are completely safe.

I hope I have made clear the basic differences between them so you can better know which to choose, sweet almond, or bitter almond. If you have any more questions please post them in the comments below.

If you found this post helpful consider signing up for my newsletter!


Wikipedia on Almond

The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils by Julia Lawless

Aromatherapy for the Beauty Therapist by Valerie Ann Worwood

82 thoughts on “Sweet Almond & Bitter Almond – Do You Want to Know the Difference?”

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  8. Sarah Jones

    Hello, thanks for sharing the difference, this is quite useful information.
    I had ordered both Bitter almond and sweet almond oil from Essential Oil Wholesaler and I was able to understand the difference, their quality was also pretty good

  9. Hey,

    Thanks for sharing such great information about almonds. Me a 100% Natural Products suppliers in India, Now i am able to distinguish between sweet and bitter almonds.

  10. The text to background contrast of this comments section is awful and I’m certain it doesn’t meet accessibility requirements. Please consider making this more useable for your vision impaired visitors.

    1. Susan Svec

      Hi Kris,

      You are absolutely right. I just migrated the site over to a different ecommerce platform and am still trying to get everything working correctly. Please accept my apologies. I will try to get things fixed very soon.



    2. Susan Svec

      We just changed the font color on the comments. You should be able to actually see them now! Thanks so much for the heads up! I really appreciate it!

      Hope you have a great day.


    1. Susan Svec

      We use natural benzaldehyde and I am sorry but we do not reveal our supply sources.

    1. Susan Svec

      Sweet Almond oil. You would not want to use Bitter Almond oil straight for anything.

  11. For those who are wondering, bitter almond oil can be used as skincare. Just came back from Egypt and over there they use bitter almond oil. My friend purchased a bottle for her very dry skin and rosacea (pure bitter almond oil, with nothing else added). It did wonders for her skin in just 1 night – I saw the next morning that her dry flakes were finally gone. She has been using it since then and I regret not buying a bottle for myself!

    1. Susan Svec

      I am not sure I agree with this. I would not use bitter almond oil straight for any kind of skin care.

  12. judith marshall

    bitter almond oil has been suggested as a honey bee repellant(won’t allow my hummers to feed) but is it toxic to tne bees or hummers?

  13. Jennifer Duke

    I love using almond oil for all different crafts. I enjoyed reading your post on the differences.

  14. Chinyere

    Thanks for enlightening us on the differences between the two oils. i actually believe that bitter almond oil has other benefits aside from just being an aromatic oil. There are many health benefits bitter almond oil provides for the body, but one has to be careful when using it because it could also be toxic to the body

  15. What if there is no ingredients given on the bottle and we want to recognize the difference?

  16. What if there is no ingredients given on the bottle and we want to recognize if we have sweet almond oil or bitter almond oil?

    1. Susan Svec

      Bitter Almond should smell like Almonds or Jergens Lotion whereas Sweet Almond Oil doesn’t really have a scent.

  17. yvonne morris

    I used to get regular massages in the Dominicn Republic with a beautiful almond scent to it..It was clear until the sun hits it and then it turns yellowish…It is inexpensive and you can buy it by the gallon…how does it get it’s sweet smell of almonds?? Can you buy it anywhere here in the
    States that has that beautiful light smell of almond oil…That is what is so calming..

    1. Susan Svec

      Sounds like some kind of inexpensive carrier oil scented with synthetic almond.

  18. Anna Cesnjevar

    take 2 tbs of multaanimitti powder and add milk to it to make it in to a paste(add gram flour if your skin is oily). Mix it well and apply it for 15-20 mins to make it dry. Do not use fan to dry it. Wash it off with warm water. For better results you can use neem powder also along with it to clear dark spots.

  19. When buying almond oil, does the bitter almond oil usually come in a plastic bottle as sweet almond oil and other carrier oils do? Or does it come in a dark glass bottle like other essential oils? I wouldn’t want to buy the wrong product.

  20. Dear Susan,

    Can we have photos of bitter vs. sweet almonds?
    Also will you ship bitter almonds to Australia?


    1. Susan Svec

      I am sorry but I don’t photos of those , nor do I have bitter almonds. As I mentioned I use natural benzaldehyde. So no I would not be able to ship them to Australia.

      I have just set up shipping to Australia for my products though, if you are interested.


  21. Partha Pratim Chakraborty

    It feels great to read your article. I have a bottle of almond oil. It’s white coloured oil and it smells bad. What kind of almond oil is it?

    1. If you have an oil that smells bad it might be rancid. Sweet almond oil should not smell bad, it should not smell of anything much at all. Bitter almond oil should smell fantastic. Both of them are just a yellowish oil color. Natural benzaldehyde is colorless.

      Whatever oil you have is either contaminated or it is spoiled (rancid). It should be thrown out.

      1. Susan Svec


        Thanks again for taking the time to comment. And yes in reply to Partha Pratim Chakrabory I totally agree with what Hardy says about if it smells bad it is most likely rancid and thrown out.



    1. Susan Svec

      No sweet almond oil doesn’t really have a scent. We do use a refined sweet almond oil.

  22. Can you provide the link to the bitter almond you use in your products? Thank you

  23. Joann Tully

    My sweet almond oil bottle reads… Pure sweet almond oil NF. What does the N F mean?

  24. Pingback: Cosmetic basics part 1: Oils for skincare products

  25. Regenere Serum

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  26. Hi! I am looking for an oil to use in a diffuser that smells like almond extract or ameretto. I have so many allergies and asthma, and it is a smell that doesn’t cause wheezing. If I were to buy bitter almond oil, is that the smell for which I am looking and would it work for my use? Thank you for your help!!! Your post is the first that explained the difference and gave the best descriptions!

    1. Susan Svec

      Hello Andrea,

      Thanks for your question, but unfortunately, I am not familiar with diffuser oils so I am not at knowledgeable about what would and would not work. However, I do not think you would want to use bitter almond in any way in which you would be absorbing it into your body which of course you would be inhaling it from a diffuser. Therefore I would NOT use bitter almond for that purpose. I would stay with oils that specifically designed for use in your diffuser!

    2. They sell almond fragrance oils, which is what you’re looking for. You can get scents like plain almond, cherry almond, honey almond, almond coconut, etc. Nature’s Garden Scents might have some options for you. Many of the candle and soap supply companies sell the fragrance oils that work in diffusers too.

      1. Susan Svec

        Thanks for commenting. In reply to Andrea, what Hardy is suggesting should be correct regarding getting a scent that smells like Almond. However, those are fragrance oils which are synthetic and you had indicated you had a lot of problems with allergies so be cautious. Maybe give some good sniffs in the store and see how you feel a few hours later before purchasing?

        Good luck.


  27. I was thinking of it as a carrier oil for essential oils, such as sweet almond or grapefruit. Mostly for skin/cosmetic purposes. I assume one should use organic oils on skin…or not necessarily?

    1. Susan Svec

      Okay. Now I am confused. You say: I was thinking of it as a carrier oil for essential oils, such as sweet almond or grapefruit.

      Sweet Almond is NOT an essential oil. It is a carrier oil and I thought that was the carrier oil that you were asking me about. So to continue on with that thought regarding whether or not you need to use organic carrier oils – it is basically the same decision as whether or not you need to purchase organic food to eat. Organic should definitely be healthier or at least more certain of being healthier for you in terms of pesticide free so it is up to you how much you value that. And to expand on the essential oil thing – Bitter Almond (Benzaldehyde) has no aromatherapy value per se. It just smells great. So if you are trying to maximize your benefits I would use a different essential oil or at least if I was using Bitter Almond I probably wouldn’t bother with an organic carrier oil for it.

      Hope that helps and clarifies!

  28. I have two questions:

    Should one purchase organic sweet almond oil for use as a carrier?

    Should it have a fragrance? I have seen some reviews online that complain because the oil they bought had no fragrance.

    Thanks for educating us!

    1. Susan Svec

      You don’t indicate what you want it to be a carrier for. If you are meaning to add some sweet almond oil to your soap formulation then it is entirely up to you if you want to use organic or not depending on how you are formulating and marketing your products.

      No sweet almond oil does not really have a scent, certainly not almond.

  29. Susan Svec

    Without seeing the label I really cannot comment on it. If you have any doubts about how to use it I would contact the manufacturer.

    Good luck.

  30. Hi, I bought a bottle that’s simply labelled “Almond oil”. The description says that I can use it in salad dressings or as a ‘carrier oil’ for cosmetic purposes. It has next to no scent. Can I safely assume that this is sweet almond oil and not bitter almond oil? Thanks

  31. Impossible

    Hi, I just thought I might add in here, benzaldehyde(the IUPAC name for bitter almond oil) can be made in several ways:

    Refluxing cinnamaldehyde(the essential oil from cinnamon bark) in an alkaline solution for about 8 hours, followed by distillation. Sodium carbonate works quite well here. 30g Sodium carbonate dissolved in 1L water and boiled, then addition of 100g cimmamaldehyde and further boiling for 8 hours with a condenser will give pretty decent amounts of benzaldehyde.

    Also, electrolysis of benzyl alcohol using ruthenium oxide cathodes will do the job.

    Probably not a method the everyday mum would attempt, but anyone with an interest in home chemistry and a taste for almond flavoured cake could be motivated enough to learn the techniques!

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  33. Hi,
    I have a Swedish recepie that asks for both sweet and bitter almonds.. I have a hard time locating the bitter almonds any ideas?

    1. Susan Svec

      I don’t know how old your recipe is but I would be VERY hesitant to use bitter almonds for cooking. In fact I indicated in my post that their use in cooking as been discontinued due to their toxicity. This is probably why you can’t find them. Personally I think I would change recipes. Good luck.

  34. Odysseia

    Indeed, Bitter Almond Oil is the essential oil and it has amazing anti-aging properties!
    All essential oils can have a potential for toxicity if used improperly. Bitter Almond oil is still available in Bio Health stores and specific websites as well as ebay.
    The ancient Greek women usd the Bitter Almond Oil diluted with olive oil or sweet almond oil as a superb anti-aging elixir! I think they knew a lot more that we do now..

  35. Thank you for the input!
    So it wouldn’t be safe to use the oil on my skin if it has gone rancid?

  36. Hi there,
    I live in Canada and just recently went to a local grocery store and bought almond oil, thinking I could use this to moisturize my skin. I did some research (your page and others) about almond oils. I am now afraid to use the almond oil that I purchased because it has a smell to it (definitely not sweet, but bitter) and could possibly be bitter almond oil. Is there anyway you can help me confirm if it is bitter almond oil. All it says on the package is 100% almond oil. The brand is “Suraj” and it was in the cooking oil section.

    1. Susan Svec

      Thanks for your question. Bitter Almond oil actually smells sweet. It is the sweet scent we typically associate with almonds . Think of amaretto, marzipan or even the old Jergens lotion. Sweet almond oil usually doesn’t have much scent at all but is very susceptible to rancidity as it has a pretty short shelf life. My guess is that you have sweet almond oil that may have turned rancid. I definitely do not think you have Bitter Almond oil.

  37. Where do you get your bitter almond essential oil? I have been looking for one with no cyanide. Your help would be greatly appreciated !!

  38. Jennifer

    Where can I buy food-grade bitter almond oil? I’ve searched online but haven’t been able to find anything.

    Thanks so much!

  39. What is the difference between almond flavoring and almond emulsion?

    1. Susan Svec


      I have never used Almond Emulsion but after looking it up on the internet see that it is indeed used extensively by bakers. I saw that King Arthur’s Flour Company carries it. I also found a description of it at this link. link

      From what I can tell it is simply a different way of getting almond flavoring into your baking. Almond Extract is very liquid and contains alcohol. Almond Emulsion is described as a gum based almond flavoring that is thick and won’t dilute your baking ingredients.

      I am not really an expert here as this more of a baker’s arena – but hope that helps.

  40. i need bitter almond oil for Italian amaretto cookies. How could I make it myself? thank you

    1. Susan Svec

      I don’t think that bitter almond oil is something you can make yourself. It must be extracted and I believe is a pretty involved process. We buy ours from a supplier in bulk. Will almond flavoring that you find at the grocery store not work? That is what I have used for flavoring when baking. You can also find marzipan paste in stores as well which is an almond flavoring.

      1. Marzipan paste isn’t an almond flavoring. It is powdered almonds and sugar with another ingredient to keep them together, it’s often glycerin. If you make it at home, you just use almond flour, powdered sugar, almond extract and egg whites. This can be formed into shapes to make marzipan candies which are often painted with food coloring to resemble tiny fruits or shaped with some depressions and dusted with cocoa to resemble potatoes. Almond paste is similar except it is usually a bit more coarse and less sweet, because you use almond paste as an ingredient for other things like pastries. It used to be that you would only find these two things in the baking aisle and would use them for your desserts but because of the advent of gluten free items almond flour is now easy to buy off the shelf. You don’t have to make your own ground almonds so a lot of recipes just say use almond flour and sugar to make the almond filling instead of “buy almond paste.”

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