Neem oil varies in color; it can be golden yellow, yellowish brown, reddish brown, dark brown, greenish brown, or bright red. It has a rather strong odor that is said to combine the odours of peanut and garlic. It is composed mainly of triglycerides and contains many triterpenoid compounds, which are responsible for the bitter taste. It is hydrophobic in nature; in order to emulsify it in water for application purposes, it is formulated with surfactants.
The method of processing is likely to affect the composition of the oil, since the methods used, such as pressing (expelling) or solvent extraction are unlikely to remove exactly the same mix of components in the same proportions. The neem oil yield that can be obtained from neem seed kernels also varies widely in literature from 25% to 45%.
The oil can be obtained through pressing (crushing) of the seed kernel both through cold pressing or through a process incorporating temperature controls 40 to 50 °C. Neem seed oil can also be obtained by solvent extraction of the neem seed, fruit, oil, cake or kernel. A large industry in India extracts the oil remaining in the seed cake using hexane. This solvent-extracted oil is of a lower quality as compared to the cold pressed oil and is mostly used for soap manufacturing. Neem cake is a by-product obtained in the solvent extraction process for neem oil.