Lipid droplets store neutral lipids, primarily triacylglycerol and steryl esters. Seipin plays a role in lipid droplet biogenesis and is thought to determine the site of lipid droplet biogenesis and the size of newly formed lipid droplets. Here we show a seipin-independent pathway of lipid droplet biogenesis. In silico and in vitro experiments reveal that retinyl esters have the intrinsic propensity to sequester and nucleate in lipid bilayers. Production of retinyl esters in mammalian and yeast cells that do not normally produce retinyl esters causes the formation of lipid droplets, even in a yeast strain that produces only retinyl esters and no other neutral lipids. Seipin does not determine the size or biogenesis site of lipid droplets composed of only retinyl esters or steryl esters. These findings indicate that the role of seipin in lipid droplet biogenesis depends on the type of neutral lipid stored in forming droplets.