She made the comments to Laura Kuenssberg when asked if she would prefer a Labour or a Tory PM.
Cabinet minister Nadhim Zahawi said her language was "dangerous".
But Ms Sturgeon later told the BBC she did not regret her choice of words, which were not about individuals or Tory voters.
The Scottish first minister clarified that when she had said she "detests" the Tories, she was "referring to Tory policies and values that do a lot of damage".
Earlier in her interview on the programme Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg, Ms Sturgeon hit out at the UK government's continuing opposition to granting Scotland another vote on independence.
Ms Sturgeon said she would "never, ever give up" on her push for a second referendum on independence, something Tory Prime Minister Liz Truss has ruled out.
Asked if Ms Truss was a friend or foe, Ms Sturgeon said that they were "political opponents" but she "would like to be a friend on the basis of the areas we can work together constructively".
However, when then asked if she would prefer a Labour or Tory government, Ms Sturgeon said: "I detest the Tories and everything they stand for so it's not difficult to answer that question."
Mr Zahawi - the chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster - told the same programme: "I think that language is really dangerous."
He said he preferred to work with his colleagues in Scotland on delivering projects.
At the SNP's annual conference in Aberdeen, BBC political correspondent David Wallace Lockhart asked the first minister if Mr Zahawi's criticism of her language was fair.
"No it's not," Ms Sturgeon said. "I was referring to Tory party values and policies, policies that throughout much of my lifetime have devastated communities and plunged people into poverty."
During the conference, senior SNP politicians have attacked the Conservative government and its policies.
On Sunday some Tory politicians criticised Ms Sturgeon, accusing her of stoking divisions for political ends in Scotland.
In a tweet, former leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Ruth Davidson, said the comment about detesting the Tories was "clearly a rhetoric-raising strategy" ahead of Ms Sturgeon's speech to the SNP conference on Monday.
Conservative MP Andrew Bowie also tweeted to suggest the language was no way to win over voters who voted against Scottish independence in the 2014 referendum.
And Conservative MSP Annie Wells wrote in a tweet that the use of "detest" was "irresponsible language" from someone in Ms Sturgeon's position.
But some SNP politicians have defended Ms Sturgeon's remarks as they gathered for their party conference.
When asked if he detested the Tories, Deputy First Minister John Swinney told Channel 4 News he "had no stomach for the Tories whatsoever".
Pressed on whether "detest" was the right word to use, Ms Swinney repeated his earlier comment.
Earlier this week, Ms Sturgeon told the BBC she still had not had a phone call with Ms Truss, more than a month after she had become prime minister.
When Ms Truss was campaigning to be Tory leader, the prime minister branded Ms Sturgeon as an "attention seeker" who was best ignored.
In Sunday's interview with Laura Kuenssberg, Ms Sturgeon said she had "always tried to work with her predecessors and I will try to work with her [Liz Truss]".
Ms Sturgeon took at swipe at Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, who she said "no longer wants to take the UK or Scotland back into the European Union".
But when asked if she wanted to see Sir Keir in Downing Street, she told Laura Kuenssberg that "being better than the Tories is not a high bar to cross right now".
She said: "I think we need to see more of a radical alternative from Labour rather than just a pale imitation.
"If you're asking me do I think either a Westminster Tory government or a Westminster Labour government are good enough for Scotland, then my answer to that is no."
Watch: I detest the Tories and everything they stand for - Nicola Sturgeon
Watch: No regret for saying 'I detest the Tories' - Sturgeon