It’s no wonder that this chili oil recipe is one of our most popular recipes on the blog. This chili oil is both a base ingredient in many of our recipes and a tasty condiment. Making chili oil at home is a great way to:
1. Having a more flavorful outcome
Knowing exactly what is in it
We’ve had many readers ask about this recipe over the years. So we updated it, adding more details and instructions. You can also customize it to suit your tastes!
CHILI OIL IS GOOD FOR EVERYTHING
You’ll quickly realize that our blog is a little obsessed with everything: chili oil and spicy sauce.
My dad pointed out that some people may prefer something other than chili oil in our fried rice and noodle dishes. My sister and I stared blankly at him before adding more chili oil to our bowls.
It’s the same with some tasty chili oil on top of your fried rice or noodles.
Chili oil is an essential ingredient in our perfect dumpling sauce.
Breakfast eggs? A little avocado toast? A pot of gumbo on the stove? It would help if you had a little something. The answer is always a little molten oil.
How to make authentic Chinese chili oil
You can ask for chili oils at any Chinese restaurant in the US or China. The oil is a dark, reddish, viscous oil with a strong, spicy aroma. It could even make shoe leather taste delicious.
We tried for a long time to make these delicious chili oils ourselves, but we needed more success. We needed some key ingredients and details of execution that would have led us to the perfect recipe for chili oil.
Well. I have created the perfect chili oil after many kitchen experiments. (We had many mediocre bottles of chili oil in the back of our fridge as proof).
It is important first to infuse oil with an aromatic blend and then pour the oil over crushed Sichuan chili flakes.
The flakes have more color and fewer seeds than the usual Italian crushed red pepper flake, which is usually roasted for longer and darker. Pouring hot oil on them will result in a dull, burnt-flavored chili oil.
This chili oil is a magic ingredient that can elevate ANYTHING. We still shake our heads in silence and solemnity every time we consume it. What’s the best part? It’s easy to make homemade chili oil.
You can find Sichuan red chili flakes in Chinese grocery stores. Online Asian food merchants such as sayweee.com or The Mala Market sell them. The Mala Market, in particular, sources its Sichuan Chili Flecks from small producers in China.
You can find out more about the spices in this recipe and others by visiting our Dry Spices section in our Inputs Glossary.
Let’s talk quickly about ingredients. What you’ll need and what is optional are listed below:
- Oil: Choose a neutral-flavored oil such as canola oil, grapeseed, peanut oil, or soybean oil. If you can locate it, traditional Chinese caiziyou would be a good option. It is available at the Mala Market. Canola oil is similar but is grown in a seed that is less acidic and more commercially viable. It is treated differently around the world. It is also possible to use light olive oil, but this has a lower smoking point and tends to solidify in the fridge. Avocado oil is a healthy option that’s becoming more popular. However, it tends to harden in the refrigerator (although not as much as olive oil). You can add more oil if you use more aromatics. Use 1 1/2 cups if you are using the “minimum” amount of aromatics. If you are using the majority of aromatics, then you should use 3 cups. This is fine if it’s not exact.
- Essential Spices: At a minimum, you will need four aromatic spices, namely star anise (preferably cassia), cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, and Sichuan peppercorns.
- Optional aromatics and spices: You can add additional spices to the oil infusion if you wish. These include dried sand-ginger, cloves, or black cardamom. You can add garlic or shallots if you want to change the flavor from pure spices.
- Sichuan Chili flakes are the best. Avoid crushed red pepper flakes. If you need help finding a Chinese supermarket or want premium quality chilies, we recommend The Mala Market Sichuan Chili Flakes.
- Sea Salt: Essential to enhance the flavors of spices and aromatics.
CHILI OIL RESCUE INSTRUCTIONS
- Three variables are important to obtaining the best chili oil:
- The right oil temperature is important when infusing the oil with aromatics and pouring it over the chili flakes. The oil should be hot enough to release the flavor and toast the spices but not too hot to burn them spices.
- How long should you infuse oil?
- Add-ins and their use
- It’s easy to do!
STEP 1. PREPARE AROMATICS
- Many people have different opinions about the best aromatics to use in chili oil. There are also many variations. Since I posted my first recipe, I have experimented more with variations and have listed some of the additions that you can use, as well as the minimum amount you will need to make great chili oil.
- You’ll need the following spices to make.
- 5-star anise
- One cinnamon stick (preferably cinnamon cassia, but it comes in larger rolls, so you only need a piece about 3×1 inch)
- 2 Bay Leaves
- 3 Tablespoons Sichuan Peppercorns
- Add these spices to your food for more flavor:
- Two black cardamom pods
- Sand ginger, four nuggets (about one tablespoon).
- Two teaspoons of cloves
- White cardamom (bai du kou).
- Fennel – 2-3 teaspoons
STEP 2 – PREPARE OIL
- Pour the oil with the aromatics you have chosen into a pot that has a minimum of two inches between the oil and pot rim. Use 1 1/2 cups oil if you are using the minimum amount of aromatics. You can use up to three cups of oil if you are using all aromatics. Start with medium heat, and then gradually lower the heat to low or medium-low as you get the oil to temperature. Oil should be between 225-250deg F/110-120degC, and small bubbles will slowly rise.
- The oil bubbles should be small but consistent if you are only using hard spices. The spices will stick to them, and they will rise. Oil should not be so hot that it shows any visible movement.
- The oil will bubble more when you use garlic or shallots because of the water in the ingredients. It is normal for the oil to bubble more vigorously when using fresh garlic and shallots.
- If you start to see bubbles in the oil, heat it between 200 and 225degF. You can infuse oil faster by keeping the heat at a higher temperature.
- To avoid burning, remove the oil from the heat periodically if the temperature is still too high.
- Optional add-ins for the final step: It’s up to you whether or not you want to add more. Add-ins can include toasted sesame seed, Chinese Black Vinegar, sesame oils, soy sauce, and raw garlic. * Note: raw garlic should be added in smaller quantities of chili oil that will be consumed right away or within a short time. If you plan to make it ahead, it is best to store the oil in the fridge.