This Chinese chili oil is a spicy condiment that brings the heat in the form of an oil infused with aromatics and chiles. Serve in a little crock on tables, it can be stirred in soup, drizzled on veggies, whipped into sauces or used for dipping.
But it is an oil infused with Sichuan chiles… and you may or may not have access to these items or the time to let oil infuse, so we have you covered with a quick and easy version.
What are Sichuan Chiles?
Sichuan chiles and Sichuan peppers come from the Sichuan province, an area of China located smack dab in the middle. They are bright red chiles with a huge amount of heat 100,000 units on the Scoville scale.
But that isn’t what makes them so special. They create a different type of mouthfeel, a tingly numbness that folks either crave or hate.
Sichuan chili flakes can be purchased at Asian markets or online.
Fast Track Infusing
In the authentic preparation of this condiment, the oil will steep in aromatics for long periods of time and then be strained and transferred to the chiles where it will steep again.
Introducing heat to steep with aromatics and then residual heat when poured into the chile flakes, will speed up the process, however never provide as many robust and complex flavors as the original preparation.
Substitutions for Sichuan Chile Flakes
While using them will make your Chinese chili oil authentic, many people do not have access to these tingly little gems and need a swap.
Korean gochugaru is the most similar, but equally hard to find, so I use crushed red pepper flakes. Commonly just called “crushed red” or “pepper flakes”, these are Italian in nature but offer a similar heat without the numb mouth-feel.
Yes, all types of oil can go rancid. Salt is introduced into this mixture to help preserve it, but it only lasts so long. Chinese chili oil is best used within 1-2 months when kept at room temperature or up to 6 months if kept in the refrigerator.
Salt is a natural preservative and helps brighten other natural flavors.
Why You’ll Love Chinese Chili Oil
There are endless reasons why you’ll love this delicious oil!
- Easy: This homemade chili oil is super simple to make. There are no fancy techniques, and it’s an incredibly quick process.
- Flavorful: You can elevate any dish with fiery flavor using this oil.
- Customizable: Adjust the spices and aromatics to your personal preference.
- Versatile: This versatile condiment can be used on any of your favorite dishes from simple salads or starches to soups, veggies, and stir fries.
This homemade version of Chinese chili oil is made with simple ingredients you can find at your local grocery store.
- Neutral oil (such as vegetable oil): The neutral oil is the base of Chinese chili oil. It creates a smooth texture while allowing the flavors of the other ingredients to shine through.
- Shallot: Shallots add a delicate and subtle sweet oniony flavor to the chili oil.
- Fresh ginger: Ginger imparts warm flavor and a hint of spiciness to the chili oil.
- Garlic cloves: This aromatic infuses the oil with savory flavor.
- Bay leaves: Bay leaves contribute a subtle earthy undertone.
- Star anise pods: Star anise has a licorice-like flavor that imparts a distinctive fragrance and flavor to the oil.
- Whole black peppercorns: Peppercorns add a little bit of subtle spiciness.
- Whole cinnamon stick: Cinnamon contributes a warm sweetness that balances the oil.
- Crushed red chile flakes: These spicy flakes impart bold, fiery heat.
- Coarse kosher salt: Kosher salt brings out the flavors of the other ingredients to create a balanced oil.
What To Serve Chinese Chili Oil With
Give any dish — from grilled proteins to roasted veggies — a spicy kick with a drizzle of this delicious chili oil. You can also use it as a dipping sauce for spring rolls, dumplings, or crab rangoon.
Or add a kick of spicy flavor to traditionally milder Chinese food like chicken stir fry, Chinese almond chicken, beef lo mein, or Thai Coconut Chicken. You can also stir it into soups like chicken noodle or egg drop soup or use it as a base for salad dressings.
How to Make Homemade Chinese Chili Oil
This chili oil recipe couldn’t be any easier to make.
- Add ingredients to pan. Add all of the ingredients except the red chile flakes and salt into a small saucepan and heat gently for the recommended time. Be sure to keep the temperature of the oil low.
- Heat. Allow the hot oil mixture to cool briefly.
- Add chile flakes to container. Add crushed red chile flakes and salt into a large, heat-proof container.
- Pour oil over flakes. After affixing a fine mesh sieve over the top of the container, slowly pour the oil over the salt and chile mixture.
- Enjoy! Serve immediately, or store in a cool, dry place for up to 1 month.
There are tons of different ways to make this aromatic oil your own.
- Heat: Add more red chile flakes for an even spicier oil or reduce the amount for a milder flavor — adjust it as needed for your taste buds. You can also try using sichuan peppercorns which will impart both heat and citrusy flavor.
- Oil: Instead of vegetable oil try any oil with a neutral flavor — avocado oil, canola oil, grapeseed oil, coconut oil, or olive oil are all good choices. For nuanced flavor, try using peanut oil or sesame oil.
- Onions: Use scallions, red onion, or another variety of onion in place of the shallots.
- Umami: Add a splash of soy sauce or a dash of mushroom powder for a different twist on this tasty oil.
- Seeds: Impart a unique flavor with the addition of sesame seeds.
- Earthiness: Use black cardamom to impart earthy spiciness.
Storage and Freezing
Chinese chili oil can be stored with your other oils at room temperature for up to 1 month in an airtight container.
Refrigerator: Refrigerating the oil can help it last for up to 6 months.
Freezer: We do not recommend freezing this oil.
Other Spicy Sauces
Chinese Chili Oil
- 2 cups neutral oil I used vegetable oil
- 1 shallot thinly sliced
- 2- inch nub fresh ginger peeled and thinly sliced
- 3 cloves garlic peeled and lightly smashed
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 star anise pods
- 5 whole black peppercorns
- 1 whole cinnamon stick
- 1/2 cup crushed red chile flakes
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse Kosher salt
- Add the oil, shallot, ginger, garlic, bay leaves, star anise, peppercorns and cinnamon stick to a small saucepan. Turn heat to the lowest possible setting. There should be small bubbles, but not a full simmer or boil.
- Allow to heat for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
- Place the crushed red chile flakes and salt into a large glass (heat proof) container with a lid.
- Place a fine mesh sieve over the opening and carefully pour the oil through into the dry chile mixture.
- Use immediately or allow to sit and use within 1 month.
- If you’ve tried this recipe, come and let us know how it was in the comments or star ratings.