Chinese Chili Oil has a vibrant red color with an intoxicating heat nuanced by subtle spices. You’ll want to drizzle this over everything. Commonly used in Chinese cooking, it’s surprisingly easy to make!
I consider Chinese chili oil to be an essential Chinese pantry staple for those who cook with heat often and like a kick of spice. It has a vivid, deep red color and complex layers of spice and sweetness that is seriously addicting. Learn how to make chili oil that will last for months with this recipe!
To make this condiment, popular Asian spices are simmered in vegetable oil. Then they are combined with the satisfying crispness of the toasted white sesame seeds and flaky Sichuan chilis. It’s a fantastic topping for stir-frys, noodles, and rice dishes. It’s also great in other sauces, or for an enhancement to any dish that could benefit from a little heat.
Think of this chili oil as “more on subtle flavors from the steeped spices” than a “spicy heat from the chilis“. While this oil does have a kick, it is the FLAVOR that is just exceptional!
This versatile condiment has made an appearance in many of my recipes, including my Shrimp and Pork Shumai, and Pai Huang Gua salad recipes. Check them out to see the different ways crispy chili oil can enhance a variety of meals, textures, and flavors.
INGREDIENT NOTES AND SUBSTITUTIONS
- Cloves – are slightly sweet and warm.
- Star Anise – This spice pairs well with savory dishes and has a sweet and peppery flavor.
- Cardamom – has a very strong, herbal, sweet, and citrus-like taste. Allspice or nutmeg can be used as alternatives.
- Coriander – This spice is sweet and lemony, and has a subtler taste than cardamom.
- Cinnamon – is very powerful and spicy with a bitter edge.
- Sichuan – These peppercorns are very popular in Chinese cuisine, adding a unique, spiciness when heated.
- Black Peppercorns – are popular worldwide for its mild spiciness.
- Orange Peel – Citrus peels are added as an aromatic, giving sauces a light, fruity scent.
- Shallot – This onion is delicate and sweet with a subtle heat.
- Ginger Root – Fresh ginger can be substituted with 1 tablespoon of dried ground ginger. You can also use dried sand ginger, or “ground galangal.”
- White Sesame Seeds – Toasting white sesame seeds turns them golden, crispy, and nutty.
- Black Vinegar – Deep and fruity, you can use rice vinegar as a substitute.
- Sichuan Flakes – The first two packages of chilis below are Sichuan chili flakes and the brands I prefer for flavor and texture. You could substitute regular red chili flakes (see bottom right), but if you’re looking for that rich, deep red color you will need to add 2 teaspoons of paprika to the chili flakes before pouring the oil over them.
HOW TO MAKE CHINESE CHILI OIL
- Simmer and Steep. Add all of the steeping ingredients to a large saucepan. Bring these spices to a simmer and steep for 1 hour.
- Prevent Burning. Try to keep the temperature of the mixture at 250°F to prevent burning. If the garlic browns too quickly, remove and and discard.
- Combine Remaining Ingredients. In a large, heat-proof bowl, add the Sichuan flakes, toasted white sesame seeds and salt.
- Strain. Slowly and carefully strain the steeped spice mixture over the Sichuan flakes and sesame seeds, discarding the remaining spices when finished. The mixture will bubble, so go slowly and be careful.
- Allow to Cool. Cool the chili crisp mixture to room temperature before stirring in the black vinegar.
- Seal and Store. Finally, pour your crispy chili oil into jars and seal.
How long does Chinese chili oil last in the fridge?
It will last for up to 3 months in the fridge. It can also be left at room temperature in your pantry for up to 2 months.
How do you make Sichuan chili flakes at home?
To make these flavorful flakes at home, you fry whole chilis in vegetable oil until crispy. Then, the crisp peppers are ground into flakes, seeds, or powder.
The flavor, color, and texture are all heightened when fried. As a result, the flakes have a hot, toasty flavor and achieve a bright red color with no additional dyes or additives.
Can I use red chili flakes instead of Sichuan in Chinese Chili Oil?
Regular red flakes can be used in a pinch, but you’ll want to add 2 teaspoons of paprika before adding the simmered spices in order to get the rich, red color that is characteristic of this condiment.
Chinese Chili Oil
- 1 cup Sichuan chili flakes or Asian red pepper flakes (See Note 3)
- 2 tbsp white sesame seeds toasted
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 2 tbsp black vinegar or rice vinegar
- To a large saucepan add the first 12 ingredients. Bring to a simmer (225°F – 250°F). Turn heat off and steep for 1 hour (See Note 4), uncovered.
- Turn heat up to medium-high to reach 375°F.
- While oil is heating up: to a large heat proof bowl add the Sichuan chili flakes, toasted white sesame seeds and salt, stir to combine. Set aside.
- Carefully strain the HOT oil over the chili flakes and sesame seeds (discard the steeped spice mixture). This will bubble up so be careful.
- Cool to room temperature and stir in the black vinegar. Carefully pour into clean jars and seal. Keep refrigerated for up to 3 months and if used often, keep at room temperature in pantry for up to 2 months.
- The main difference between black and green cardamom is the way they are processed. For green cardamom, the pods are harvested before maturity. Black cardamom are harvested much later and are also dried over large fires. Easily interchangeable, with the black having a more intense flavor.
- You can substitute 1 tablespoon dried ground ginger or dried sand ginger, also known as ground galangal for fresh ginger.
- Sichuan chili flakes are made by frying whole chilies in vegetable oil until crisp before grinding into flakes, seeds, or powder. The frying enhances the flavor, color and texture, creating a toasty flavor and characteristic vivid red color without dyes or additives. (source: The Mala Market) You could substitute regular red chile flakes, but if you’re looking for that rich, deep red color, you will need to add 2 teaspoons of paprika to the chili flakes before pouring the oil over them.
- If garlic browns too quickly, remove so it doesn’t burn and discard. Try to keep oil temperature around 225°F.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.