This easy Chinese chili oil is one of those condiments that's super versatile and adds a pop to everyday cooking. It's mildly spicy but super aromatic. Perfect for dumplings, noodles, rice and more!
Although my spice tolerance is super low, I will always make room for our easy, homemade Chinese chili oil!
It's not that spicy. Rather, it's super fragrant and makes everything incredibly flavorful!
Some of our favorite things to eat with Chinese chili oil are pan fried pork dumplings, egg fried rice, and Korean style vegetarian bao buns. It just adds so much flavor!
- Oil - Any neutral oil will work, like vegetable, soybean, and peanut oil. Coconut oil, olive oil, and sesame oil are not recommended as they have very distinctive flavors.
- Chinese dry chili pepper - You can find these dry chili peppers at Chinese grocery stores in the forms of flakes and "powder." Do note that the "powder" form is not as fine as ground spices like cayenne and paprika. Chinese chili pepper powder is usually a coarse ground.
- Sichuan peppercorn - This will add a bit of numbing flavor to the chili oil. It'll be very mild as the Sichuan peppercorns will be strained. If you prefer, you could add more ground Sichuan pepper at the end for some extra numbing flavor.
- Ginger, shallot, garlic - These fresh aromatics are used to add fragrance and flavor the the oil.
- Bay leaves, cinnamon stick, star anise, green cardamon - These dry whole spices adds another layer of warm fragrance to the oil. If you are limited on spices, we recommend going with the cinnamon sticks and star anise!
- Fine salt - Salt is added to season the chili peppers, not so much the oil, as it doesn't really dissolve in the chili oil. So make sure to use fine salt! This will make sure the salt is well distributed.
The right chili peppers for making Chinese chili oil
We know there are tons of dry chili peppers out there, and it can be so confusing!
The best Chinese dry chili pepper used for chili oil is "er jing tiao" (二荆条). This is a Sichuan red dry chili that gives off a nice red color and is mild to medium in terms of spiciness. It's the most popular chili used to make Chinese chili oil is the Sichuan province, as it is not overly spicy.
Grocery stores usually do not carry "er jing tiao" specifically, but a good substitute is just the generic Chinese or Sichuan chili peppers. They are usually labeled as dry chili pepper (la jiao gan - 辣椒干), for the whole ones. The ground ones are labeled as chili pepper flakes or Sichuan chili pepper (辣椒面/粉).
🌟 Pro tip: If you can only find whole dry chili peppers, you can coarsely grind them in a spice grinder of blender!
How to make Chinese chili oil
Infuse the oil:
1. Combine the oil, shallot, ginger slices, garlic cloves, cinnamon stick, bay leaves, Sichuan peppercorns, star anise, and cardamon in a saucepan.
2. Place the saucepan over medium low heat and bring the oil temperature up to 235°F. Keep the oil temperature between 230°F and 240°F and fry the aromatics for 25 to 30 minutes.
🌟 Pro tip: You can also gauge the temperature of the oil by watching the bubbles. There should be constant streams of tiny bubbles coming from the dry spices. As the shallots and ginger cook, you'll see a bit more active bubbles. However, the bubbles should never becomes violent.
3. After 25 to 30 minutes, strain the aromatics and discard. The shallots, garlic, and ginger should be golden brown, and the oil should be fragrant.
Make the chili oil:
4. Keep the oil at 235°F and add half of the chili peppers. Gently mix the peppers into the oil and cook for 30 seconds to a minute. Make sure to keep stirring gently.
5. Remove the saucepan off of the heat and add the remaining dry chili peppers. Gently stir the peppers into the oil. Add the salt and give the oil a couple of stirs.
6. Carefully pour the homemade chili oil into a sterilized jar. Let the chili oil cool completely before covering and storing. You can use it immediately or wait a day for the flavors to develop more fully.
Is infusing the oil with aromatic necessary?
Although infusing the oil with aromatics is not a necessity, we still highly recommend it! The additional flavors and aroma from the aromatics make this Chinese chili oil so addicting!
Also, by infusing the chili oil with aromatics, it can easily help level up your everyday dishes without the hassle of adding spices!
How to make the chili oil spicier
If the right types of dry chili peppers are used, Chinese chili oil is actually only mild to medium in terms of spiciness. So, if you prefer it spicier, you can infuse the oil with spicy chili peppers, such as bird's eye chili and serrano pepper.
Just chop or slice up the peppers and add it to the oil during the infusion step. Beware that the seeds from the peppers may pop as it fries.
Store the chili oil in sterilized jars
The easiest way to sterilize your glass jars or canning jars for your homemade chili oil is by boiling them. Just bring a pot of water to a boil and gently submerge the jars into the water completely. Let them simmer for 10 minutes for altitudes of 1000 feet or less and add an additional minute per 1000 feet.
Once they are done boiling, carefully remove the jars and let them cool and dry completely before using.
🌟 Pro tip: Place a rack at the bottom of the pot to prevent your glass jars from direct heat and clanking.
- Infusing the oil with aromatics is not necessary, but highly recommended! It will give your chili oil a lot of flavor and aroma.
- Keep the oil temperature between 230°F and 240°F. If the oil temperature is too hot, you may burn the spices and not extract as much flavor. So use a thermometer!
- Every stovetop is different, so make sure to adjust the heat as needed. We constantly hovered around low and medium low heat.
- If you're limited on aromatics and spices, you don't have to use all of them. We recommend at least using some ginger, garlic, shallot, cinnamon stick, and star anise to infuse your oil.
When your Chinese chili oil is done, pour it into a sterilized jar. You can use a glass jars like mason jars or ones with clamps. Make sure to let the chili oil cool completely before cover/ putting a lid on the jar.
Keep the chili oil in a cool, dry place and always use clean utensils. This will allow your chili oil to stay good for as long as possible, up to 5 to 6 months.
This Chinese chili oil will stay good for up to 5 to 6 months if it is stored properly in a sterilized container. Make sure to also use clean utensils when using it!
Chinese chili oil is called "la jiao you" (辣椒油) or "la you" (辣油) for short, in Chinese. Sometimes, it's also known as Sichuan chili oil.
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Easy Chinese Chili Oil
- 2 cups oil (peanut and soybean oil are great too)
- 1 shallot peeled and halved lengthwise
- 1 inch ginger sliced
- 3 cloves garlic peeled
- 1 stick cinnamon
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 tablespoons Sichuan peppercorn
- 3 star anise
- 8 pods green cardamon
- 1 cup Chinese ground chili pepper flakes or powder
- 1 teaspoon fine salt
- Infuse the oil:Add everything except the Chinese dry chili peppers into a saucepan (oil, shallot, ginger, garlic, cinnamon, bay leaves, Sichuan peppercorns, star anise, and cardamon).
- Place the saucepan over medium low heat and bring the temperature of the oil up to 235°F. Keep the oil between 230°F and 240°F. Let the aromatics fry in the oil for 25 to 30 minutes.*You can also watch the bubbles to help you gauge the temperature of the oil. The dry aromatics should be giving off constant stream of small bubbles. As the shallot fries, the bubble will become more lively, but it should never be violent.*
- Strain the aromatics:After 25 to 30 minutes, strain the aromatics out of the oil. The oil should be very fragrant and the shallots and ginger should look golden brown.
- Make the chili oil:Keeping the oil temperature between 230°F and 240°F, add about half of the dry chili peppers. Gently stir and cook the pepper for 30 seconds to a minute.
- Remove the saucepan off of the heat and add the remaining chili pepper. Gently stir until well combined. Add the salt and give the chili oil a few more mixes.
- Cool and store:Carefully transfer the homemade chili oil into a sterilized jar. Let the oil cool completely before covering. Store in a cool, dry place and use when needed.*You can also wait until the oil is cooler before transferring if you prefer.*
- Chinese chili oil is usually mild to medium in terms of spiciness. If you prefer it spicier, you can infuse the oil with spicy chili peppers, like bird's eye chili.
- Every stovetop is a little different, so it will be best to use kitchen thermometer to help with keep the oil temperature accurate.
- Although infusing the oil with aromatics is not a necessity, we highly recommend it! It makes the chili oil really aromatic and tasty. It's definitely worth the 30 minutes!
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