Chinese chili oil is a must-have condiment that's not only great for adding a kick to any dish but can also take any dish to another level! It's mildly spicy, super aromatic with the flavors of fragrant spices, which is perfect for adding a pop to everyday cooking and perfect for anything — from these pork and chive dumplings to cumin lamb noodles, Singapore noodles, and more!
If you’ve made this recipe or any recipes from our blog, please tag us on Instagram using #twoplaidaprons! You can also tag us in your Instagram stories using @two_plaid_aprons. We would love to see your creations! It absolutely makes our day! 🥰
What to do with Chinese chili oil
Chinese chili oil is super versatile and can be used in many ways, such as drizzling it on top of dumplings, adding it to soups, or for adding some heat to any stir fry dishes. Below are some of our favorite ways to use it:
- For noodle dishes - 10 minute sesame noodle, biang biang noodles, cumin lamb noodles
- Condiment for dim sum - siu mai, radish cakes
- For side dishes - Smashed cucumber salad, cold tofu, garlic bok choy
- Add it to fried rice or lo mein at the end for some kick
- As a dipping sauce for dumplings - pan-fried pork dumplings, Korean dumplings (mandu)
Please scroll down to the recipe card for the ingredient quantities!
- Oil - Any neutral oil will work, like avocado, canola, 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 finely grounded as 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
Please scroll down to the recipe card for the full recipe and instructions!
Infuse the oil:
1. Gather ingredients. Combine the oil, shallot, ginger slices, garlic cloves, cinnamon stick, bay leaves, Sichuan peppercorns, star anise, and cardamon in a saucepan.
2. Infuse flavors. 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. Strain aromatics. 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. First addition of chili. 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. Second addition of chili. Remove the saucepan off of the heat and add the remaining dry chili peppers. Gently stir the peppers into the oil. Then, add the salt and give the oil a couple of stirs.
6. Let cool. 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.
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.
Store your Chinese chili oil in 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.
As long your Chinese chili oil is stored in a sterilized container and in a cool, dry place, it will stay good for up to 5 to 6 months. Do make sure to 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.
Although infusing aromatics and spices is not necessary at all, we do highly recommend it! This step will make your Chinese chili oil extra fragrant and super addictive. It's definitely worth the time. If you're short on time, try our 5-minute chili oil or garlic chili oil instead.
If the proper dry chilis are used, your Chinese chili oil should only be mildly spicy. To make your chili oil spicier, you can add fresh chili peppers such as Serrano peppers or bird's eye chili. Simply chop up the chili peppers and add them during the infusion step. Do note that the seeds will likely pop.
Chinese Chili Oil
- 2 cups oil (any neutral oil like grapeseed, canola, avocado, soybean, and peanut)
- 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 chili pepper flakes
- 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!