How to Make Fresh Chinese Chili Oil (辣椒油)

Chinese chili oil | Omnivore's Cookbook

Homemade chili oil is a very basic and common ingredient in the Chinese kitchen. Although you can always get it from the supermarket, freshly made chili oil always tastes better and is much healthier. The bottled chili oil often contains MSG to make it tastier and contains food additives to prolong shelf life. On the other hand, the homemade version uses natural spices, delicious sesame seeds, and high quality oil to create a unique fragrance and superior quality. Homemade chili oil won’t last as long as bottled, but once you get the key points, you’ll find it so easy to prepare and will be able to finish cooking it within 5 minutes.

Chinese chili oil has a pungent spiciness and nuttiness, with a warm and savory flavor, such that a small spoonful goes a long way. With this chili oil on hand, you can easily make the classic Dan Dan noodles. You can also use it in a quick and easy salad, such as the Chicken noodle salad or green beans with peanut sauce. Next time you’re eating dumplings, you could try adding some chili oil to the dipping sauce to spice it up. The dish will be transformed into an exciting and appetizing one!

Chinese chili oil | Omnivore's Cookbook

A few more words about how to use chili oil. After the oil is cooked, the chili flakes will sink to the bottom and the sesame seeds float on top. Different from the bottled chili oil, the homemade version does not require filtration of the oil. Since it is more practical to make on a weekday, it is much faster and less messy. The two ways to use homemade chili oil are as follows:

(1) Use the clear oil with sesame seeds on top. This is mostly used for making a dumpling dipping sauce, or when you want a dish to be have low or moderate spiciness. In this way, the oil adds a smoky and nutty flavor to the dish without turning it too hot.

(2) Scoop some chili flakes from the bottom, to use with oil and sesame seeds. The chili flakes will add spiciness and give the dish a peppery taste. Because the chili pepper has been cooked by the hot oil, it won’t have the raw flavor and will be easier to blend into the dish. I personally prefer to use chili oil this way.

Chinese chili oil | Omnivore's Cookbook

You might find that the methods to cook Chinese chili oil in my previous recipes are slightly different from each other. The truth is, each family has its own version, and sometimes I use fewer spices to simplify the recipe.

Do you make basic condiments or blends at home? Comment below to share your favorite ones! 🙂

Chinese chili oil | Omnivore's Cookbook

5.0 from 3 reviews
How to Make Fresh Chinese Chili Oil
 
Prep time
Cook time
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The key to making delicious chili oil is to heat the oil hot enough without overheating it. The hot oil will cook the spices thoroughly and will be infused with various flavors. However, if the oil is too hot, it will burn the pepper flakes and sesame seeds, and the resulting chili oil will have a bitter taste.
Author:
Recipe type: condiment
Cuisine: Chinese
Serves: 12
Ingredients
To cook a small portion
  • 1/4 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorn powder or 1/2 teaspoon whole Sichuan peppercorn, grated (*see footnote)
  • 1 tablespoon chili flakes (or 1/2 tablespoon chili flakes + 1/2 tablespoon chili powder)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
  • 2 teaspoons sesame seed
  • (optional) 1 whole star anise
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 - 6 tablespoons peanut oil (or vegetable oil)
  • (option) 1 thin slice ginger

To cook 1 cup chili oil
  • 1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorn power or 2 teaspoons whole Sichuan peppercorn, grated (*see footnote 1)
  • 4 tablespoons chili flakes (or 2 tablespoons chili flakes + 2 tablespoons chili powder) (*see footnote 2)
  • 2 teaspoons Chinese five spice powder
  • 3 tablespoons sesame seed
  • (optional) 2 whole star anise
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup peanut oil (or vegetable oil)
  • (option) 1 thin slice ginger
Instructions
  1. Add Sichuan peppercorn powder, chili flakes, five spice powder, sesame seeds, star anise and bay leaf into a small bowl. Place the bowl on a heat resistant mat.
  2. Heat oil in a wok (or a skillet) on medium-high heat. Add ginger into oil, so you can test the temperature of the oil without a thermometer. When the ginger start to wither and turns golden brown, in about 2 minutes, turn off the heat immediately (It might take longer if you’re using an electric stove). If you don’t have ginger on hand, you can heat the oil until you see a very thin and light smoke appear on the surface of the oil. If you see the oil start to smoke intensely, turn off the heat immediately. Wait a minute or two, until the smoke dies down a bit before using.
  3. Carefully use a ladle to transfer oil to the bowl of mixed spices. The oil will bubble for a few seconds and cook the spices. While the the oil is bubbling, carefully use a metal spoon to stir gently, to mix everything well.
  4. When the oil cools down a bit, scoop out and discard the star anise and bay leaf. Those two spices are very strong and their flavor will be overwhelmed if you keep them in the oil.
  5. You can use the chili oil warm or at room temperature.
  6. The oil can be stored at room temperature with cover for two weeks, or up to a month in the fridge in an airtight container. To use refrigerated chili oil, place the oil at room temperature until it turns to liquid.
Notes
(1) It is possible to use whole Sichuan peppercorns in this recipe (I do that when I’m too lazy to grate them). The good way to use them is, to add them into the oil during the heating process. When the oil is hot enough, use a ladle to scoop them out and discard them.
The ultimate lazy way is to add the whole peppercorn into the bowl and cook it with the other spices. However, when you serve the oil, be careful that not to bite into a peppercorn. A single bite will numb your tongue and you won’t able to taste any other flavor for a few minutes.
(2) When you want to create a red and thicker oil, you could blend in chili powder. This is often used when creating noodle sauce (e.g. Dan Dan noodles).

The nutrition facts are calculated base on 1/2 teaspoon chili oil generated from the recipe.

Chinese Chili Oil nutrition facts | Omnivore's Cookbook

You can chili oil to cook:

Lanzhou Beef Noodles | omnivorescookbook.com
Lanzhou Beef Noodles (兰州拉面)

Bang Bang Chicken | Omnivore's Cookbook
Bang Bang Chicken

Authentic Mapo Tofu (麻婆豆腐)
Authentic Mapo Tofu (麻婆豆腐)

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Meet Maggie

Born and raised in Beijing, Maggie now calls Texas home. She’s learned to love barbecue, but her heart belongs to the food she grew up with. For her, Omnivore’s Cookbook is all about introducing cooks to real-deal Chinese dishes, which can be as easy as a 30-minute stir-fry or as adventurous as making your own dim sum. Recipes, step-by-step photos and video are the tools she uses to share her knowledge—and her enthusiasm for Chinese food.

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15 thoughts on “How to Make Fresh Chinese Chili Oil (辣椒油)

    1. Maggie Post author

      Thanks Crystal! I’m totally agree with you, those homemade condiments have much better flavor. It takes no time after you get used to the cooking process. 🙂

      Reply
    1. Maggie Post author

      I’m so happy to hear there are people who prefer to cook those things at home. Happy cooking and let me know how it goes! 🙂

      Reply
  1. Sophie

    I like how each family seems to make their own version of chile oil 🙂 I add scallions to mine (but fish them out before sealing the jar in the fridge). I love it! I just ran out actually because whenever I’m frying day-old rice or noodles I use lots….. it’s my favorite! Thank you for sharing your version (and good tip about not eating any whole peppercorns :):)

    Reply
    1. Maggie Post author

      Adding scallion to the chili oil sounds so tasty! I never tried to add chili oil into fried rice, but it sounds great! Thanks for sharing the ideas and I cannot wait to try them out! 🙂

      Reply
  2. Thomas

    This has become a staple condiment of mine and I make it about once a month. Nothing compares to the nutty spiciness, and I just can’t get enough.

    To get the hot oil just right, I use either vegetable or peanut oil, heat it to 430-440F, and pull it off the burner right as I start to smell a hint of smoke. I suppose other oils will work, but any oil used needs a smoke point above 430F, in order to toast the spices and extract flavor properly without burning.

    I found that the ginger test isn’t quite accurate. My ginger slices turned into crispy (and delicious) ginger chips around 400F (I removed them and ate them once they were totally toasted). This may have to do with the fact that an electric stove (which I was using) heats more slowly. The best way to judge the temperature of the oil is to monitor it very closely – with a thermometer or by paying close attention to the faintest hint of smoking oil, or both.

    Reply
    1. Maggie Post author

      Hi Deborah, many many thanks for letting me know about this problem. I just realized my newsletter system released an upgrade and I didn’t install it properly. Now the newsletter signup form works properly and you should able to sign up. Could you please try it again? Thank you for your time, and I really appreciate your help 🙂

      Reply
  3. Nataline

    Thank you so much for this recipe! I tried it side by side with the recipe from Woks of Life and prefer this one, largely because of the sesame seeds which add a nice crunch. The Woks of Life version was very similar, but because it has more Sichuan peppercorn, ended up a bit warmer. I am so addicted to the nutty smoky taste of this chili oil.

    Reply
    1. Maggie Post author

      Hi Nataline, I’m glad to hear you like the recipe! Adding sesame seeds into the chili oil does boost its flavor a lot, so I personally prefer this way too. Thanks for taking time and leaving a comment to let me know 🙂 Have a great day!

      Reply
  4. dylan

    My seasame seeds don’t see to float like yours! And my chili flakes don’t sink! Haha, did I do something wrong?

    I can’t believe how awesome the spicy/nuttiness is! Amazing!

    Reply
    1. Maggie Post author

      I think the chili flakes will sink if you set them aside for a bit longer? The sesame seeds? I have no idea! In fact I’d like them to sink, because they sometimes get in the way lol I think it’s fine as long as it doesn’t affect the taste.
      Glad to hear you enjoyed the chili oil 🙂 Use it on noodle salad and it will make the dish awesome.

      Reply