We use this easy homemade chili oil recipe on everything from Chinese noodles to scrambled eggs! I eat better, save money, and never run out of my favorite condiment.
homemade Chinese chili oil you’ll want to use on everything!
Lately when I’m trying to decide what I feel like for dinner I’m defaulting to simple Asian stir frys or noodle bowls. And it seems like the one constant in all of them is a classic Chinese chili oil. Its fire engine red smokey flavors and gentle heat is what I want on everything.
For another super easy diy Chinese sauce, check out my homemade scallion oil!
what exactly is chili oil?
Chili oil is vegetable oil that’s been infused with chilies and other spices. It can be strained clear, or it can retain the chilies, etc. that settle at the bottom of the jar. It’s used in Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Korean, and Vietnamese cooking, among other cuisines. The important thing to know is that even though it looks scary-hot, it’s actually got a very palatable heat that’s not overwhelming. Because of that it can and does go with just about everything. Think Asian style ketchup and you’ve got the idea.
what you’ll need
- chili flakes, aka ground chilies ~ I used Chinese Sichuan chiles which give this chili oil a smokey, gentle heat, not too hot so it’s easy to eat. You can buy the authentic chilies here.
- oil ~ a mild vegetable oil. I used roasted canola oil (CAIZIYOU) which you can buy here. You can also use soybean, sesame, or peanut oil.
- ginger ~ fresh ginger infuses into the oil as it heats.
- bay leaf
- star anise
- cinnamon stick
- toasted sesame seeds
- black pepper
- Sichuan peppercorns ~ these fascinating ‘peppercorns’ have a wonderful smokey ‘numbing’ effect on the tongue and a very gentle heat. Fun fact: Sichuan pepper is more closely related to the citrus family than to either black pepper or chili peppers!
- 5 spice powder ~ just a teaspoon of this powerful spice blend gives this chili oil its distinctive flavor.
Chinese vs Thai or Korean ground chilies
Chilies are a confusing subject because they grow all over the world in thousands of varieties and just about every cuisine uses them in some way. Some are interchangeable, but some have unique flavors. The chili flakes used in classic Chinese chili oil are from Sichuan China ~ a blend of facing heaven, er jin tiao and xiao mi chilies. If you can’t find these dried chiles locally, you can buy them online, here.
easy method for making homemade chili oil
- Heat oil and ginger to 270F.
- Pour over chili flakes and spices and stir to combine.
- Let it cool at room temperature for about 6 hours.
- Fish out the bay leaves, star anise, and cinnamon stick. Cover and refrigerate.
what will you do with a pint of chili sauce??
Do you have to ask?
With this recipe you’ll feel like you’ve made a massive amount, especially compared to the tiny store bought jars from your supermarket shelf. But once you have it in the fridge you’re going to want to use it every day. Trust me, it won’t be long before you’re making up another batch. Good thing it’s so easy.
Then there are the non-Asian uses! They involve French fries, scrambled eggs, burgers…
Unfortunately there really isn’t a substitute in this case. If you want to make chili oil you should track down the correct chiles. Online ordering makes it so easy. In a pinch Korean chili flakes are definitely better than the Italian style (cayenne) chili flakes you’re used to seeing in American spice aisles. Remember, the only reason to make homemade Sichuan chili oil is to do it right. You want that unique flavor!
Store your chili oil in a covered container or jar in the refrigerator.
It will last 2 months or more in the refrigerator. But honestly, you’ll use it up way before it goes bad.
Homemade Chili Oil
- 2 cups canola oil (also use soybean, peanut, or sesame oil)
- 1 inch long piece of fresh ginger, cut in half
- Stir together all the spices in the bottom of a heat proof jar or bowl. It should be large enough to hold the spices and the 2 cups of oil.
- Heat the oil and ginger in a saucepan over medium to medium high heat until it registers 270F with an instant read thermometor.
- Remove the ginger and carefully pour the oil (it will sizzle!) into the jar. Stir the contents well.
- Let cool for an hour, then remove the cinnamon stick, bay leaves, and star anise. Cap and refrigerate until needed.