This easy homemade chili oil is SO much more than just spice and heat. Aromatic and well balanced, this iconic Chinese condiment will elevate your dishes and absolutely wow your palate!
“Is this a new kind of tea?” Mr. Kitrusy asked me as he walked up to the bowl of steeping pepper flakes that sat cooling on my kitchen counter. Before I could answer, he bent over the bowl and inhaled deeply. It only took a moment for the spiciness of the brew to travel up his sinuses and he sputtered as he stepped back. Something akin to an “Unnnnghhh…” eked out of him as he declared, “That is some very angry tea!”
I couldn’t tell if his eyes were watering from laughter or the chili oil. 😅
It was the beginning of a love affair with this spicy and full-bodied condiment. Fondly referred to as “angry tea” in our household from then on, this chili oil probably ranks as Mr. Kitrusy’s favorite and with good reason. This oil is more than just heat. It’s a wonderful myriad and balance of flavor and aromatics that all blends into the spice of the chili flakes. Versatile, you can use this condiment to top your dishes or cook with it, adding it directly into your dishes or marinades. Trust me, once you give this a try, you’ll wonder how you ever enjoyed your meals without it!
Here’s the Ingredients We’ll Be Using For Our Chili Oil:
- Pepper Flakes: For today’s recipe I’m using a combination of Sichuan Chili Flakes and Korean Red Pepper Flakes also known as Gochugaru. You can also use Crushed Red Pepper Flakes as an alternative.
- Salt: I’m using my favorite pink Himalayan salt but sea salt also works great.
- Garlic: Whole cloves of raw garlic work best for this recipe. However you can also opt to use dried/dehydrated garlic in a pinch.
- Oil: For this recipe you’ll want to use an oil that is clean and neutral. Great options include: unrefined sunflower oil, unrefined safflower oil, grapeseed oil, avocado oil (if you enjoy the taste) and peanut oil.
- Bay Leaf: Fresh or dried, we’ll need one bay leaf.
- Peppercorns: Traditionally this recipe calls for the iconically Sichuan peppercorn that has a notably numbing/tingling effect, however an acceptable substitute (that I’m using today) are some black peppercorns.
- Cloves: You’ll need a few buds of clove which will impart a great aromatic flavor that complements the other warming spices such as our cinnamon and nutmeg. But more to that, much like the Sichuan peppercorn, cloves actually have a numbing effect as well!
- Cinnamon: One small stick of cinnamon or cassia bark (also known as Chinese cinnamon) will be needed.
- Nutmeg: A great warming spice with sweet and nutty undertones, this spice adds great flavor and aromatics to our oil.
- Fennel Seeds or Star Anise: adding a sweet and peppery licorice-like flavor either fennel seeds or star anise can be used. Today I’m using fennel seeds.
- Chinese Black Vinegar: Used to finish our oil and add a depth of flavor and a pop of sweet acid to our oil to round out and complement the spice. While there’s no true replacement for this ingredient, in a pinch you can use a touch of rice vinegar.
- Sesame Seeds: Some lightly toasted sesame seeds adds rich and nutty flavor that pairs well with all other elements.
- Toasted Sesame Oil: Our final finishing touch, toasted sesame oil adds a rich and nutty element to our chili oil that amplifies the flavor of the seeds and blends into the heat of the chilis.
- Optional Spices: Two great optional spices you can include in the steeping oil are ginger, black cardamom pods. And to the bowl with your chili/salt and garlic, you can add in a couple teaspoons of dehydrated onion.
Here’s How Easy This Asian Condiment Is To Make!
To a small saucepan, add your oil of choice along with your herbs and spices. Set it on the stove on med – med-high heat for 3-5 minutes until the spices start to bubble and makes the oil look like it’s “boiling”. If you have a thermometer, you’ll want to bring your oil to about 300F and allow the spices to steep and fry in it. If you notice the spices are burning or browning too quickly, remove the pot from the heat.
While the aromatics are steeping in the oil, add the pepper flakes, salt and garlic together into a bowl. Ensure you’re using a clean, dry, heat-proof bowl. This is very important detail for when we add the hot oil.
As an aside, if you don’t have any Korean pepper flakes on hand, don’t worry, just replace it with equal amounts of the Sichuan pepper flakes or crushed red pepper instead!
And thoroughly combine it into a homogenous/evenly dispersed mix.
Strain your oil and remove all the aromatics and spices from it and slowly pour half of your oil over your pepper flakes/salt/garlic mixture. It will release a hiss, and some steam as the spices essentially shock fry in the hot oil.
Since we’re adding the HOT oil directly into the bowl this is why you absolutely need to ensure your bowl is heat proof and dry so that it’s able to withstand the heat of the oil.
When the bubbling partially subsides, pour the remaining half of the oil into the bowl and allow it to “simmer” and steep with the pepper flakes.
When the bubbling subsides and a few minutes have passed, add in your toasted sesame seeds, Chinese black vinegar, and toasted sesame oil to finish our hot chili oil.
Allow your oil to cool down completely to room temperature, stirring it occasionally as it cools to help the flavors mix and release.
Once cooled, store your chili oil in a tightly sealed glass jar with a metal lid for the best results. Glass is highly recommended since it is not reactive like plastics are. Note that this recipe make a small batch of about 6oz and gives you about 12, generous tablespoon-sized servings.
We really hope you give this recipe a go and that you love this staple Asian condiment for it’s sensational spice and depth of aromatic flavor as well as for it’s versatility in being used to season, to add flavor and to finish your dishes! 🥰
Chinese Hot Oil - aka Chili Oil or Red Oil
- 3 tbsp Sichuan pepper flakes or crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 tbsp Korean pepper flakes aka Gochugaru
- 2 tsp Himalayan salt
- 3 clove garlic minced
- 2 tsp dehydrated onion optional*
- 1/2 cup peanut oil or any clean, neutral oil
- 1 tbsp whole black peppercorns or Sichuan peppercorns if you have them
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 small Cinnamon Stick
- 6 cloves cloves
- 2-3 slivers nutmeg
- 2 tsp fennel seeds or 2 Star Anise
- 1/2 inch fresh ginger sliced, optional*
- 1 pod black cardamom optional*
- 1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
- 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
- 2-3 tsp Chinese black vinegar or rice vinegar
- Combine the Sichuan pepper flakes, Korean pepper flakes, garlic, salt, and if using, dehydrated onion together in a heat-safe ceramic bowl.3 tbsp Sichuan pepper flakes, 1 tbsp Korean pepper flakes, 2 tsp Himalayan salt, 3 clove garlic, 2 tsp dehydrated onion
- Add the peppercorns, bay leaf, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and fennel seeds to the oil in a small saucepan and heat until hot and "boiling/bubbling" (4-5 min) on med-med-high heat. Note: If the spices are browning too much, remove the pot from the heat. You want the temp to be around 250-300F1/2 cup peanut oil, 1 tbsp whole black peppercorns, 1 bay leaf, 1 small Cinnamon Stick, 6 cloves cloves, 2-3 slivers nutmeg, 2 tsp fennel seeds, 1/2 inch fresh ginger, 1 pod black cardamom
- Strain the spices out from the oil and pour 1/2 the oil over your pepper flake mixture and stir. It will bubble and boil. Once it subsides, pour the remaining oil in and let it sit for a few minutes.
- Stir in the sesame seeds, sesame oil and Chinese black vinegar to your hot oil and let it sit at room temperature to cool completely, stirring it occasionally to encourage the infusion.1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds, 1 tsp toasted sesame oil, 2-3 tsp Chinese black vinegar
- Once cooled, store your chili oil in a tightly sealed glass jar where it can be kept at room temperature for six months or in the fridge for up to 18 months.* see notes
- This small-batch recipe makes approximately 6 oz. The recommended serving size is 1 tbsp.
- If you don't have the Korean pepper flakes, simply substitute it with equal amounts of the Sichuan pepper flakes or red pepper flakes.
- Note that storing your chili oil in the fridge may cause the oil to solidify or become cloudy, this is normal and once it is removed from the fridge and allowed to come to room temperature, it will return to its regular consistency.