Basic Chili Oil

Basic Chili Oil

I always tend to favor the type of Chinese restaurant that have little jars of Chili Oil, complete with flakes, sitting on the table for using on dumplings, or whatever else you like. Some of these preparations can be quite complex, with Sichuan Peppercorns, Star Anise, or other aromatics being added, but a Basic Chili Oil contains little other than just Oil and dried Red Chili and can easily be made at home for use at the table, or as an ingredient in other dishes.

Ingredient Notes

You will see in the ingredient list in the recipe card below that this recipe goes ever so slightly beyond the most basic form. The ingredients are optional, but I find that just a pinch of salt and sugar improves the final product very nicely.

For oil, you should select one that is generally neutral in flavor, and with a high smoke-point. A simple vegetable oil will probably do you, but, here, I am using a refined peanut oil.

The Method for making a Basic Chili Oil

The dry ingredients for a Basic Chili Oil
The dry ingredients for a Basic Chili Oil

Mix together the chili, salt and sugar in a sturdy glass jar (or a Pyrex measuring cup, if you like). The method we use here is to add hot oil to the chili and you want to make sure that your container can take the heat (and the sudden temperature change). Many recipes have you add the chili (and other flavorings) to a pan of oil and then bring it to a high heat. This works, but the chances or overcooking the chili (and producing a nasty bitter result) is much higher than my method.

Adding Oil to the Dry Ingredients
Adding Oil to the Dry Ingredients

Heat your oil in a saucepan over moderate to high heat until the surface begins to ripple and you can see faint shadows produced by the heat currents on the bottom of the pan. Basically, you want the oil to be heated to just a little bit below its smoking point.

Once this is done, pour about one half of it very carefully into your container with the dry ingredients. As you do so, you will see the flakes of chili get caught up in a bubbling froth at the top of the oil. After this subsides (in about twenty seconds or so), pour in the rest of the oil.

The finished Basic Chili Oil
The finished Basic Chili Oil

Now, all you need do is let the oil cool. As it does, you will see that it turns a nice reddish-mahogany color from the chili, and the flakes will start to slowly sink. Eventually, almost all the flakes will be at the bottom and, if you like, you can transfer all, or some of the oil (and flakes) to smaller, more decorative jars for table service. You can also strain away all the remaining flakes and just retain the spicy oil, if that suits you (and this is probably preferable if you are mostly using it as a cooking ingredient), but for a table condiment, or a more complex dipping sauce ingredient, leaving the flakes at the bottom of the jar is much better.

Using Chili Oil as a Condiment and a Cooking Ingredient

Jiaozi in Red Chili Oil
Jiaozi in Red Chili Oil
Shrimp and Pork Balls with Chili Oil Condiment
Shrimp and Pork Balls with Chili Oil Condiment
Sichuan Dry-fried Green Beans
Sichuan Dry-fried Green Beans
Three Flavor Zucchini
Three Flavor Zucchini

Your Recipe Card:

Basic Chili Oil Recipe

A Basic Chili Oil is good to have on hand, both as a table condiment, and a cookery ingredient. You can buy it, of course, but it is easy to make at home.
Course: Condiment, Spice Blend
Cuisine: General
Keyword: Chili, Oil, Salt, Sugar
Author: John Thompson

Ingredients

  • 2 Cups cooking Oil;
  • ½ Cup dried Chili Flakes;
  • 1 pinch each of Salt and Sugar

Instructions

  • Mix together the chili, salt and sugar in a sturdy glass jar.
  • Heat the Oil in a pan to just below the smoking point.
  • Pour about one half of the oil very carefully into your container with the dry ingredients.
  • When the initial bubbling and frothing subsides, pour in the remaining oil.
  • Allow to cool and cover for storage.
  • If desired, the oil may be strained after steeping for a day or so.

3 Comments

  1. Thank you very much for this! I’ve never been able to find hot chili oil anywhere but in restaurants, so I’ve been meaning to find out how to make my own and you’ve provided a beautifully clear recipe. Fantastic.

    1. Author

      My pleasure. Lot’s of scope for improvising with this. I will be posting a slightly more complex version sometime soon.


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