Spice Up Your Winter – Hot Chili Oil (辣椒油)

Hot chili oil is compound oil that’s widely used in many Chinese dishes across all regions. This chili infused oil is usually used as cooking ingredient or a dressing. In regions such as Sichuan, Hunan, and Yunnan where hot and spicy food is dominant, hot chili oil is used very extensive and almost every family makes their own hot chili oil. It really adds a nice kick to whatever you are cooking, especially in this cold winter weather.

When I grew up in Chongqing, then part of the Sichuan province, my parents always conveniently kept a big jar of homemade chili oil on our dining table. To me, chili oil was more than just a condiment but a magic potion that could turn ordinary food to extraordinary. Nowadays, the hot chili oil is sold commercially everywhere under various brands. In the States, you can find it in Asian supermarkets or specialty stores for about 3 USD per jar. Despite the commercial availability I still stock up my own homemade chili oil. Why? Because it is easy to make, it is of better taste, and most importantly it’s totally MSG and additives free 🙂

In this recipe I’ll also share a common technique used in Chinese cooking called Oil Splashing. As seen in this Chinese steamed fish, the oil splashing technique is used to infuse and stimulate oil flavors from other ingredients. Compared to the most basic recpe where you just combine the hot oil and chili, this what I call enhanced basic chili oil recipe provides more flavors extracted from fresh ingredients such as scallions and dry spice such as anise star. If occasion calls I’d write about some of the more complicated versions.

By the way, be prepared to sneeze a lot if your nose is sensitive to peppery smells. A medical mask might become handy. If you want to put the chili oil in use right away, consider making this Sichuan classic dish.
[stextbox id=”info” bgcolor=”9fdfd9″]Ingredients (yields 1 cup of chili oil)

1 cup Cooking oil
2-3 tbsp Crushed dry chili or chili powder (can mix in different types of chilies)
1 Star anise
1 scallion
1 sliced Onion
2 clove Garlic
½ tsp sesame seeds[/stextbox]

[stextbox id=”custom”]Step-By-Step

1. Heat up the oil in small pot over medium heat and until its starts to smoke. Turn the heat to low and slowly add scallion, onion, garlic, and star anise. Let the oil simmer the ingredients in low heat for about 15 minutes. The temperature plays a key factor in this recipe. Try to keep the temperature around 200 F so you won’t burn the fresh ingredients too quickly.

2. Discard all the dry ingredients except the anise star. They should be all dried up and slightly burned. Filter out any floating impurities you see. Reheat the oil until you see smoke again. Around 275 F.

3. Evenly lay the crushed chilies on the bottom of a bowl. Be sure the bowl is big enough to hold one cup of liquid plus extra room for bubbles.
[nggallery id=61]
4. Slowly pour 1/3 of hot oil to the bowl while you stir it with a spoon. You’ll get a lot sizzle coming to your face. Mix well and it should come out like a chili paste.

5. Pour another 1/3 of hot oil to the bowl. Mix it by stirring it. This time you should be able to smell the aroma from the sizzle.

6. Repeat the above process one more time. Add sesame seeds at the end. Let the chili oil sit for about onehour to let hot oil fully integrate the favor with chilies.[nggallery id=62][/stextbox]

*Tips: depending on your preference, you can discard the chilies by straining through a mesh strainer. Or you can keep the chilies in there like what I do every time. It can be used almost immediately however it would have a better flavor the next day.


  1. 11

    Wonderful work! This is the kind of information that are supposed to be shared across the web.

    Shame on the search engines for not positioning this submit higher!
    Come on over and discuss with my site . Thank you =)

  2. 10

    Just this morning, I went to an Asian market to find wonton wrappers. As I was looking around (and my mouth watering) looking at all the yummy ingredients, I decided I was going to have a regular “Asian food” night at our house. I came home, determined to find a blogger who could give me GOOD directions and authentic recipes. You were the first I’ve looked at, and I have no need to look any further. I am overwhelmed with the amount of delicious looking choices I have to try. Maybe I will have to jump start my plan with a whole week of Chinese food!!! Thanks so much~I’ll let you know when I try my first recipe! : )

    • 10.1

      Hello Nicole, thank you for your visit and your kind words. I am glad that you’ve found this blog useful. Please let me know if you have any questions. Thanks.

  3. Pingback: Spicy Beef Noodle Soup (四川紅燒牛肉麵) | Yi Reservation

  4. 9

    Yi –
    I love your website. I’ve made the chili oil and will soon be making your Sichuan Spicy Cold Noodles and Cucumber Salad. I recently moved from the US to Hong Kong and I am having fun trying to make some relatively authentic Chinese food at home. Your website has been the best by far in terms of recipes, suggestions and pictures. I am going to keep coming back! If you have time, check out my site I have developed with my wife to document our adventures in HK and traveling around Asia. It’s only a few weeks old at this point, but it will grow! Looking forward to new recipes!


    • 9.1

      Hi Taylor, thanks for your visit. I am glad that you have found this site helpful! By the way, if you have any request in terms of dishes you like but you can’t find a recipe for please feel free to give me a shout. I love to experiment new dishes!

      • Hi Yi,

        Just came across your site and it’s fantastic! I’m definitely going to try some of your recipes. Since you mention requests, I have two: dry fried string beans (干煸四季豆) – I haven’t found a good English-language recipe yet (my Chinese is ok but not fluent), and then 煎饼, Beijing style. You know the crepes with egg and some mysterious crispy rectangle with different sauces and scallions and cilantro they sell on the streets everywhere? I had it every day for breakfast when I was in Beijing for 7 weeks and haven’t been able to find anything similar in either Manhattan’s Chinatown (where I live) or even Flushing. I have a video of it but don’t know what the crispy thing is, and am unsure of how to make the batter. http://s121.photobucket.com/player.swf?file=http://vid121.photobucket.com/albums/o214/hengde/MVI_0037.flv If you have any experience with those and could post, it would change my life 🙂

        • Hello Hengde, thank you for visiting and taking the time to leave a comment. I absolutely love the recipes you requested!
          I am quite familiar with dry stir fried string beans or 干煸四季豆, it’s one of those comfort dishes I cook from time to time. So yes the recipe will be shared 🙂
          As for the Beijing Jianbing (煎饼) or Beijing style crepes, my experience so far has only been eating them but not cooking. It’s one of those dishes you makes your jaw drop as you watch the vendors whip up a crepe in 2 minutes with that magic brush. I haven’t had it in a long time but your video brings back all that memory from years ago. Please keep an eye on this blog because I am on a mission to figure out a recipe for this dish!
          Thanks again for checking out my blog. Please don’t hesitate to drop a line whenever you have questions or suggestions.


  5. 8

    Ok that’s it! I’m bookmarking this site! Its awesome!
    ! I had cravings for 酸辣粉and your recipe nailed it! 🙂
    I added Sichuan peppers to my chili oil though, and they turned out quite well.
    keep the recipes coming!

    • 8.1

      Hi Jasmine, thanks for your feedback. What a great idea to put the Sichuan peppercorn in the chili oil! I used to do that but now I just make a separate Sichuan peppercorn oil for other uses. Please check back soon!

      • Sichuan oil recipe? I haven’t found it yet. A pointer would be appreciated, PLEASE. 🙂

        Just discovered this sight and have bookmarked it. I think I have been looking for it for a while.

        • Hi Brian, is this chili oil the recipe you have been looking for or is it something else? Thanks.

        • I don’t see it. ???

          This past weekend I discovered Spicy Black Bean Sauce. I loved regular Black Bean Sauce, but the spicy is rocking my world! 🙂

        • I wish I could delete my comment. Hadn’t thought about scrolling all the way up. 🙂 Will have to take a better look at it. Thanks!!

        • no worries Brian. I am glad that you’ve found what you were looking for. Please don’t hesitate to comment if you have any questions. Thanks.

  6. 7

    What is the shelf life? …Or ‘fridge life’ if I keep the product in a fridge?

    • 7.1

      Hi Dr. Isaak,
      Thanks for stopping by.
      You should be able to keep it in a fridge for up to 2 months assuming it doesn’t get contaminated with other raw stuff. I normally finish it way before that though because I can add this to pretty much anything :).

  7. Pingback: Sichuan Spicy Cold Noodle (四川麻辣涼面) | Yi Reservation

  8. 6

    had no idea that this is how chili oil is made (with onion and star anise!) i love having mine mixed with wonton…hmmmm. YUM!

    • 6.1

      Hi Vivienne, the truth is you can literally make a chili oil with almost any ingredients as long as dry chili is present. This recipe is just my own variation and you can easily create your own style by mixing in different herbs/ingredients.
      And I agree that chili oil wanton is the way to go!

  9. 5

    So how long does it keep?

    • 5.1

      Hi Sarah,
      If you store the chili oil in a sealed jar and store the jar in a cool environment you should be able to keep it for about 2 months. However I would recommend finishing it as soon as possible because after a while the oil starts to lose its flavor.

  10. 4

    Excellent. I’ve been wanting to make my own chili oil. What kind of oil do you use/recommend?

    • 4.1

      Hello TheBadMonkey,

      I would recommend using one of your favorite vegetable oils such as peanut, corn, canola, or olive oil. The key is you have to be comfortable with the flavor of the oil of your choice.

      In the recipe I used canola oil as it has low fat content. Please let me know how yours comes out to be.

  11. 3

    This is awesome! I love hot chili oil and use it a lot whenver I have Chinese food. Thanks for sharing this simple recipe!

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