Learn how to make my base chilli oil as well as how to adapt it in several ways to your own palate with my simple step by step guide.
So you’re here because you want to learn how to make chilli oil.
Well you’re in the right place and I’ll teach you everything I know about a condiment that I so truly love.
I’ve been making my own chilli oils for years and I’ve made some decent ones, some good ones and some great ones.
This chilli oil guide will help you to form your own base chilli oil and adapt the flavour to what you enjoy. It’s a condiment that’s versatile and incredibly delicious.
It doesn’t require a lot of hands on time, just a bit of patience.
A chilli oil is as the name suggests, a seasoned oil that’s infused with chillies. But it’s a very general term as chilli oils can come in hundreds of different flavour combos.
They can come with numerous regional variations which can produce entirely different flavour profiles. And if you haven’t tasted this condiment you’ve really been missing out.
It boasts a deep vibrant red colour and adds a punch of flavour to anything it’s added in. It is a spicy condiment however this can also be adapted to preference, but it’s perfect for drizzling, dunking, and cooking.
It’s often based on a flavoured oil which has been slowly infused with various spices and aromatics. This oil is then poured over chilli flakes at just the right temperature.
As the hot oil pours over the chilli flakes they begin to sizzle and toast. This helps to bring out their colour and flavour.
However there are other types of chilli oils which incorporate a quick infusion. These quick infusions rely on a hot oil being poured directly over chilli flakes and spices.
This quick infusion method is great for an instant oil. But in my humble opinion, I don’t feel like it brings out sufficient depth or flavour and hence it’s a method I rarely use.
Chilli oil makes for a great staple condiment as it’s just as versatile in uses as it is in flavour. There are quite a few different types of chilli oils that exist and I’ll cover this in more detail further on in the blogpost.
Chilli oil can honestly be used for anything. It’s my most valued condiment and something I always keep on hand.
A quick flick through my recipes will show my strong love for spices and chillies. But this is the one recipe I’ve made more times than any other.
You can use chilli oil for:
- Dunking and dipping – perfect for dumplings and bao, like my Shiitake Mushroom Dumplings
- Sauces – add a spoonful into stir fry sauces or Indo-Chinese sauces. Check out my Szechuan Paneer, Crispy Chilli Panko Mushrooms, or my Bang Bang Mogo for example
- Dipping sauces – mix some with mayonnaise or vegan mayonnaise for a creamy spicy twist. It’s great with fries if you like a bit of heat, feel free to even drizzle some on top of the fries themselves. Because, why not!
- Cooking – Use it instead of your regular oil for extra heat and flavour!
- Garnishing – drizzle on top of your dishes for a pop of colour and flavour. You could even add some to soups and broths which really helps to enhance their warmth
- Quick meals – toss some noodles in it for a spicy quick bite (but be warned, it packs a punch)
- Marinades – add a spoonful or two to your marinades for depth and a wonderful aroma
Why you should make your own chili oil
I always advocate for making things yourself is possible. Condiments like these are readily available in most East Asian supermarkets but there are many benefits when you make your own.
By making your own chili oil, you can:
- Have complete control of the flavour and be able to adapt it to your preference. In other words, add the spices and aromatics that you love. You can infuse the oil for longer and in turn develop far more flavour and depth compared to what you’ll find in a store bought product
- Let your creativity run wild. Create flavours that you wouldn’t be able to find in a supermarket
- Adjust the level of heat to your preference by using different types of chilli flakes. Alternatively reducing the amount of chilli flakes in comparison to the amount of oil
- Gift it to friends and family. Take my word for it, it always goes down well and my friends constantly look forward to trying each batch
- Have a bit of fun with it! It’s an easy process that requires minimal hands-on work. It also smells great!
Recommended equipment for Chili Oil
Aside from a saucepan and a sieve (which are things that most will have anyways), there’s one other piece of equipment that I strongly recommend.
In order to truly have full control of the process, it’s quite crucial to have a cooking thermometer. This allows you to monitor the temperature of the oil throughout.
By monitoring the temperature of the oil you can prevent the spices from burning and imparting a bitter note. However by all means feel free to eyeball the temperature.
You’ll be looking for little bubbles around the spices as it infuses. But you do run the risk of burning the spices as being 10 degrees higher could make all the difference.
With a thermometer you’ll also be able to bring the oil up to the right temperature before pouring it onto the chilli flakes.
This will ensure you get the perfect sizzle, which is the best bit!
What is the best temperature for chilli oil?
Continuing on from the previous section, the temperature is key here.
When simmering the oil with the spices we want to keep the temperature around 110-115’C/230-239’F as this will allow the oil to infuse without the spices burning.
If you’re making this without a cooking thermometer then your key indicator will be small gentle bubbling around the spices.
Check the saucepan periodically the oil temperature stays within this range. As well as to ensure the spices are not starting to burn.
For the next stage of pouring the oil over the chilli flakes, you need to bring the oil to a different temperature. In most cases this is a substantially higher temperature, around 170-175’C/338-347’F.
For this process the spices need to be sieved out of the oil as they will burn if taken to this temperature. Now this temperature can actually vary dependent on the type of chilli flakes used.
The best way to assess the right temperature for that sizzling effect is to test half a tsp of the oil at different temperatures on a small amount of chilli flakes.
Chilli oil ingredients
Let’s first break this down into the essential ingredients that I use for my base chilli oil. And then we’ll talk about some optional add-ins.
The spices I feel are essential are based on what I’ve noticed provides an all-around flavour profile. It’s derived from the spices commonly found in ‘Chinese 5 spice’ mixes.
Now as someone who is not of Chinese ethnicity, I cannot say whether this is the authentic selection of spices. However they are the spices that are labelled on the 5 spice powders that I use.
I feel this will vary greatly so feel free to adapt the spices to your own preference.
- Sichuan Chilli flakes
- Cinnamon or cassia bark
- Coriander seeds
- Star anise
- Bay leaves
- Salt – but some opt to add in soy sauce
- Flavourless oil – e.g. vegetable, sunflower, peanut, rapeseed
- Sichuan/Szechuan peppercorns
- Black cardamom
- Green cardamom
- Fennel seeds
- White peppercorns
- Toasted sesame oil (to add at the end)
These are the optional spices I’m adding in for this batch.
I love adding garlic, shallots and Szechuan chilli flakes as they really do add a great amount of flavour. The Szechuan peppercorns add depth as well as slightly enhance the heat.
By increasing the amount of peppercorns you can then add a tongue numbing effect to your oil.
Types of chilli flakes
There are plenty of different types of chilli flakes. The most common pantry chilli flake that’s stocked in most households tends to be Italian chilli flakes.
Each different chilli flake will produce a chilli oil with a different colour and flavour. The best one to use in my opinion are Sichuan chilli flakes. These are the ones used in most commercial chilli oils.
They produce a deep red colour whilst also providing heat. Sichuan chilli flakes also tend to have slightly fewer seeds in comparison to the Italian counterpart.
The process by which both chilli flakes are made is also different, and thus leads to their different properties.
Italian chilli flakes are composed of chillies that have been dried and then ground. Whereas Sichuan chilli flakes are fried until crisp and then ground. The frying process alters the colour and flavour.
You’ll notice a substantial difference between chilli oils made with Italian chilli flakes and Sichuan. The deep red colour synonymous with chilli oil is only achievable by using Sichuan chilli flakes.
To achieve this colour with any other chilli flake you need to add in chilli powder.
There’s one more type of chilli flake I want to mention and that’s gochugaru. Gochugaru is available in flake and powdered form and is a Korean red pepper product.
It’s a mild product that provides little heat. Hence although it’s great for producing a deep red colour, it won’t make an oil that packs much punch. If you’d still like to use gochugaru, incorporate it along with Sichuan chilli flakes for best results.
(Italian chilli flakes left and Sichuan chilli flakes right)
How to make Chilli Oil (photos)
1) Place the spices and oil in a saucepan and bring to 1120-115’C/230-239’F or until you gentle but constant bubbling around the spices
2) Allow the oil to infuse at this temperature for 60 minutes. The shallot and garlic will have turned a deep golden brown by this stage
3) At this stage pour the oil through a sieve into a separate saucepan and discard the spices. The garlic and shallot have essentially just been confit hence those are edible if you wish
4) Bring the saucepan of oil up to 170-175’C/338-347’F, but this is hard to assess without a thermometer. In turn you may have to test a small amount of oil on a small amount of chilli flakes to look for sizzling
5) In a heat resistant bowl mix the Sichuan chilli flakes along with the salt
6) Pour the hot oil over the chilli flakes and allow to sizzle and bubble
7) Ensure you select a deep bowl as the oil does bubble up, although it quickly settles
8) Allow the oil to cool to room temperature, then pour into a clean jar and refrigerate
Chilli oil variations
There are plenty of chilli oil variations that you can make. You can really let your creativity and mind wander, as I don’t feel there has to be any set rules.
Take this blogpost as a guide into the way I see chili oil and the way I like to make mine. However, I’ll give you guys a few ideas and suggest a few recommendations:
- Garlic chilli oil – add plenty of garlic as the oil simmers and even more minced garlic with the chilli flakes. This one is one of my favourites
- Sesame chilli oil – add some white and black sesame seeds to the chilli flakes and pour the infused oil over. This will toast the sesame seeds, in turn providing texture and flavour. Once the oil has cooled add a drizzle of toasted sesame oil for even more sesame flavour
- Lemongrass chilli oil – add minced lemongrass to the oil as it infuses. As well as this you can also add some lemongrass paste to the chilli flakes for maximum flavour
- South Indian inspired chilli oil – use mustard oil along with plenty of coriander seeds and black pepper. Add curry leaves, desiccated coconut and some dried split urad (split black gram) to the chilli flakes. Watch it sizzle and the aroma fill your kitchen as the oil pours over those spices. Because we love flavour and fragrance over here
I love trying new combinations as well as hearing about all the wonderful varieties you guys love.
There is a whole world of chilli oil out there. Happy chilli oil making!
Frequently asked questions
What’s the best way to store the chilli oil?
In an air tight or sealed jar in the fridge. Make sure you allow the oil to cool completely before refrigerating.
How long will the chilli oil last?
If kept refrigerated it will last between 6-9 months. To maximise shelf life ensure that only clean spoons are used to handle and serve the chilli oil.
Any contamination in the oil will shorten its shelf life.
What if I really can’t find Sichuan chilli flakes?
If you really can’t find Sichuan chilli flakes, you can try and make your own by grinding down some Sichuan chillies or even some facing heaven chillies (a different type of chilli).
Otherwise use the common Italian roasted chilli flakes, but accept there will be a compromise in flavour, colour, and texture.
If you enjoyed this recipe
Please do let me know! Leave a review and a rating below, I’d love to know how you got on.
Until then, happy cooking!
- 50g Sichuan/Szechuan chilli flakes, or any red chilli flakes
- 350ml neutral oil, e.g. sunflower, vegetable, peanut or rapeseed
- 1tsp salt
- 2 star anise
- 2 large cinnamon sticks
- 2 bay leaves
- 2tsp coriander seeds
- 2tsp Sichuan/Szechuan peppercorns
- 6 cloves
- 1 shallot
- 5 cloves of garlic
- 2 black cardamom
- 2tsp fennel seeds
- Lemongrass stalks
- 2tsp black peppercorns
- 2tsp white peppercorns
- 2" piece of ginger
- Place the oil in a saucepan along with the essential spices and any of the optional spices of your preference
- Place the saucepan on a low heat and bring the oil up to 110-115’C/230-239’F. If you don’t have a cooking thermometer, you’ll know when it’s roughly the right temperature when you see gentle slow bubbling around the spices
- Allow the oil to infuse for 1 hour, keep checking it periodically to ensure the temperature is consistent and the spices are not burning. Burnt spices will create a bitter chilli oil
- Place the chilli flakes and salt in a heat-resistant bowl and give these a good mix
- Once the oil has infused for an hour, strain it into another saucepan through the sieve to remove all the spices
- Now place the saucepan of oil onto a medium high heat and bring to around 170-175’C/338-347’F. This temperature will vary between chilli flakes so test a small amount by pouring half a tsp of hot oil onto a few of the chilli flakes. If it sizzles then you know it’s at the right temperature
- Pour the hot oil over the chilli flakes and gently mix once the sizzling has stopped. Allow to sit and cool to room temperature
- Transfer the cooled oil to a clean jar and keep refrigerated
See the blogpost for more ideas on how to adapt this chilli oil and incorporate different flavours. Not all the optional spices should be used, you can pick and choose and adapt to preference
Nutrition InformationYield 50 Serving Size 1/2 tbsp
Amount Per Serving Calories 78Total Fat 7gSaturated Fat 1gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 6gCholesterol 2mgSodium 93mgCarbohydrates 2gFiber 1gSugar 0gProtein 1g