Try this Szechuan sauce recipe for a spicy and fiery sauce that’s full of flavour and depth. It’s perfect for noodles, rice and stir fries.
This is one fiery and spicy sauce, but it’s so, so good.
Szechuan/Sichuan dishes are some of my favourite dishes. The spice combinations and the flavour profile are delicious. I’m personally quite a big fan of spicy food, and this sauce hits the spot perfectly.
This is one sauce that’s definitely worth making and keeping on hand. Throw a little bit of it into your food for game changing flavour.
Szechuan sauce in itself is quite a simple sauce, with only a handful of ingredients involved in making it. It’s most definitely a spicy, punchy sauce and not for the faint hearted.
Szechuan flavours and its influence have made their way into Indo-Chinese cuisine, with Szechuan dishes now being available in many Indian restaurants. However from personal experience, the Szechuan dishes in the Indian restaurants I’ve been to have been fairy different from the Szechuan dishes in Chinese restaurants.
I guess that’s the fusion of Indo-Chinese coming through there.
These days even bottled Szechuan sauces are readily available in supermarkets. However I’m yet to find one I’m convinced by.
Bottles filled with preservatives and an abundance of sugar seem unnecessary when it’s a simple sauce that can be made at home. The flavour of this sauce is also entirely different from the bottled ones.
The Szechuan peppercorns are key here. I’ve tested this Szechuan sauce with white peppercorns, black peppercorns and Szechuan peppercorns.
The aroma, flavour and sensation of the sauce made with Szechuan peppercorns is most definitely in first place. In fact, I’d go as far as to say it’s unrivalled and I strongly recommend using these for best results. You’ll be able to find Szechuan peppercorns in your local East Asian supermarket.
This will be explained in more detail further on in the blogpost.
So how did this sauce come about? Well it’s based on the traditional flavours of the Szechuan cuisine. This cuisine originates form the Sichuan province in China.
One of the native shrubs of this region is the Chinese prickly ash. Hence, it’s this bush from which the Szechuan peppercorns originate. Szechuan cuisine is full of bold flavours, spice, pickling and so much more.
It’s a beautiful cuisine, and so much so that it’s completely influenced the Indo-Chinese cuisine.
The Indo-Chinese cuisine came about during the 1700s in Kolkata as the Hakka Chinese community began to migrate to this region of India. As they introduced their authentic flavours and dishes, they learnt to adapt or the Indian palate.
This process of fusing elements of both cuisines led to the creation of the Indo-Chinese cuisine. This spicy sauce grew in popularity on an exponential level and Szechuan dishes solidified their place on the menus of many Indian restaurants. And rightly so.
In parts of India and especially within the street food scene, Szechuan sauce has been riffed into a Szechuan chutney. In turn making it the perfect condiment to go with anything.
The chutney is creamy, spicy, smooth and vibrant. In fact the sauce was even once featured on the McDonald’s menu as a limited edition sauce. Which led to total uproar as there was not enough sauce to meet the demand.
But we shall worry not, at least there’s an amazing Szechuan sauce recipe right here.
Szechuan sauce uses
This is one incredibly versatile sauce, you can use it for:
- Fried rice
What you’ll need
The full recipe can be found at the end of the blogpost
For this Szechuan sauce, you’ll need:
- Dried chillies – the type of chillies you use will dictate the heat. For example, facing heaven chillies are mild, so using those will create a milder sauce. You can also de-seed the chillies to help reduce the heat as this is where the main spicy chemical is found
- Shallots – these are more mild than onions and will add a subtle sweetness and allium flavour
- Szechuan peppercorns – please try and find these. They’ll either be sold at your local East Asian supermarket or will be available online
- Neutral flavoured oil – e.g. sunflower, vegetable or rapeseed
- Light soy sauce
- Rice vinegar
- Syrup of choice – maple, agave or honey all work well. Alternatively sugar will also work
- Corn flour
Szechuan peppercorns originate from China, more specifically the Szechuan province in the southwest China (also spelt as Sichuan). The spice itself comes from the Szechuan pepper, also known as Chinese prickly ash and is well known for it’s numbing sensation.
These peppercorns can be found in your local East Asian supermarket or purchased online. They are a red/brown colour and often sold as whole peppercorns.
A green variety also exist which are harvested from a different variety of the prickly ash tree, they’re much stronger in flavour. I personally use the red variety as the green can be over-powering.
My advice would be to purchase the peppercorns whole, this is what I do and I grind half the batch into a fine powder for seasoning. I keep the other half as whole peppercorns which are great for seasoning oils or chilli oil.
The Szechuan peppercorns are essential for Szechuan paneer as they provide the flavour and slight numbing effect. Hence it can’t be substituted for regular black pepper or white pepper. It just won’t provide the same flavour or effect.
There are a few steps to prepare the peppercorns properly so I’ll run through that next.
How to make this Szechuan sauce
1+2) Soak the dried chillies in boiling water for at least 30 minutes to soften and rehydrate
3) Drain the water. At this stage you can remove the seeds if you wish in order to tone down the heat. Make sure you wear gloves if you plan to de-seed!
4) Blitz the chillies in a food processor or blender
5) Toast the Szechuan peppercorns until fragrant. Only the husks are edible and so if your peppercorns still contain the black seed inside, this would be a good time to discard those. I purchase my peppercorns as just the husk with the seeds already separated
6) Grind in a pestle and mortar or spice blender
7+8) I recommend sieving the ground peppercorns in order to remove any gritty pieces
9) Blitz the shallots and garlic in a food processor
10) Sauté the shallot and onion mix in oil, stirring continuously
11) After several minutes the mixture will dry out and turn slightly darker in colour
12) Add the blitzed chillies and continue to mix for several more minutes
13) Add the ground peppercorns
14) Mix together the soy sauce, rice vinegar, ketchup and syrup
15) Add the sauce mixture and continue to cook for another minute
16) Add the cornflour slurry (cornflour and water mixed together) and mix on a high heat until the sauce thickens slightly
17) The sauce is now ready to be used
Is this sauce vegan?
Yes it’s totally vegan!
What’s the best way to use the Szechuan sauce?
Add a spoonful or two into your marinades or stir fries for an amazing punch of flavour.
How can this be stored?
Keep refrigerated for up to 5 days. The sauce can also be frozen. Place in ice cube trays and transfer the frozen cubes to an air tight container or freezer safe bag once completely frozen.
This will last up to 6 months.
- Food processor or blender
- 30 dried chillies I use a mixture of facing heaven chillies and Kashmiri chillies
- 8 cloves garlic
- 4 shallots
- 1 tbsp Szechuan peppercorns just the husks, discard the inner seeds
- 2 tbsp light soy sauce
- 2 tbsp rice vinegar
- 2 tbsp syrup of choice agave, maple or honey all work well
- 2 tbsp ketchup
- 2 tsp cornflour
- 4 tbsp water
- 3 tbsp neutral oil sunflower, vegetable or rapeseed
- Start by soaking the dried chillies in boiling water for at least 30 minutes to soften and rehydrate
- Drain the water and blitz the chillies in a food processor or blender into a paste. At this stage you can also remove the seeds with gloved hands to reduce the heat if desired
- Toast the Szechuan peppercorn husks on low heat until fragrant – around 2 minutes. Then grind in a pestle and mortar or spice blender into a powder
- I recommend sieving this powder to ensure no gritty pieces remain
- Blitz the shallots and garlic in a food processor into a chunky paste
- Sauté the shallot and onion mixture in oil over medium heat stirring continuously. After several minutes the mixture will dry out and turn 2 or 3 shades darker
- Add the chilli paste and continue to cook for a further 3-4 minutes
- Next add the ground peppercorn powder as well as the soy sauce, rice vinegar, ketchup and syrup and cook for a further minute
- Mix together the water and cornflour until completely dissolved. Add to the pan and place on high heat. Stir continuously until the sauce begins to thicken slightly
- Sauce is now ready to be used however desired