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Chinese Chili oil sauce recipe

Chinese chili oil | Omnivore's CookbookHomemade chili oil is a very basic and common ingredient in the Chinese kitchen. Although you can always get it from the supermarket, freshly made chili oil always tastes better and is much healthier. The bottled chili oil often contains MSG to make it tastier and contains food additives to prolong shelf life. On the other hand, the homemade version uses natural spices, delicious sesame seeds, and high quality oil to create a unique fragrance and superior quality. Homemade chili oil won’t last as long as bottled, but once you get the key points, you’ll find it so easy to prepare and will be able to finish cooking it within 5 minutes.

Chinese chili oil has a pungent spiciness and nuttiness, with a warm and savory flavor, such that a small spoonful goes a long way. With this chili oil on hand, you can easily make the classic Dan Dan noodles. You can also use it in a quick and easy salad, such as the Chicken noodle salad or green beans with peanut sauce. Next time you’re eating dumplings, you could try adding some chili oil to the dipping sauce to spice it up. The dish will be transformed into an exciting and appetizing one!

Chinese chili oil | Omnivore's CookbookA few more words about how to use chili oil. After the oil is cooked, the chili flakes will sink to the bottom and the sesame seeds float on top. Different from the bottled chili oil, the homemade version does not require filtration of the oil. Since it is more practical to make on a weekday, it is much faster and less messy. The two ways to use homemade chili oil are as follows:

(1) Use the clear oil with sesame seeds on top. This is mostly used for making a dumpling dipping sauce, or when you want a dish to be have low or moderate spiciness. In this way, the oil adds a smoky and nutty flavor to the dish without turning it too hot.

(2) Scoop some chili flakes from the bottom, to use with oil and sesame seeds. The chili flakes will add spiciness and give the dish a peppery taste. Because the chili pepper has been cooked by the hot oil, it won’t have the raw flavor and will be easier to blend into the dish. I personally prefer to use chili oil this way.

You might find that the methods to cook Chinese chili oil in my previous recipes are slightly different from each other. The truth is, each family has its own version, and sometimes I use fewer spices to simplify the recipe.

Chinese chili oil | Omnivore's CookbookDo you make basic condiments or blends at home? Comment below to share your favorite ones! 🙂

How to Make Fresh Chinese Chili Oil

The key to making delicious chili oil is to heat the oil hot enough without overheating it. The hot oil will cook the spices thoroughly and will be infused with various flavors. However, if the oil is too hot, it will burn the pepper flakes and sesame seeds, and the resulting chili oil will have a bitter taste.

Author: Maggie Zhu

Recipe type: condiment

Cuisine: Chinese

Serves: 12


To cook a small portion

  • 1 tablespoon chili flakes (or 1/2 tablespoon chili flakes + 1/2 tablespoon chili powder)
  • 2 teaspoons sesame seed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 - 6 tablespoons peanut oil (or vegetable oil)
  • (option) 1 thin slice ginger

To cook 1 cup chili oil

  • 4 tablespoons chili flakes (or 2 tablespoons chili flakes + 2 tablespoons chili powder) (*see footnote 2)
  • 3 tablespoons sesame seed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup peanut oil (or vegetable oil)


  1. Add Sichuan peppercorn powder, chili flakes, five spice powder, sesame seeds, star anise and bay leaf into a small bowl. Place the bowl on a heat resistant mat.
  2. Heat oil in a wok (or a skillet) on medium-high heat. Add ginger into oil, so you can test the temperature of the oil without a thermometer. When the ginger start to wither and turns golden brown, in about 2 minutes, turn off the heat immediately (It might take longer if you’re using an electric stove). If you don’t have ginger on hand, you can heat the oil until you see a very thin and light smoke appear on the surface of the oil.Chinese Chili Oil nutrition facts | Omnivore's Cookbook If you see the oil start to smoke intensely, turn off the heat immediately. Wait a minute or two, until the smoke dies down a bit before using.
  3. Carefully use a ladle to transfer oil to the bowl of mixed spices. The oil will bubble for a few seconds and cook the spices. While the the oil is bubbling, carefully use a metal spoon to stir gently, to mix everything well.
  4. When the oil cools down a bit, scoop out and discard the star anise and bay leaf. Those two spices are very strong and their flavor will be overwhelmed if you keep them in the oil.
  5. You can use the chili oil warm or at room temperature.
  6. The oil can be stored at room temperature with cover for two weeks, or up to a month in the fridge in an airtight container. To use refrigerated chili oil, place the oil at room temperature until it turns to liquid.


(1) It is possible to use whole Sichuan peppercorns in this recipe (I do that when I’m too lazy to grate them). The good way to use them is, to add them into the oil during the heating process. When the oil is hot enough, use a ladle to scoop them out and discard them.
The ultimate lazy way is to add the whole peppercorn into the bowl and cook it with the other spices. However, when you serve the oil, be careful that not to bite into a peppercorn. A single bite will numb your tongue and you won’t able to taste any other flavor for a few minutes.
(2) When you want to create a red and thicker oil, you could blend in chili powder. This is often used when creating noodle sauce (e.g. Dan Dan noodles).
Lanzhou Beef Noodles | Bang Bang Chicken | Omnivore's Cookbook

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