Chili Oil

published Mar 24, 2022
Chili Oil Recipe

A versitile and delicious condiment of oil steeped in aromatics and infused with dried chiles.

Makes1 1/2 cups

Prep5 minutes to 10 minutes

Cook50 minutes to 1 hour 20 minutes

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Spoon with chili oil over jar
Credit: Amelia Rampe

Chili oil is a condiment used around the world that, at its most basic form, is made from oil infused with chilies. Chili oil has roots in Chinese cooking, but you can find variations of chili oil around the world, using chiles that are native to the region.

What Is Chili Oil Used For?

Chili oil is a humble ingredient that has a big personality. You can add it to most dishes — drizzle it on soups, noodles, and crudo — or use it as a base for sauce. You can even fry food in it (chili oil fried eggs are particularly delicious). I keep chili oil in my house all year round for any time I need an extra layer of flavor and heat.

What Ingredients Do I Need to Make Chili Oil?

Chili oil requires at the very least two ingredients: a neutral-tasting oil with a high smoke point and dried chiles. In my recipe I used guajillo chilies because they have a medium heat and a delicious flavor. I also threw in a few chiles de arbol (a spicier chili) to bring a little bit of heat. 

In this recipe I also include directions on how to steep fresh aromatics and dried spices in the oil. I personally love to add star anise, cloves, and cinnamon sticks to create a Sichuan-inspired chili oil. I also always add sliced shallot and crushed garlic to continue to build layers of flavor. You can use any alliums you prefer. Gently simmer the aromatics before you steep the chilies to extract all that flavor.

Depending on where you are regionally, chili oils will vary. In Sichuan cooking, they use Sichuan peppercorns in chili oil. Sichuan peppercorns have a mouth-numbing effect called mala. If you want to lean toward Sichuan flavors, I highly recommend using Sichuan peppercorns. You can also use any dried chile flake or dried chiles, from red chile flakes to gochugaru to smoked serranos and cascabel. If using whole chiles, roughly chop them, steep them in warmed oil, then finely chop and emulsify in the blender.

If You Make Chili Oil at Home, a Few Tips

  • Gently cook the aromatics. If using aromatic or dried spices, very gently simmer them in the oil before you infuse the chilies. If possible, keep the heat on your oil around 200 to 215°F. This makes sure that any fresh aromatics won’t cook too quickly and will also impart the most flavor. Simmer for a minimum of 30 minutes.
  • Choose your chilies. There are a vast array of dried chilies in the world. If you want to deviate from the recipe, be sure to educate yourself on the chiles you’re using to understand the heat and flavor profile. Some chilies are smoked and will leave a smoky flavor. Some are extremely spicy. Be sure to read the labels in order to achieve the flavor profile you are looking for.

How Do I Store Chili Oil? 

You can store chili oil in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to six months.

Chili Oil Recipe

A versitile and delicious condiment of oil steeped in aromatics and infused with dried chiles.

Prep time 5 minutes to 10 minutes

Cook time 50 minutes to 1 hour 20 minutes

Makes 1 1/2 cups

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

Aromatic and spice options:

  • 1

    small shallot

  • 2

    cloves garlic

  • Handful dried whole spices, such as bay leaves, star anise, cloves, cinnamon, cumin, and coriander

For the chili oil:

  • 1 1/2 cups

    neutral oil, such as grapeseed or canola

  • 6

    large dried guajillo chiles

  • 3

    dried chiles de arbol (or more depending on spice preference)

  • 3/4 teaspoon

    kosher salt

Instructions

  1. If using aromatics, thinly slice 1 small shallot and crush 2 peeled garlic cloves.

  2. If using dried spices, place in a small saucepan (with the exception of bay leaves - do not toast). Toast over medium heat, swirling the pan occasionally, until very fragrant, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes.

  3. Add the shallots, garlic, bay leaves, and 1 1/2 cups neutral oil. Bring to a bare simmer over medium heat (about 200ºF). Reduce the heat to low and cook at a bare simmer (200 to 215ºF) until the flavors infuse, 30 minutes to 1 hour. (Go up to 1 hour for a more deeply infused flavor. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting as needed to keep the aromatics from browning, but the smallest bits may turn golden at 30 minutes.)

  4. Meanwhile, trim the stems from 6 dried guajillo chilies and 3 dried chiles de arbol. Coarsely chop the chiles, keeping the seeds to retain some heat or discarding for less heat before chopping. Place the chiles and 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt in a medium heatproof bowl. Fit a fine-mesh strainer onto the bowl.

  5. When the oil mixture is ready, gently pour through the strainer over the chiles and discard the contents of the strainer. Let the mixture cool for 15 minutes. Carefully transfer the mixture to a blender and blend on high speed until the chiles are very finely minced, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Transfer the oil and sediment to an airtight container or mason jar and refrigerate for up to 6 months.