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Chinese chili oil

Published on 60 min side


  • 2 cups of neutral oil
  • 1 cup or less of chili flakes
  • 5 star anisesoptional
  • 1 cinnamon stickoptional
  • 3 tbsp Sichuan peppercornsoptional


  1. Place oil and selected aromatics into a pot with at least 4 cm of clearance between the oil and the rim of the pot.
  2. Set it over medium heat to start, then progressively lower it to medium low or low heat as the oil comes to temperature. The oil should be at about 110–120 °C and causing small bubbles to slowly rise from the aromatics. If you notice the spices sizzling more vigorously than that or turning dark too quickly, reduce the heat to cool it down. If you are not achieving small bubbles, slowly increase the heat.
  3. Infuse the aromatics this way for a minimum of 30 minutes, or up to 1 hour for best results. If using garlic or shallot: when they get brown all over, remove them from the oil so they don't burn. But don't let them go to waste. They are delicious on toast, as my dad was quick to take advantage of!
  4. While the oil is infusing, prepare your chili flakes by placing them in a heatproof bowl or jar.
  5. Test the oil readiness by adding a few chili flakes to the pot. If they burn or brown too fast, the oil is probably still too hot.
  6. When your oil is at the correct temperature, pour it through a fine meshed strainer over the chili flakes bowl / jar. Stir the chili flakes and oil together to distribute the heat of the oil evenly.

Tip 1: If just using hard spices, the bubbling of the oil should be very tiny but constant. They will cling to the spices and rise up. The oil should not be hot enough to show any additional visible movement. If you are using garlic and shallots, the oil will bubble slightly more vigorously due to the water content of the fresh ingredients. This is normal, but you should still ensure that the garlic and shallot are still browning very slowly.

Tip 2: You'll know you've gotten it right when you smell a "popcorn" kind of smell — it should not smell burnt at all.

Tip 3: For more flavors, it is also possible to add 2 black cardamom pods, 2 tsp cloves, 3 crushed garlic cloves and 1-2 shallots (halved). 1–2 tsp salt (to taste) to the ready chili oil.

Adapted from this original recipe