There’s really no end to what you can use this versatile yet nuanced condiment with. On fried eggs. In soup. In dressing. Tossed with veggies like cucumbers or slaw. With bacon. On burgers and sandwiches. With noodles. As a meat or seafood dip (in place of butter). You get the idea.
It’s easy to make a simple version but you can play with the flavor by adding things to the recipe, such as garlic, ginger, cumin seeds, etc. Several options are included below but otherwise the recipe is simple and straightforward.
So let’s do this!
This recipe makes about one cup of chili oil. If doubling the recipe, increase oil’s cook time with the aromatics from 15-20 minutes to about 30.
You will need:
- Small saucepan & wooden spoon
- Measuring cups & spoons
- 2 porcelain or glass bowls or other receptacles that withstand boiling oil (stainless steel is fine but will maintain heat for a long time, which delays the process)
- Metal spoon
- Stainless steel mesh strainer
- Storage container or pint jar
- Optional: candy thermometer
- 1 cup vegetable oil (choose one with a high smoke point, like peanut, corn, grapeseed, canola, or corn)
- 1 TBSP sesame oil
- 1/3 cup Chinese crushed chili flakes (+1-2 TBSP crushed chili flakes for a hotter oil)
- 1 tsp salt (as desired)
- Optional: 1 TBSP toasted sesame seeds
For the aromatics:
- 3-4 star anise
- 1 cinnamon stick (Chinese cinnamon bark even better)
- 1 bay leaf (large Asian variety even better)
- 2 TBSP Szechuan peppercorns
- Optional: 1/4 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
- Optional: 1/8 teaspoon fennel seeds
1.) Place half the crushed chili flakes, salt, and optional sesame seeds in one of the bowls (or pint jar). Reserve the other half of the chili flakes mix for later. There should be one other bowl which is empty. Keep the fine mesh strainer with that bowl.
2.) Combine the vegetable oil and sesame oil in saucepan and turn heat to high. Add the aromatics and allow the oil to heat until moderate bubbling. Reduce (and bring back up) the heat as needed to maintain a slow but visible bubbling, in order to avoid burning the aromatics. (If using a candy thermometer, keep between 225-250F.) Once bubbling, cook for 15-20 minutes or less, until the aromatics are browned but not burnt. Remove from heat.
3.) Because the aromatics will continue to cook in the oil, the oil should be promptly strained out into the empty bowl. (Use caution as the oil will be burning hot and will actively bubble in the new receptacle.) By avoiding pouring the oil directly over the flakes, the oil cools some and doesn’t burn the chili flakes.
4.) As soon as the oil has been fully strained from the aromatics into the empty bowl, then transfer it to the bowl with the chili flakes. Give it several good stirs with the metal spoon. This step adds the spicy heat to the oil but not the desired red color. The red color is better attained from flakes exposed to a cooler temp oil.
5.) Wait a few more minutes and then add the remaining half of the chili flake mixture into the bowl. The cooler temperature will release more of the deep red flavor from the chili flakes just added. Allow to stand for several minutes.
6.) Stir and transfer to the final storage container or jar. Allow to cool uncovered and then seal when ready. It will keep in the fridge for around six months (or potentially much longer).
If you would like pure chili oil, then once refrigerated overnight, again use the sieve or strainer to separate the oil from the flakes.
If you make your own spin on this, please share on the Insane in the Brine Facebook Group!
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