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How to make Chinese Chili Oil

Chili oil, also known as ‘hot chili oil’ or ‘pepper oil’, is a type of oil made with hot chili peppers that is popular in many Chinese dishes, especially those of Szechuan origin. It is used not only as an ingredient in certain dishes, but also as a popular dipping sauce for wontons, dim sum and noodles.

To make the perfect chili oil, you must have the proper technique of heating the oil to the optimum temperature; if it is too cold it won’t be able to soak up the flavors, and if it is too hot you will find the chili flakes burnt up. The perfect temperature at which to cook chili oil is around 225 – 240 degrees Fahrenheit, or 107 – 122.5 degrees Celsius. The types of oil which work best are canola oil or peanut oil; if you prefer a healthier option, olive oil will do – however, ensure that it is not the extra virgin variation.

Some people prefer to spice up their chili oil even further by adding more chilis than the basic recipe calls for. Also, once they have acquired their own technique, they add various seasonings such as sugar, garlic or ginger, to give their chili oil a more unique taste. Below is a basic guideline to making chili oil; try it out, and then experiment with your own!

Chili Oil Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoon of chili flakes made from 10-12 chopped up dried chilies (each being about 1 – 2 inches long)
  • ½ cup of canola, peanut or olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of sesame oil – this is optional, to suit your own taste

How to cook the Chili Oil

  1. Once you have removed the stems and seed of the dried chilies, either chop them by hand or choose the easier option of using a blender – place them in the blender for around 20 seconds. *Note: Because the chilies are very hot to the touch and their oil can pose threats to your eyes and skin, be precautious when handing – the use of gloves are recommended. Also, be sure to wash your hands after handling the chilies.
  2. Seal the ready chili flakes in a tightly-enclosed heat-resistant jar.
  3. In a thick, heavy skillet, heat the oil at a medium to high temperature until smoke arises. After you see smoke, let it stay on high heat for another 30 seconds.
  4. Take the skillet off the fire and let the oil cool to around 225 – 240 degrees Fahrenheit – this should take around 3 minutes.
  5. Pour the oil into the heat-resistant jar where you have kept your chili flakes. If you have opted to use sesame oil, add it into the mixture now.
  6. After letting sit for a bit, strain the oil – you can save the chili flakes as they make very good ingredients for other recipes.
  7. Before using the chili oil, let it sit for around 1 hour – during this time, it will have a chance to absorb the flavors of the chili.

To store your chili oil, simply place it in a tightly sealed jar. When in the refrigerator, it will stay useable for about a month.

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Last Modified: 11/28/11.