Red Chili Oil

四川紅油 Red Chili Oil

Here comes the soul of many Sichuan cuisine–red chili oil. Just like spices to Indian food, there are also numerous spice combinations used in the cooking of this single province of China that is bigger than Germany. Different regions in Sichuan have their own recipes of making the best chili oil. May it be selection of different varieties of chili peppers, the combination of different oil types, variety of spices or different portions of spices applied. Although a bit complicated, local gourmands can always tell the slight variation of flavors among regional seasoning methods.  But no panic, among the big family of red chili oil, I am showing you here the classic type that can be used as a base or major seasoning for many Sichuan dishes, and an upgraded version that provides deeper flavors.

Ingredients for red chili oil can go from just chili peppers to more than a dozens of various spices. The idea of your spice selection depends on if you want to create a light chili oil with pure chili fragrance, or something of deeper aroma with stronger notes of different spices. I usually make small portion per time because the red chili oil is best to be consumed within 10 days and to be sealed and stored in refrigerator. Once you made the red chili oil, you can use it to season many Sichuan dishes. I will also show you more recipes of making easy and delicious Sichuan cuisine based on red chili oil like the Dan Dan noodles I just made few days ago.  


Classic Red Chili Oil

  • 250 g of *rapeseed oil (or substitutes with olive oil)
  • 50 g of *chili powder or crushed chili flakes
  • 25 g of fresh ginger
  • 2 tablespoon of white sesame
  • 1 Star anise

*Rapeseed oil is widely used in Sichuan to making red chili oil or other seasoning oil such as fried scallion oil. If you can’t find any, I find extra virgin olive a good substitute, or any vegetable oil without strong aroma and higher smoke point.

*The finer chili powder is, the spicier and deeper color the oil will become. Fine chili powder gets overdone and burnt easily when fried in high heat. If you prefer less spicy of chili oil, substitute with chili flakes. It’s quite easy to make chili flakes from dried chili peppers with food processor or just your own hands (make sure to wear gloves!)

*A thermometer helps you to be more precisely controlling the temperature of oil during heating process.

Deep Aroma Red Chili Oil

  • 250 g of rapeseed oil (or olive oil)
  • 50 g of dried chili peppers
  • 2 tablespoon of white sesame
  • 1 star anise
  • 5 bay leaves
  • 1 amomum tsaoko
  • 1 tablespoon of sichuan peppercorn
  • 10 g of fresh ginger
  • 1 scallion stem (the white section)

The Making:

Classic Red Chili Oil

  1. Put star anise, 1/3 of chili powder and white sesame in a heat-proof container. Crushed ginger and wipe away excessive water, put in oil then bring oil to high temperature. This is why it’s better to have a thermometer because you don’t want to overheat the oil. When Sichuan locals are making red chili oil, the rapeseed oil is usually heated to 180°C or sometimes even higher. For health reasons I prefer not to heat over smoke point (aka smoking point. It is when a cooking fat or oil begins to break down in certain temperature and the oil smokes or burns). The reason I find extra olive oil a good substitute is because quality extra virgin olive oil is very stable fat that stands well under high frying temperature (the smoke point is 180°C to 210°C) hence I usually heat oil up to just 160°C. When the temperature reached around 160°C, turn off heat, leave the ginger frying in pan for several minutes.
  2. When temperature cooled down to around 130°C, remove ginger, pour oil in the heat-proof container in step 1. Let chili powder, white sesame being fried evenly in container by careful stirring.
  3. Add another 1/3 of chili powder and white sesame in container when oil temperature lowered further to 110°C, stir evenly.
  4. Put in the rest of chili powder, white sesame when the oil reached to 90°C, stir until well.
  5. Keep chili powder and star anise soaked in oil over night or longer to achieve the best flavor. The color also deepens the longer the chili powder soaked in. You can either drain the aromatics to discard or keep them soaked in for the fullest savory as I usually did.

Note-The process of frying chili powder in 3 different temperatures is to maximize the layers of aroma released in different temperature. If you don’t have enough time, frying all at once at 120°C to 130°C is also fine.

Deep Aroma Red Chili Oil

  1. Heat up a skillet, stir fry dried chili pepper with drizzle of oil in low temperature for a few minutes until aromatic and crispy. Remove chili peppers, crush into flakes after chili peppers cooled down.
  2. In another pan, bring oil to 160°C. Turn off heat, add in ginger and scallion stem, fry until the color turned dark brown then remove and discard.
  3. When oil temperature lowered to 130°C, add in all spices, half of the chili flakes and white sesame, stir evenly. Remove the spices and discard them.
  4. Add the rest of chili flakes and white sesame in pan when oil temperature dropped to 110°C, continue blending the content to fry evenly.
  5. Leave the red chili oil over night then store in a jar.





Traveling around the world, I’ve seen how those Chinese take out mislead people’s perception about Chinese food. Wok fried, heavy seasoned with soy sauce and MSG, cornstarch thickened at all time is not authentic Chinese cooking. Real Chinese cuisine is mastering selections of fresh ingredients, seasonings, various cooking methods to deliver genuine taste of food that wow your taste buds. I’m no Michelin chef but someone who knows how authentic Chinese cuisine should taste like. Welcome to my dinning table and enjoy the real Chinese food. Bon appétit!