Sichuan Red Chili Oil (四川辣油/红油)

Store-bought chili oil (layou) is often disappointing, and offers no real heat or flavor. Why settle for lackluster oil that’s been dyed an unnatural shade of red when you can make something much better yourself at home? Sichuan red chili oil (四川辣油 or 红油) is the layou you’ve been looking for- a brilliant carnelian-red oil infused with a complex blend of Sichuan spices and peppers, rounded out with notes of garlic, ginger, and soy, that will bring both searing heat and robust flavor to any dish.

You can find most of the ingredients for this recipe in a well-stocked Asian grocery store or online. If you can’t find cao guo pods, you can use smaller black cardamom pods, which are usually easier to find. What’s the difference? Cao guo pods come from the Chinese cardamom plant (amomumcostatum), while black cardamom pods come from the closely related Nepali cardamom plant, (amomum subulatum). Basically, they’re botanical cousins, so they’re similar flavor-wise, but cao guo pods are larger than black cardamom pods and slightly less smoky tasting. I also like to mix in some facing heaven chilies (look for packages marked “朝天椒” or “指天椒”) if I can find them- they add a nice note of flavor and heat.


  • 2 cups canola oil
  • 4 star anise
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 3 cao guo  (草果)
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 stick cinnamon, broken in half
  • One 3″ piece ginger, smashed
  • 1 cup (about 32) Tien Tsin peppers (天津椒) or chiles de árbol, stemmed and chopped
  • 3 tablespoons Sichuan peppercorns (花椒)
  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt


Heat oil, star anise, garlic, cardamom, cloves, bay, cinnamon, and ginger in a 2-qt. saucepan over medium heat; cook, stirring occasionally, until garlic is golden, 15–20 minutes. Transfer to a 1-qt. glass jar with chiles, peppercorns, soy, and salt; let cool to room temperature. Using a slotted spoon, remove and discard garlic and ginger; seal jar and let sit at least 24 hours. To use, strain oil, discarding solids. Store refrigerated up to 3 months.

Makes about 2 cups.