Chili Oil (辣椒油)

This chili oil (jiāo yóu, 辣椒油) makes the perfect accompaniment to Chinese dumplings, but it’s great on so many other dishes too. Use this oil to add some spicy deliciousness to anything you like, but remember, a little of this goes a long way.

The secret is to making this fiery oil without burning the chilies is infuse the oil with aromatics first, then pour it over the crushed chili flakes. You will want to use Asian chili flakes for this recipe- they’re a brighter red and have fewer seeds than your run-of-the-mill Italian crushed red pepper flakes, which tend to be roasted longer and darker (pouring hot oil over them results in a burnt, dull-flavored chili oil, and no one wants that). I recommend using peanut oil for this recipe, as it has a neutral flavor profile and a high smoke point, but grape seed or vegetable oil also work well. You could also use a light olive oil, but be aware that olive oil has a lower smoke point than other oils, and has a tendency to set in the fridge.

This recipe makes about 2¼ cups of chili oil.


  • 1½ cups neutral-flavored oil (peanut, grape seed oil, or vegetable oil work best)
  • 5 star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick, preferably cassia cinnamon
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 tablespoons Sichuan peppercorns
  • ¾ cup Asian crushed red pepper flakes (Sichuan chili flakes are the best, but Korean chili flakes work well too)
  • 1 – 1½ teaspoons salt (to taste)


Heat the oil, star anise, cinnamon stick, bay leaves, and Sichuan peppercorns in a small saucepan over medium high heat. When the oil starts to bubble slightly, turn the heat down to medium.

Let the oil cook for 30 minutes like this. If you start to see that slight bubbling die down, periodically turn the heat back up to medium-high, then back down to medium if it gets too hot.

When the oil is done cooking, the seeds and pods should be darker in color, but not blackened (that means they burned, which results in sub-par chili oil). Let the oil cool for 5 minutes. In a separate heat-proof bowl, measure out the crushed red pepper flakes and salt.

Remove the aromatics from the oil. Slowly pour the oil over the chili flakes, and stir well. When completely cooled, transfer to a jar, and store in the refrigerator. The oil will keep for up to 6 months when stored this way (always remember to use a clean spoon to dip into the jar!)