Make your own Chinese chilli oil (油泼辣子)

Effortless and effective recipe for homemade Chinese chilli oil, an essential condiment for Chinese cuisine. Great company for noodles, dumplings and salad.

Having many great recipes to share with you, it took me quite a long time to choose which one to be the first for my new-born blog. When Chinese chilli oil came to mind, I knew straightaway that this was the one.

Even though the love of Chinese cuisine is in my blood, I‘m not a typical Chinese who has to consume Chinese food on a regular basis. Having been living outside China for years, I have faced many moments when Chinese ingredients were not easily accessible. But I always made sure to have two condiments in my kitchen cupboard. Guess what? Soy sauce is not on the list! For me my most important allies in the kitchen are Chinese black rice vinegar and homemade chilli oil. Like my dear mum, my taste buds favour hot and sour flavours.

My love of spicy food started when I first tasted street snacks back in China. Those wonderful down-to-earth delicacies from the North-west region of China have trained my palate to enjoy very spicy food from an early age.This opened the door to a more extensive gastronomic world. Perhaps you now understand why I include the word SPICE in the title of my blog.

As a huge fan of spicy food, I always encourage those who say “no-spicy-food-please” to train their palate. Once at a dinner party my Swiss friend Ricardo said he was very sensitive to spicy food. He complained that “it just burns your mouth. That’s all!” I didn’t argue, but still served him homemade dumplings with a small saucer of my favoured black rice vinegar and chilli oil. “Just try a little. You have nothing to lose,” I suggested. Luckily, he did try. Not just a little. He asked for a top-up and later I gave him a jar of homemade chilli oil to take home.

My homemade Chinese chilli oil is more sophisticated than simply being hot. It impresses your palate across several dimensions. When slowly heated in oil, the spices ( Sichuan peppercorn, fennel seeds, star anise, bay leaf, cassia cinnamon, Tsao-ko, etc.) release a variety of aromas. Among them, Sichuan peppercorn is perhaps the most interesting and appealing. Not only has it a rather unique fragrance, but it also gives your mouth a numbing sensation. Then when the chilli mixtures meet the infused hot oil, its powerful scent will envelop the air and linger in your kitchen for quite a while. Being immersed in this appetizing smell while taking photographs, I couldn’t help thinking, “What shall I cook next to eat with this chilli oil?”

There are many dishes which deserve the company of Chinese chilli oil: all types of noodles, savoury rice, meat or vegetable cold dishes, tofu, dumplings, pot stickers, steamed buns, scallion pancakes, etc. My childhood favourite was spreading chilli oil onto hot Mantou (馒头, plain steamed bun without filling), just like one’s love for butter on toast I suppose.

Chinese chilli oil is available in shops. They come in different flavours and textures. Some are not too bad, but nothing can replace homemade one for its unique flavour, freshness and healthiness (no colouring, additives or preservatives). What’s more,  it is super simple to make. Once you’ve done the shopping, you just need 10 minutes to assemble everything and to cook it.

The only tricky thing is that the oil needs to be at the right temperature to bring out the best fragrance from the spices. It will be less flavoursome if the oil is not hot enough. Yet overheated oil will burn the chilli, leaving an unpleasant taste. I have my own way to control the temperature. Instead of directly pouring hot oil onto the chilli flakes, I transfer the very hot oil into an empty bowl, which reduces the oil’s temperature immediately. Then I add half of the chilli flakes. I put in the other half when the temperature drops a little further. This is to achieve a redder colour for the finished look.

Wait for at least 12 hours before using the chilli oil to allow all the flavours to combine. Chilli flakes and sesame seeds tend to stay at the bottom of the container after a while. Use a clean spoon to stir before serving. If your dish (eg. Mouth-watering Chicken) requires pure chilli oil, use a sieve to filter out the chilli flakes and sesame seeds. Here are a list of recipes that call for Chinese chilli oil:

Mouth-watering chicken (Kou Shui Ji, 口水鸡)

Hot and sour glass noodle soup (酸辣粉)

Dan Dan Noodles(担担面)

Beef dumplings in hot & sour soup (酸汤水饺)

Lanzhou beef noodle soup (兰州牛肉面)

Another piece of advice: take your time to choose the right type of chilli flakes. Check the heat (hotness) level. Start from medium if you like. Mild ones are pointless in my opinion. Chilli from Sichuan province in China is generally great. I also use chilli flakes from Thai or Italian shops.


Make your own Chinese chilli oil (油泼辣子)
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24 ratings

Prep Time: 2 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 12 minutes

Yield: Make about 1.5 cup of chilli oil

Make your own Chinese chilli oil (油泼辣子)

Effortless and effective recipe for homemade Chinese chilli oil, an essential condiment for Chinese cuisine. Great company for noodles, dumplings, cold appetizer, etc.


    Group 1: for the chilli
  • 1/4 cup chilli flakes
  • 1 tablespoon chilli powder
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    Group 2: for the oil
  • 1 cup cooking oil
  • 1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorn
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 small piece Chinese cinnamon (cassia cinnamon)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsao-ko
  • 3 slices ginger
  • 1 stalk spring onion


  1. In a bowl, mix all the ingredients in Group 1. Have another empty bowl ready. It has to be deep, heat proof and completely dry (see note 1). Place a sieve over it.
  2. Pour the oil into a cold wok / pot, add all the other ingredients in Group 2. Cook over a low heat. Watch attentively. Turn off the heat when the spring onion becomes brown (You should see smoke at that moment as well).
  3. Pour the hot oil into the empty bowl through the sieve. Discard spices.
  4. Add half of the chilli mixture into the oil. You should see it bubbling intensively. Add the remaining when bubbling calms down. Stir well with a clean spoon.
  5. Leave it cool uncovered. Wait for at least 12 hours before using to allow all the flavours to combine. Transfer to a container of your choice (see note 2 & 3).


1. Glass or porcelain bowls are good choices since they can cool down the oil more efficiently than metal ones.

2. Most of the cooked chilli flakes and sesame seeds tend to stay at the bottom of the container after a while. Use a clean spoon to stir it well before serving. You may use a sieve to filter the chilli flakes and sesame seeds if pure chilli oil is called for in certain recipes.

3. In an air-tight container, the lifespan of chilli oil is about 1 month in the kitchen cupboard and up to 6 months in the fridge.

4. I have a SIMPLE VERSION too. You may reduce the ingredient list to 4 essentials: chilli flakes, sesame seeds, ginger and oil. Try the complete version whenever you have a chance. It is truly worth the effort.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read my post and witnessing the birth of my blog. I will continue sharing more scrumptious, interesting and inspiring recipes for you to explore.

Have a yummy day!

An enthusiastic cook with a Chinese palate and a global mindset.

N.B. This post has been updated on the 6th Jan 2019.

Effortless and effective recipe for homemade Chinese chilli oil, an essential condiment for Chinese cuisine. Great company for noodles, dumplings and salad.Effortless and effective recipe for homemade Chinese chilli oil, an essential condiment for Chinese cuisine. Great company for noodles, dumplings and salad.
















26 thoughts

  1. I LOVE YOUR NEW BLOG! Beautiful photos, excellent writing and good-looking food. So excited to follow your cooking adventures. Congratulations!

  2. Your recipe says to discard the chili mixture, but then it says to add it back to the oil… so I’m a little confused on the directions?

    1. Hi Terry! Thanks for popping by and sorry to hear that you are a bit confused. Please note that in my recipe I wrote:”Discard everything caught in the sieve.” That is to say “discard all the spices, spring onion, ginger and peanuts (from ingredient group 2) which are cooked in the oil. Then you add the chilli mixture (from ingredient group 1) to the flavoured hot oil. Hope my explanation is helpful to you. Good luck in your kitchen!

  3. Yum! Yum! Yum! This is so delicious that I am putting it on everything.
    P.S. Your blog it absolutely beautiful. You really put a lot of time and effort into it.

  4. Hi Wei, I just make some Chinese Chili oil following this recipe. I waited until the oil cooked on low for about 10 minutes or more (the oil was half boiling). Well, I guess the oil wasn’t hot enough. When I poured the red pepper flakes mix into the oil, there was no bubbling at all. The oil wasn’t hot enough at all. Probably could have cooked the oil on medium/high, perhaps? Thanks!

    1. Sorry to heard that it didn’t work out for you. Yes, the oil wasn’t hot enough. I recommend using low to medium heat (depending on the power of your cooker) to avoid burning the spices (ingredient group 2) too fast. To test if the oil is hot enough, you can drop a few chilli flakes to test. If they sizzle straightaway, then means it’s ready. Good luck for the second time!

    1. You can use any cooking oil which has a high smoke point and a neutral flavour, such as canola oil, rapeseed oil, sunflower oil, peanut oil, vegetable oil, corn oil, etc. Definitely not olive oil or (toasted) sesame oil.

  5. Hi, do you know if tsao-ko can be bought from Chinese stores and if there is other known names of it please? Also if I can’t find that is it ok to omit it from the ingredients or if there is any substitute? Thank you x

  6. Hi! So I just wanted to share with you this. I’ve given this recipe a try last night and the chilli oil has sat for 12 hours and I just wanted to try it so I ate it with an egg. It was marvellous – thank you for sharing.

    I’ve got a question though.. As I was frying the spices in oil, the spring onion turned light brown so I turned off the heat and strained the whole thing to a Pyrex. However, when I added the chilli flakes mixture it didn’t bubble… I was afraid that they don’t have enough heat so I put everything back on the hob until I see bubbles and then poured it back to the Pyrex.

    Could you enlighten me with how much heat is low heat please? I’m not very good with cooking so apologies for this.

    1. Thanks Rachel for trying out my recipe. Glad to know you love the taste. I don’t have exact measurement of “low heat” as it really depends on the performance of individual cookers. To judge the readiness of the oil, you should follow two clues: 1. Has the spring onion turned brown? Be aware that if the spring onion is quite slim or cut into small pieces it browns easily and the oil might not be hot enough. 2. Do you see smoke appear? Hope this is helpful to you.

    1. Tsao-ko is also known as black cardamom. The pods are used as a spice in cooking. It’s bigger than green Indian cardamom pods and has a different flavour. Please feel free to skip it if you don’t have easy access to it.

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