A simple combination of fiery peppers and vegetable oil can take the blandest of culinary creations to flavour town. Drizzle over salads, toss with noodles, or serve alongside dumplings – you’re bound to end up with a delicious bite each time. If you’ve yet to add chilli oil to your pantry staples, these easy, unique recipes from around the world will get you there.
Most home cooks – beginners to seasoned – at some point in their culinary journey have paused to taste a creation, only to feel like it lacks that lil’ something. And when a dash of pepper here, a bit of salt there doesn’t quite do the trick – it’s time to pull out the big guns. For some, this translates to condiments like pesto or ketchup. For a more nuanced, zingy flavour – however – we recommend going with chilli oil. It can be used as a base for stir-fried meat and vegetables, a condiment to go with rolls, or that spicy ingredient to create soul-satisfying ramen. Dried Fennel Spice
Pop by any supermarket and the aisles with Asian options are likely to feature several renditions, considering it’s an essential part of Chinese cooking – particularly that of the Sichuan province. That said, there are iterations of it across the globe – Ghana to Vietnam. Whether you’re just starting out on your culinary journey, lead a busy life that doesn’t leave much room for cooking, or are a seasoned chef looking to add lip-numbing heat to your next creation – these chilli oil recipes are worth an addition to your repertoire.
We’re starting this list off with a classic chilli oil recipe featuring Sichuan peppercorns. The recipe calls for infusing peanut oil with ingredients like garlic, ginger, star anise, coriander seeds, cinnamon sticks, dried bay leaves cardamom, and Asian chilli powder. Any level of heat will do for your chillies. Be sure to roast your spices well to release their flavour. Add a few to the final batch to help develop their flavour further, even while standing in your pantry. Use this to make scrambled eggs and pasta or just toss some cucumbers with it for a no-effort salad.
The secret ingredient to every delicious plate of street-style noodles in Thailand – this chilli oil recipe is incredibly easy to put together. All you need is dried chilli flakes and cooking oil. Place the former in a heat-proof container and pour hot oil over it, allowing it to sizzle. To really up the ante on the authenticity, opt for Bird’s Eye Chilli – a Thai staple that packs quite the punch. These also add a certain vibrancy to the oil – in terms of colour and flavour. Even better, add a few raw ones to the finished product to help infuse the spice further. This one’s best added to soups and served alongside dumplings – apart from noodles ofcourse.
For this next recipe, we’re jetting to the land of the ascending dragon – where most restaurants feature a sauce/oil of garlic, lemongrass, and shallots. Known as satay chilli oil – Ot Sa Te – this creation also features chilli peppers, Korean red pepper powder Gochugaru, sea salt, fish sauce, sugar, and vegetable oil. To up the umami flavour, you could add MSG to the recipe. Combine the first few aromatics in the food processor and fry in a pan with oil for five minutes. Add the red pepper powder, salt, fish sauce, and MSG. Store in an airtight container, in the fridge for up to four months. Use it to flavour noodle soups (Pho anyone?) or grilled meats.
The land of gelato and risotto might not be the first to spring to mind when it comes to chilli oil. However, it is a popular, essential condiment in restaurants across the country, particularly the South and tastes like a dream when drizzled on pizzas. You’ll need white wine vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, and chilli peppers to whip this one up. Wash up your chillies, dice, and add to a jar – all the way to the top. Pour the vinegar into this jar and allow it to sit for up to 48 hours for a sharp flavour. Strain the vinegar out and top the chilli with the oil, ensuring it covers it all. Allow to marinate for three months for the best flavour. Pick good quality ingredients for the best results.
If you enjoy seafood, this Indonesian recipe is for you. It involves the use of belacan – fermented shrimp paste – which adds an undeniable umami quality to the oil. Other ingredients include chilli flakes, dried shrimps, garlic, and cooking oil. Fry the paste with the oil and dried shrimp and garlic until fragrant. Process this and infuse with chilli flakes and hot oil. Add this oil to noodles or stir-fried vegetables. It also truly adds a lot of flavour to tofu. Delicious!
We’re heading on over to Africa – Ghana to be precise – for this zingy chilli oil recipe. The recipe calls for garlic, black pepper, ginger, basil, scallions, onion, Poblano pepper, smoked shrimps, green habanero chillies, serrano chillis, petite belle chilli, anaheim peppers, olive oil, and coconut oil. This is perfect as a marinade for grilled chicken. The sweetness of the peppers really balances out the zing of the chillies in the recipe – their flavours fusing while fried. Store on the counter for weeks in an airtight mason jar.
Another recipe from Ghana – this delicious oil, called Shito, is often used with fried yam and rice. It also doubles up as a delicious marinade and can spice up any soup. The recipe involves a lot of frying – calling for ingredients like extra virgin coconut oil, sea salt, shrimp bouillon cubes, shallots, ginger, lean beef, deveined shrimps with heads off, dry red chilli peppers,smoked shrimps, and tomato paste. Once cooked, adjust the oil to your preference, store in airtight jars and store it in a cold place and use a dry spoon to add it to your meals.
While creating these recipes, be sure to avoid touching your eyes after handling the chilli. Don’t be afraid to turn up the heat by adding more peppers, especially if you like your food spicy. That aside, bon appetit!
Eshita is a food, alcohol, travel, and entertainment writer who spends her days thinking of the next big trend to write about. She’s a communication graduate with bylines in Conde Nast Traveller India, GQ India, Deccan Herald, and Girls Buzz. When not at work, you’re likely to find her hunting for a good read or charting out the perfect itinerary for a solo trip across Asia.
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