Sichuan Chili Oil

chili oil featured header 2

UPDATES AVAILABLE: (sources for ingredients)

I love and use so much chili oil (such as here) that I decided to forge my own.  It is the basis of all things sichuan which – IF were also your thing and it better be –  is totally worth it to make your own because it tastes so much BETTER than store-bought (which I often find very lacking in flavors).  The preparation and cooking itself practically takes no time at all, and it keep FOREVER in your fridge.  I promise that it will deliver the kick you’ve been looking for and guarantee to scorch and numb your face right off.  You are welcome.

It goes without saying that HIGH QUALITY ingredients is the key to flavors for this oil.  Korean grocery stores usually carry pretty good chili flakes.  Sichuan peppercorn (fresh for dried) can be a bit tricky to locate since, I heard, that it was banned for awhile in New York for its alleged “narcotic quality”.   When in doubt, I would check the Chinese medicine shops in China town.

UPDATES 2013/2/20: sources for ingredients are added

Another version of sichuan chili oil that I adore.


  • 5 cups of canola, vegetable, or peanut oil
  • First step:
  • Second step:
    • 1/2 cup of high quality chili flakes (either from sichuan or Korean chili flakes would work well, too)
  • Third step:
    • 1/4 cup of high quality chili flakes
  • Fourth step:
    • 1/4 cup of high quality chili flakes
    • 3 tbsp of ground sichuan peppercorn

Heat the oil in a pot that’s DOUBLE the volume of the oil, over medium high heat.

Prepare the ingredients.  Mix all the ingredients from each step in 4 separate bowls, and set aside.

Test the heat of the oil by inserting the tip of a wooden chopstick into the oil.  If it starts bubbling up around the chopstick about 2 seconds after it’s inserted, the oil is ready.

Carefully add all the ingredients from FIRST STEP into the hot oil and let it fry for 20 seconds on medium high heat.

Then add the SECOND STEP into the oil, stir and fry for another 20 seconds until you can smell the toasted aroma from the chili flakes.  It’s important that the first batch of chili flakes is fried until fragrant.


Add the THIRD STEP, stir and let it fry in the residual heat of the oil for another 30 seconds.

Finally add the FOURTH STEP, stir and let it absorb the last bit of residual heat.

The color of the oil should be a dark, ruby-red.  There should be darken, almost “charred” chili flakes in the oil, BUT NOT BURNT.

Leave the pot covered under room temperature overnight.

Strain it the next day through a very fine sieve and bottle it.  It would appear to be cloudy at first, but some sediments should sink to the bottom over time, and the oil should be clear the next day.

I like to keep them in the fridge even if it thickens up a little bit.  Just leave it in room temperature for 10  min before using.



  • Hi there. Beautiful blog btw.

    On the recipe, though, I don’t see how peanut oil and the other types can really be interchangeable. They’re really quite different with – obviously enough – different tastes. Sure either would taste nice, but certainly different.

    Fuchsia Dunlop – the hero of all things Sichuan to me – has a recipe that is far simpler (though the one here would have more tasty sediment, I suppose…).

  • When you say scallion, do you mean spring onion? In your pictures, it looks like you’ve got celery there.. Can you clarify please? Thanks a bunch! :)

    • Isabel, haha the “celery looking” thing is actually jumbo scallions. Spring onions will work, too. I have since tried it without adding scallions/spring onions as well.

  • This is great. Do you think that this is similar to the special chili oil that Xi’an Famous Food uses?

  • Quick question!
    I’m making the Dan Dan noodle bowl tonight, so I whipped up a batch of the quick oil you have listed there.

    I’d like to make up this bigger recipe this weekend (so excited!).

    In step 4, the “3 tbsp of ground sichuan peppercorn” – is this green peppercorn, red, or…..?

  • I’m having the hardest time finding the green peppercorns – charges $8.50 for shipping an $8 product that weighs less than 4oz! Not cool.

    Would this still be good without the green peppercorns? Are there any other resources you can recommend? I’m coming up with nothing on google and have sent friends in 3 states to their Chinatowns with no luck.


    • Hey Liz!

      I finally got my green peppercorns from The Spice Lab/Old World Spice Company selling through Amazon. They aren’t cheap – $15.95 for a 8oz bag, but they’ll last a looooong time from the looks of it.

      Good luck with the search!

      • Hey Abernathy!

        I can’t find the particular product on Amazon, and the link in this article is sold out. Do you have a link to the listing, or the product ID/name/etc??


        • Oh shoot! The Spice Lab people were my good connection! It looks like there is another seller on Amazon (helen ou@hanyuan) who has some, but I haven’t bought from her and can’t vouch for the quality.

  • I made this. It’s gorgeous. Finally managed to replicate Sichuan poached fish at home thanks to you!

    Glancing at the ruby-red liquid in my fridge last night, I wondered what might happen if I used your oil (in combination with a neutral oil) to make an insane homemade mayo. What do you think?

  • This is some seriously good stuff! I gave half of it to a friend and now my half is almost empty already!

    But I’m confused about one thing: Your ingredients list “3 tbsp of fresh sichuan green-peppercorn (omit if not available and use 6 tbsp of sichuan green peppercorn instead)”, so does this mean one should use 11 (5 dried Tbsp + 6 dried Tbsp instead of 3 fresh) or does it mean 6 (as in 6 driedinstead of 5 dried) altogether? I used 6 and thought I would probably use more next time.

    I messed up a little, too, and used somewhat mild Korean chili flakes. The resulting chili oil is still delicious, but it’s not burning my face off as it’s supposed to. But I’ll try and find proper Sichuan chilis in a store here (could you supply the chinese signs for that? Would help enormously!) and make this again.

    And yes, the fire mayo sounds awesome! I will try this as well.

    PS: Could you write a blog post about your photo/lighting techniques/equipment? Your pictures look so beautiful and are the main reason I haven’t started bloging yet, because my camera sucks and the pictures would be too embarrassing in comparison. ;-)

    • BOB: Sorry about the confusion! So I meant, if you can’t find FRESH sichuan green peppercorns, then add 1 more tbsp of DRIED sichuan green peppercorn, which is 6 tbsp in total. But you would like more peppercorn action, by all means add more, OR, grind the peppercorns to maximize flavour!

      My equipement is actually quite basic. I have a Canon 650D (which is a beginner SLR) with lens EF 50mm 1:1.8 (great for indoor photos but no zoom). I almost exclusively shoot with artificial light, with soft-light boxes. But most importantly, I use photoshop for editing! It allows me to adjust contrast, light-balance and etc. Try to get familiar with a photo editing software is where I would start :)

  • hi! i love, love, love your site. quick question – i was going to make this and give away for gifts – how long does it last? i should keep it refrigerated, right (and instruct my recipients to refrigerate as well)? and, if you strain it the next day, do you lose all those lovely chili bits or are they broken down enough they escape through the sieve? thank you again – really love the writing and the photos.

  • I bottled the chili oil and reserved the chili bits as a sauce. It’s not as spicy hot as the Mean Santa Chili sauce, but it is fragrant and still spicy enough. Feels good to make something like this from scratch instead of buying a store bought. Who knows what they really put inside those jars?! Thank you so much for turning me into a homemade-condiment fanatic now.

  • Mandy,

    Thanks for your ‘signature’ careful attention to detail, enthusiastic writing style and tasty recipe. I am fascinated by chilli oils and the various techniques to extract the flavour dimensions and texturising those essential chilli seeds.

    In Step 3, is the residual heat from the pot and oil alone? If an electric hob is used then should the pot be removed from the hob because they tend to cool down slowly?

  • I made this long ago, substituting with deeply over-simplified ingredients – only red chili flakes and a green jalapeno, regular cardamom in powder form, lol, and olive oil instead of peanut – cause that’s all that was available and this oil was still AmAZING!!! Loved it so much! Today, am trying it with all the correct ingredients and well, I am eagerly looking forward to it!

  • Recently found your blog and fell in love with it!!! I used to live in Shanghai and can pretty much relate to your experience. I love sichuan food but too intimidated to make them myself. When I saw how simple this looks, I immediately tried making this recipe with peanut oil. It was AMAZING! My kitchen never smelled better. This looks like it would go well with “suan la fen” (the smell reminds me of it). Would love to see your version (suan la fen) with this.

  • Made this tonight and I don’t think that my kitchen has even smelled as good. Thanks for your detailed recipes and instructions!

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