Homemade chilli oil

Making chilli oil at home might seem like a daunting task. But let me reassure you, it truly isn’t. The entire process has only three steps and it takes just a couple of minutes to complete. If you need a little extra convincing: homemade chilli oil has more fragrance than any oil you’ll ever find in a store-bought bottle, it lasts just as long while it does not contain any additives, and you can adjust the ingredients according to your intolerances. Well, except for those who won’t tolerate chillies. If that’s the case, don’t give up on me just yet. I share chilli-free recipes as well.

There are about 3000 different varieties of chillies in the world. So, simply put, this recipe helps you create 3000 different types of chilli oil. Just pick a ground chilli to your liking, and there you have it. However, in this recipe I use one specific type: the Sichuanese chilli. Not to be mistaken with Sichuan peppercorns. These chillies have a deep red colour and their shape is more plump than pointy. You’ll have to look for them in the dried spices section of your local Asian supermarket, where they are sold in large packets of whole peppers. In that case, the recipe involves one extra step: making your own chilli flakes. Cut of the tops, remove as much seeds as you possibly can, and grind the chillies in a spice or coffee grinder.

It might be challenging to find Sichuanese chillies. My Asian supermarket won’t stock them anymore, because the market is too small. And buying a box with 100 packets of 100g is a bit too much for just me. I did find seeds on Etsy, though, and I’m trying to grow them at home. And I just discovered that they are for sale on Amazon. So there are ways to get your hands on this exotic variety.

Just in case I talked you out of trying this recipe, let me try to talk you into this fun little project again. Although it might seem like a lot of trouble to make this particular variety of chilli oil, I promise you it’s worth it. These Sichuanese chillies are unlike regular chillies. They don’t have that “burn all your taste buds off” heat, but rather have a warm mouthfeel. That being said, in this instance, milder still means hot. So be careful with the amount of oil you use. It’s better to add a little extra when it’s not spicy enough than no longer being able to taste anything and cry over your supper. And if the prospect of a refined flavour profile doesn’t convince you, you could always do it for the dazzling deep red colour. Or the fact that dan dan noodles might become your new favourite weeknight staple and this oil is the key flavour in that dish. But enough, I’m just kidding with you. See for yourself if you give this recipe a try. Just one last remark: I use it almost on a weekly basis. That’s how much I like it.

500ml neutral cooking oil
100g sichuanese ground chillies
1 tsp sesame seeds
small piece of ginger, unpeeled + grated

  • Heat the oil over high heat to about 200°C, then leave for 10 minutes to cool to around 140°C.
  • Place the ground chillies, sesame seeds and ginger in a heatproof bowl. Have a little cool oil to hand. When the oil has cooled to the right temperature, pour a little on the chillies; it should fizz gently but energetically and release a rich, roasty aroma. Pour over the rest of the oil and stir. If you think the oil is too hot and the chillies are likely to burn, simply add a little cool oil to release the excess heat. Do, though, make sure the oil is hot enough: without the fizzing, it won't generate the rich, roasty fragrance you need. If you pour all the oil on to the chillies, then discover it's not quite hot enough, you can return the whole lot to a saucepan and heat gently until it smells fabulous and the colour is a deep ruby red, but do take care not to burn the chillies.
  • When the oil has cooled completely, decant it and the chilli sediment into jars and store in a dark, cool place. Leave it to settle for at least a day before using.

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