03 Feb2013


I usually purchase this chunky chili oil concoction from Chinese grocers. But seeing how key it was as part of the dipping sauce for the siomai I recently made, I thought I would also try and make the chili oil myself. Nothing could be simpler.


Take several handfuls of dried chilies and several cups of peanut oil (you can use olive oil, canola oil or other neutral oil). I purchased the dried chilies for a song the last time I was a the Arranque market several months ago, so honestly, they were a bit dated by the time I used them.


Blitz the chilies in a food processor or powerful blender until finely chopped. This take a while, and please cover the tube that releases air from your food processor, as the chili powder that wafts up is rather deadly. I inhaled some of it after I stepped away to take this photo and it was wickedly powerful. :)


Place the chopped chili in a stainless steel or heatproof bowl. Heat up the oil, just enough to cover the chilis. I heated way too much oil. I suggest you err on too little oil, and add some if necessary later.


Heat the oil up to just about its smoking point (say 440F), then turn off the heat and let it sit on the stove for say 5-7 minutes. I suppose another way to do this is to heat the oil up to say 410F if you have a fry thermometer. Other oils have lower smoking points. Pour the oil onto the chili flakes and watch it bubble and sizzle a bit. If you don’t let the oil cool a bit, you risk burning the chili and it will be bitter/black rather than flavorful deep, deep burgundy.


After a few more minutes, I added in a cup full of salted peanuts, as some Chinese cooks apparently do… I also added a touch of brown sugar to one small portion in an effort to add complexity to the brew, and perhaps to temper the spiciness. This turned out nicely, but the bottled stuff seems to be smoother, and possesses another layer of flavor. Perhaps after another day or two this will improve some more. I had it with the siomai, it was nice mixed with soy sauce and kalamansi, but I think I need a few more attempts to get it totally right. I have to warn you, this was wickedly spicy. :)



  1. Mari of NY says:

    Hmmmm, I have to make this since I love this spicy chili condiment and always ask for it when we go to the chinese restaurant. Thanks MM for sharing your experiments. It always sparks a light in my brain… where these days I have been going back to the old ways of making it myself instead of buying it. Have that thought in my head where at least I know what is in the food I eat.

    Feb 4, 2013 | 7:13 am


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  3. madgwenny says:

    thanks for this recipe.

    i think the part, blitzing the chilies can be omitted if using really hot chili flakes (from a farm in So. Cotabato and it’s called dumang in the dialect) sold in groceries here.

    Feb 4, 2013 | 7:28 am

  4. Footloose says:

    Care and caution should be observed when handling hot chili. Apparently a high percentage of hospital emergencies in the American Southwest are cases of hot chili being unknowingly applied to sensitive areas, just like your story about a member of your staff (or was that a staff member) and serrano peppers a few years ago. I had a tearful experience with horse radish myself. Tried to gauge the strength of a newly processed horse radish root right from the food processing bowl and survived to tell the tale. It felt as though a tiny nuclear device detonated in my nasal cavity I tell you.

    Feb 4, 2013 | 8:02 am

  5. cumin says:

    Really, it’s this simple? Wow, thanks, MM. While reading your shu mai post I was hoping you’d come up with a recipe for the chili oil as well — my wish granted! And yes, the smell of dried chilies being blitzed is terribly sneeze-inducing. I usually wait a few minutes before opening the food processor’s lid, hoping the powder settles down a bit. Might a few flakes of deep-fried flakes add the complexity you seek?

    FYI: Not shu mai, but still on the subject of Chinese food, I love the dumplings at Dong Bei, a northern Chinese restaurant in Nueva St, Binondo, just P100 for 10 dumplings, steamed or fried. You can watch them make these in a side table, no cardboard ingredients, promise!

    Feb 4, 2013 | 8:06 am

  6. Khew says:

    If by “smoother”( bottled ones ), you mean the chillies are sort of melded, it could be because the dried chillies were first soaked before processing. Soaking serves to clean, plump up and help release more colour. The cooking method needs to be adjusted, of course, by stir frying the chillies till they get sufficiently gritty before adding the rest of the oil. Turn the heat off once the desired temperature is reached. As for the added layer of flavour, the oil could have been infused with sichuan peppercorns, old ginger, garlic and perhaps the whole spices used in 5-spice powder. A final dash of sesame oil to the end product completes it.

    Feb 4, 2013 | 8:57 am

  7. PITS, MANILA says:

    i make garlic chips first, then use the oil (olive oil) for the chili. combine garlic chips, chili and the oil …

    Feb 4, 2013 | 9:21 am

  8. Emsy says:

    went to Dong Bei in Chinatown yesterday and noticed that their famous chili oil has tiny bits of cinnamon bark in it. And a strong aniseed flavor although I didn’t find any anise in it. Maybe that will improve your recipe MM! :)

    Feb 4, 2013 | 9:29 am

  9. Miguel says:

    Hi Marketman,

    I usually do this at home for my own stash and here are the ingredients I use: Dried chilies, minced garlic, reconstituted minced Hibe or Dried shrimps and Vegetable oil with a bit of salt and sugar to balance everything. I also just heat the oil (but not to smoking point) then pour it over the ingredients like you do.

    I think that the dried shrimp gave the chili-garlic oil the umami taste it needed.

    Let me know your thoughts :)

    Feb 4, 2013 | 11:51 am

  10. wendy darling says:

    @ cumin – thanks for the tip on Dong Bei. In one of my project teams, we have an unofficial contest on who can discover/unearth the latest foodie treat, with extra points gained on Chinese dimsum (we somehow seem to gravitate to dimsum, perhaps because of way too much collective Chinese blood on the project team ;)

    @ PITS – I actually prefer my chilli (oil and all) with chunks of garlic, but frying up chips and then using the oil to soak the chilli would be a good way to infuse additional flavor

    Feb 4, 2013 | 7:01 pm

  11. Footloose says:

    Not as commonly encountered as chili oil but fast gaining popularity ever since David Chang’s emerging empire called attention to it, ginger and scallion oil is also a cheap and easy to prepare food enhancer. Now you don’t have to crowd your dining table with both but by combining the two, you get an all-purpose condiment that works wonders with steamed or roasted chicken or pork and to drizzle on noodles, noodle soup and filled dumplings.

    Feb 4, 2013 | 10:45 pm

  12. Mandy says:

    MM, I think they also add chopped onions in the chili oil. They oxidize, so they look like dark bits in the oil. Probably, some garlic too.

    Feb 4, 2013 | 11:29 pm

  13. Marlo says:

    Will try this technique! I remember making chili oil before by adding dried chili flakes (e.g. In sachets given freely by some pizza resto) into a bottle of olive oil (I used mild/light, not extra virgin). After a week or so, the oil took on a reddish hue and was hot enough for use in siomai and even for spicy sardines pasta. If my chemistry serves me right, the capsaicin that gives chili ‘heat’ is soluble in vegetable oils, thus the technique works!

    Feb 5, 2013 | 5:28 am

  14. Marketman says:

    Footloose, Chang’s scallion sauce, here. For some reason, it doesn’t have the same impact with local green onions, which aren’t quite scallions… But it is delicious in his restaurants… Thanks everyone for those flavorful suggestions, will have to experiment with them the next time I make a batch of chili oil…

    Feb 5, 2013 | 6:31 am

  15. millet says:

    never knew it was that simple. i’ll do this, but i also plan to another version with finely chopped garlic, ginger, onions and scallions.

    Feb 5, 2013 | 4:37 pm

  16. Fards says:

    what a great idea for a gift. a bulb just came on. I have a niece who loves spicy food and I just do not know what to give her. Will make this chili oil. Thank you, MM.

    Feb 5, 2013 | 11:18 pm

  17. Kasseopeia says:

    cumin – I super duper love those Northern-style dumplings from Dong Bei. The thicker wrapper makes for a better wrapper-to-filling ratio. Their dip is amazing too! Definitely a touch of black vinegar in there.

    The way I do chili oil is using fresh peppers. Very hard to find real labuyo in the quantities I need so I usually mix any labuyo I find with those imported Thai or Vietnamese peppers. I mince these by hand (yes!) and add 1.5 times the amount in minced garlic. For every cup of solids, I add 1 cup of peanut oil (I have also used coconut oil – not palm oil – to great results). I start the pan cold with the three ingredients in there. Once it gets up to a simmer, I lower the heat and let it gurgle along until the garlic has crisped up and not too brown – usually 15-20 mins, depending on volume (I do it in 1liter batches of oil). Then I turn off heat and let it continue “cooking”. Once warm enough to stick a finger in, I drizzle in a bit of sesame oil. Cool completely and store in glass jars.

    I use this stuff on everything from steamed fish to dimsum to pasta arrabiata. =)

    Feb 6, 2013 | 1:56 pm

  18. betty q. says:

    Millet…add a touch of finely minced or nearly puréed hibe…even finely shredded tuyo…the bottled ones nd add a touch of 5 spice….dip any steamed vegetables in it. We like it with young calabaza, cut into pieces with the rind and then simply steamed. Needless today, I tone down a bit the chilis. Then you have gourmet chili oil!

    Feb 7, 2013 | 3:05 am

  19. fmed says:

    I see some suggestions here that are quite dangerous. You should never make homemade chili oil with fresh chilies nor fresh onions nor garlic nor anything with a lot of moisture… as the risk of botulism is much too high. Even if you use dried chili, it is wise it use an acidulant to suppress the growth of the botulism spores that occur naturally on pretty much everything. That is why you often see citric acid or phosphoric acid as one of the usual ingredients in a commercially made oil. You can buy citric acid at stores that cater to home canners and home preservers.

    If you do make your own (with or without citric acid), make a small amount and use it within a few days. I’m not trying to be a downer. There have been a number of cases of botulism poisoning caused by home made garlic oil etc. I can provide citations if you require it.

    With that out of the way…my favourite type of Chinese chili oil is made in Sichuan province. It contains dried chilies, soybean oil, sesame oil, Sichuan peppercorns, anise, cinnamon, and dried soybeans.

    Feb 8, 2013 | 10:12 am

  20. Maki says:

    What came into my mind when looking at the primary picture was siomai, and I was right, this is a siomai sauce or shall we say siomai chilli paste. I was a bit disappointed at myself seeing the comments by your readers MM that most of them had experience making or at least experimented in these kinds of sauce. I realized all I know is to eat, I don’t even mind how to make one….

    Feb 8, 2013 | 5:47 pm

  21. Marketman says:

    fmed, thank you for raising those points, I think they are quite valid for infusions. In other words, say garlic oil or chili oil made with fresh or dried chilies, but wherein the oil used was at room temperature or simply warmed. The threat of soil particles in the garlic or chilies may result in serious health hazards.

    However, in the chili oil described above, the oil is heated to say 220-230C and then poured over the chilies, which sizzle and fry essentially. Which I would have thought kills any nasties. But now I will have to explore this further. And as a safety measure, store the oil in the fridge and only for a few days.

    As for the addition of citric acid, I hope commercial manufacturers to this, and it may be a good reason to buy rather than make one’s own. However, on that front, I will now warn against poorly made chilies in vinegar. Folks might think the acid is going to kill off all the cooties, but there have been cases of severe food poisoning from locally made vinegars that included ingredients with some potential soil particles like garlic ginger and chilies that are simply added to the cold vinegar. So you may wish to briefly blanch the ingredients you plan to add to infuse flavor into your vinegars…

    But this is all a great warning for food safety overall…

    Feb 9, 2013 | 6:56 am

  22. betty q. says:

    MM…think all vegetation grown or mature underground. Clostridium bot. soil borne and an anaerobic bacteria. But once the root crop is exposed to air, the bacteria sort of goes dormant. Therefore, would eating raw radishes, carrots freshly dug and rinsed be safe to eat? Think also baked potatoes. Once the potato is wrapped in foil, and not exposed any longer to oxygen, the spores could become active. I am talking about those raw potatoes one cn buy already wrapped in foil ready for the oven.

    Commercial producers are obligated to use citric acid, etc. if not, they will not pass US and Canadian food safety standards ESP. low acid products.

    One of your lurkers is a US Public health inspector. I know for we used to send e mils to each other. If she is still following your blog, maybe she can enlighten us.

    Feb 9, 2013 | 7:56 am

  23. betty q. says:

    My resource or go to person for any matters such as this is Ms. Brita Hall. You can send her an e mail. She has a PhD and is the Food Safety Network Coordinator of the Dept. of Food Science at the University of Guelph, ON….www.uog.ca/food safety

    Hope that helps!

    Feb 9, 2013 | 8:22 am

  24. millet says:

    thanks for the tip, bettyq. it’s getting deliciouser and deliciouser ;-)

    Feb 9, 2013 | 12:39 pm

  25. fmed says:

    My warning was really directed at those who contemplate making oils with fresh produce (garlic etc). If you see residual moisture after you cook the garlic in oil ( in other words it isn’t fried to a crisp) then the temperature of that garlic did not rise above boiling point despite being in an oil bath that is much higher in temperature. At boiling point at sea level, it takes six hours of cooking at boiling point to render the food safe. It is easy to kill the bacteria itself, but the spores are particularly resilient and require 240F/160C and some time (time depends on conditions like the pH of the food etc) to kill them. There are lots of credible publications on the web that are written for home canners, etc. I’ll post links in my next comment.

    Feb 12, 2013 | 12:22 am

  26. fmed says:

    I think your WordPress site has spam prevention measures that prevent me from posting links. Well Google is your friend!

    My final thought- In 1985, here in my home city of Vancouver, 37 people contracted botulism from improperly made garlic oil.

    Feb 12, 2013 | 12:33 am

  27. betty q. says:

    last time I communicated with Dr. Hall, she told me to be wary of what you see or read on the Internet!…an advice that should be very well considered or noted! Another option is that there are independent laboratories that for a very minimal cost, you can have your product analyzed for all sorts of nasties as MM would call them! You will get the results after a while for they need to do their thing like incubate them.

    Feb 12, 2013 | 1:23 am

  28. betty q. says:

    And while we are at eh subject of food safety…Fraser Health allows certain products that can be made at home and sold such as brownies, granola, bread, cookies. Howver, cakes that have fresh dairy topping or filling among others are not allowed to be sold to the public if made at home. Those making ulam ( such as meat and meat products) at home and selling to the public is not allowed to do so as well! The keyword is SELL! I guess if you have a neighbours like in our cul de sac…we give each other food…my neighbour makes the bestest chicken curry while the other gives me spotted prawns he caught off Hornby Island…so cooked food brought to potlucks or given does not count I guess but then again, I could be wrong….so just check out the Fraser Health Guidelines for selling food out of your home. They have a list of what you can and cannot sell for home made products.

    Whcih brings me to my next question, if you were invited to friend’s dinner party and had food poisoning, would you sue your friend? But if you ate at a food joint , I won’t name places…then would you sue the place If you got food poisoning? So, for those contemplating eating out on a regular basis and have weak stomachs like my son…there is a site from Fraser Health you could check out eating places that have their license suspended for various reasons. My husband is good at checking the site EACH TIME we go out for dinner or lunch!


    Feb 12, 2013 | 1:50 am

  29. betty q. says:

    Ok…what I asked above is a hypothetical question of what other people would do. I have had my share of sick stomach after eating at potlucks. But I just took it in stride for no one really would know the culprit dish!…just avoided drinking milk or any dairy product for days, just drank water and dry toast!

    hey MM….is there a food truck in Cebu? I was thinking if there is none yet, why not bring your food to the madla. Now I don’t know how long is their lunch or dinner break…but it is just a thought…to save them time going to your place, just tweet where your truck will be.

    Feb 12, 2013 | 2:40 am

  30. betty q. says:

    Millet and MM and Miss Ebba…want to up the notch? …this is my latest obsession…Vietnamese sate style chili sauce!!!! just sauté lots of garlic and onions or shallots in peanut oil till t he onions are carmelized, then add your chili flakes as much as you can tolerate, then add a few tangled which has been finely minced and cook it to death…then season with a touch of patis, lime, and a few pinches of sugar. I am telling you, this will become your favorite too! I add too a few tbsp. of the Bullhead BBQ sauce.

    Feb 12, 2013 | 7:51 am

  31. Jeff P says:

    frmed and to anyone who have knowledge. if citric acid is a must in this kind of sauce if sold commercially, then I am ok with that. But, do you have any idea on what will be the additional taste it will bring to your chili oil? Or, is there anyway to add citric or phosphoric acid without sacrificing the original taste you successfully had on your initial recipe? Thank you!

    Nov 13, 2014 | 3:21 am


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