Chili oil and chili crisp have blown up in the past few years, with new brands hitting the market monthly. We have a few favorites ourselves—including our own Mala Market Chengdu Crispy Chili Oil. But store-bought chili oils should really be just an addition to a chili oil collection that features first and foremost your own homemade version, suited to your own tastes and uses.
Our deep dive into making Sichuan chili oil walks you through the traditional ingredients and methods mainland Sichuan cooks use to produce their 辣椒油 (làjiāoyóu), chili oil. Even though the ultimate chili oil originates in Sichuan, it’s hard to find this information elsewhere in English simply because the star ingredient 菜籽油(càizǐyóu), roasted rapeseed oil, was nearly nonexistent outside China until The Mala Market began importing it.
There’s one thing about caiziyou’s centrality to lajiaoyou and 红油 (hóngyóu) dressings only Chinese sources will tell you about: its super adhesive quality. This is especially relevant for cold Sichuan dishes where hongyou (literally, the red oil produced from making chili oil) dominates. Ultimately, the better an oil clings to food, the better its application as a delivery vessel for fragrance and flavor.
Of course you also want to start with the right mix of chilies, with each contributing its own unique color, fragrance and heat to the blend. After that, you’re free to customize with spices, pickles, nuts, sauces, you name it! Just follow the Sichuan tried-and-true method and your own chili oil will be your favorite chili oil.
Lajiaoyou the Mainland Sichuan Way, ft. Caiziyou When it comes to this Sichuan chili oil recipe, variations abound—but all share three core factors: chilis, oil and heat. Lately, the stateside popularity of dressed up chili oil (make it crispy! with aromatics! with douchi!) has soared. But throw in middling chilis, the sundry tasteless oils available outside of China, and a…
Lajiaoyou the Mainland Sichuan Way, ft. Caiziyou (Pt. 2) Picture this: You’re making your own aromatic Sichuan chili oil at home. The first whiffs of five-spice and scallion-infused caiziyou in this aromatic 辣椒油 (làjiāoyóu)/chili oil bring you right back to your happy place, every time—the one where you’re shoveling down yesterday’s leftovers with an onslaught of 红油 (hóngyóu), literally “red oil,”…
Oil vs. Crisp
You may wonder about the difference between chili oil and chili crisp/crunch. Though the terms are used rather loosely, the major difference is the amount of crispy, crunchy, flaky bits in the oil. Popular chili crisps like the OG Laoganma are chock full of ground chilies, aromatics and assorted other bits and have little residual red oil. Crisps are best used as condiments. Chili oil, on other hand, features both oil and crisp in varying proportions that range from no chili flakes at all up to half-crisp half-oil. We find a blend of about two-thirds oil to one-third crisp is the most versatile for cooking and adding to sauces for noodles and Sichuan cold dishes/salads, while also being ideal as a condiment and ingredient in your dumpling dipping sauce.