Making Hongyou #2: Crispy Shallot Chili Oil

shallot infused red oil in glass jar

Mala Sweet Hot

My pursuit of the perfect chili oil leads me to the conclusion that there is not just one. I like a pure, chili-flavored chili oil for most cooking, but after consuming so much Laoganma Spicy Chili Crisp and similarly fancy artisan chili oils I  bought from a street  vendor in Sichuan, I’ve decided I need to up my game with homemade chili oils. So here I give you Crispy Shallot Chili Oil. It packs a ton of flavor, but still not so much that it can’t be used widely and heavily on foods both Asian and Western.

It’s in the style of Spicy Chili Crisp, but without the secret ingredients, the MSG or the preservatives. Plus, it has a greater oil-to-solids ratio so that it can be used when chili oil is called for. The key is the sweet crispy shallots married with mala flavor—chili flakes and Sichuan  pepper.

ingredients for shallot chili oil

Chili oil mise en place

Here’s what to gather for this recipe:

  • Sichuan chili flakes. Sichuan makes their chili flakes by frying whole chilies in vegetable oil before grinding them into the perfect mix of flakes, powder and seeds. The frying makes for a distinctive flavor, color and texture that other chili flakes don’t have, but coarse Korean red pepper will do in a pinch.
  • Peanut oil, preferably made in China or Taiwan, as theirs have more flavor than American peanut oil.
  • Sichuan peppercorns, dry toasted in a pan until fragrant. Grind to a coarse powder in a spice or coffee grinder and sift out most of the yellow-husk bits that don’t break down.
ground chili flakes in dipping bowls

Sichuan chili flakes make a deep-red, moderately hot chili oil

Fry shallots on a low simmer until golden

Fry shallots on a low simmer until golden

chili oil ingredients

Pour hot shallot oil directly onto dry ingredients in heat-proof jar

shallot chili oil

Mala sweet and hot

Making Hongyou #2: Crispy Shallot Chili Oil

Taylor Holliday | The Mala Market | Cooking Sichuan in America


  • 2 cups peanut oil or canola oil (or mix of peanut oil and canola oil)
  • ½ cup Sichuan chili flakes (toasted and ground chilies with flakes and powder)
  • cup finely diced shallot
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground Sichuan pepper see note
  • ½ teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • ¼ cup sesame oil


  • Put Sichuan chili flakes, Sichuan pepper and salt in a heat-proof glass pint jar with a tight-fitting lid.
  • Heat oil in a small sauce pan on a medium-low flame until a test bit of shallot sizzles when it hits the oil. Add all shallots to the oil and fry slowly until they are golden brown, which should take several minutes. Watch closely, and do not burn them.
  • When flakes are nicely golden, immediately pour them and their oil into the jar on top of the chili flakes. (If your pan does not have a pour spout, transfer first to a glass measuring cup that does.) The oil should be at the correct temperature to lightly toast the chili flakes, which should sizzle a bit when the oil hits them. Let calm, then stir the oil to mix the ingredients. Leave to cool, then add sesame oil and mix well. Cool completely before capping with lid. Flavors are best after they have had a couple days to infuse.


Ground Sichuan pepper: Sort Sichuan peppercorns and discard any black seeds or twigs. Toast in a dry skillet or toaster oven until pods start to smell very fragrant, but do not brown them. Let peppercorns cool, then grind in a spice grinder or in a mortar & pestle to your desired coarseness. Sift out any yellow husks that don't break down. Sichuan pepper powder will retain its potent flavor and numbing punch for only a few weeks.


Taylor Holliday

The Mala Market all began when Taylor, a former journalist, created The Mala Market blog as a place to document her adventures learning to cook Sichuan food for Fongchong, her recently adopted 11-year-old daughter. They discovered through the years that the secret to making food that tastes like it would in China is using the same ingredients that are used in China. The mother-daughter team eventually began visiting Sichuan's factories and farms together and, in 2016, opened The Mala Market, America’s source for heritage Sichuan ingredients and Chinese pantry essentials.

22 Responses

  1. Ian says:

    I made your “Hong You #2” oil this afternoon and the house smells really fantastic. I also love the taste–although I realize the flavour is likely to get even better with a little more time.

    I should also say that have been enjoying your blog a great deal. Great recipes and great stories. I really hope you are teaching your daughter how to cook all this wonderful food!

    • Taylor Holliday says:

      Hi Ian,
      So glad the chili oil worked for you and truly appreciate your taking the time to let me know. And thanks for the encouragement! My daughter is much more interested in eating than cooking, but I’m working on her. 🙂

  2. Norry says:

    Hi Taylor,
    Thank you so much for sharing with us your great knowledge of Sichuan cuisine! I myself thought I was a Sichuan food specialist but nothing compared to you! I went to Chengdu last year by myself just to eat Sichuan three time a day for several days. I too brought red, green and lighter green hoa jao, red chili and Pixiandouban. And I may go back there in December before going home to Tokyo for the holiday season. I love Sichuan MaLa!
    I made the hong you #2 and I really like it. I bought the two Lao Gang Ma products too!
    I can’t thank you enough for your wonderful blog website!

    • Taylor Holliday says:

      Thank you so much, Norry! I always love to hear from a fellow mala lover. I hope the site inspires you to cook Sichuan when you can’t be there. That’s what I do!

  3. Jenny says:

    Hi, Taylor,
    I enjoy reading your blog and the tests you made before sharing. I made one batch of the Crispy Shallot Chili Oil and it is really good. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Jenny says:

    Hi, Taylor,
    Do I need to refrigerate the chili oil? If not, how long will they last in the pantry? I am thinking making some for family members but in case they don’t use it up as quickly as I do, I want to make sure I know how to store the oil properly. Thank you.

    • Taylor Holliday says:

      Hi Jenny,
      I’m glad you like the shallot chili oil. I don’t think there’s any need to refrigerate it. I’ve kept it for several months, and it’s still good. Thanks for your comments!

  5. Guy says:

    Hi Taylor, I’m looking to replicate chilli oil like my beloved Lee Kum Kee-brand Chow Chiu Chilli oil, but without the horrible preservatives, msg and excessive saltiness and your recipe looks flavourful and delicious! My question for you is, will the korean red pepper flakes give a similar heat level to the szechuan chilli flakes? The korean red pepper powder I have is quite mild, and I love me some spicy!

    • Taylor Holliday says:

      I’ll have to try that one! The Korean flakes I’ve bought have been fairly hot, and I’ve found Sichuan and Korean flakes to be of a similar heat level. They are not super hot, but concentrated in a chili oil they make a pretty hot one. However, if you want crazy hot, you might try the Thai chili flakes, though most Chinese chili oils wouldn’t be that hot. Good luck!

  6. Misisipi Mike Wolf says:

    What an amazing website!! A site like this fulfills the educational and cultural promises of the internet age.

    Thank you!!

  7. Claire Yang says:

    I’m allergic to peanut is there any other oil I can substitute for it. thanks

  8. Marla says:

    I just made this and it smells fantastic. Your first Hong You recipe worked very well for me so I expect this will too.

    What do you like this shallot version on best (or what flavors does it compliment best, in your opinion)?

    • Taylor Holliday says:

      Good question! I use these two chili oils pretty much interchangeably, depending on which one I have at hand. I think the shallot version is particularly good in noodle sauces, including the shallot bits. You might not want to use it in things that call for a pure chili taste or look. The original version has a toastier taste, because the oil gets hotter and toasts the chilies more. The shallot version has a sweeter, more shallot taste, of course. 🙂 Thanks for writing!

  9. R.B. Quinn says:

    Hi Taylor. Can you show me a pic of the Korean pepper package to help me find it at K&S? Thanks. R.B. Quinn [email protected]

  10. Anu says:

    I love this recipe! I found that the chilli I had was not too hot/spicy, so I added some regular chill flakes and that was perfect! I love the shallots and the szechuan peppercorns! So aromatic! I go to dumpling restaurants, and I have to say this chilli oil recipe was better than the restaurants especially when I added the extra hot chili flakes! I want to share my oil with my family, but I want to eat it all by myself! I gave it to my sis and bro-in- law – and they loved it! My sis (like me) ate it for lunch and dinner everyday adding it stir fries, steamed veggies, indian dhal curry (basically almost everything she ate!) Thank you for the recipe and would highly recommend adding extra hot chili flakes to the mix. I also decreased the oil amount as it is the flakes and shallots I am after. The balance was perfect!

  1. May 11, 2022

    […] 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 […]

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