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Sichuan Chili Oil Recipe ft. Caiziyou (Lajiaoyou, 辣椒油)

The Mala Market
Author: Kathy Yuan | The Mala Market | Inspiration & Ingredients for Sichuan Cooking


  • Thermometer
  • Sealable, heat-proof, nonreactive glass or porcelain container


  • 30 grams ground chilies, divided (see note) approx. 5 tablespoons
  • 150 grams caiziyou (roasted rapeseed oil), divided approx. ⅔ cup


  • Begin with a third of the chili mixture in your heatproof container. In a wok or saucepot, add the cold oil. If attaching a hands-free thermometer, take care that the sensor end is sufficiently submerged for an accurate reading but not touching the metal of the cooking vessel.
  • Heat oil until smoking, about 410°F/210°C on a medium heat setting*, stirring occasionally to ensure heating is even. Turn off heat and allow to cool on its own, taking care not to exceed 464°F/240°C.
    *If your heating element is too hot, your caiziyou will heat unevenly, producing smoke earlier on. If this happens (smoking heavily by 375°F/190°C), it's better to take the oil off the heat early than risk burning the oil. It's always possible your temperature gauge may not be perfectly accurate, so learning to judge by sight/smell is the most reliable skill for mastering your unique cooking environment!
  • Once cooked oil cools to about 356°F/180°C*, pour a third of the oil into your container with the ground chilies, stirring constantly. It should bubble vigorously, but not burn. While it's still bubbling, add another third of the ground chilies.
    *For the right fragrance at this step, the oil must be no cooler than 356°F/180°C and no hotter than 375°F/190°C.
  • Once cooked oil cools to about 302°F/150°C, pour another third of the oil into the container, stirring constantly. Add the remaining third of the ground chilies.
  • Once cooked oil cools to about 248°F/120°C, pour the remaining third of oil into the container, stirring constantly. Cover the container and let rest on counter for at least 24 hours before using.


To produce your own ground chilies, dried chilies are chopped (seeds separated + reintroduced after grinding), toasted 'til crispy on low heat, then cooled before pounding down to a coarse grind. Some families dry-toast their chilies and others fry lightly in caiziyou; the difference is subjective. As for grinding, most folks in the U.S. don't own a big enough mortar & pestle for this operation, so pulsing with a food processor suffices. Just make sure you don't process too far and end up with more powder than flake.
If you've never cooked with caiziyou before or aren't used to wok smoke, there's nothing to  fear about the preliminary smoking step. The smoke point of our hot expeller-pressed caiziyou is about 410F (210C), which must be met to deodorize the raw flavor before using. Trust your nose and eyes first, not your thermometer. If you smell any burning or acrid notes, turn off the heat immediately.
The flash point of caiziyou is around 620F (327C) and the boiling point is around 635F (335C), so you are in no danger of a grease fire if you turn off the heat source when prompted. 
You can watch this video for what to expect from heating caiziyou up to its flame point (no English, but temperatures shown in Celsius). Take care when handling hot oil.