around the world

Crispy Chili Oil

If there’s one staple that is constantly running out in my kitchen, it’s chili oil. Specifically Lao Gan Ma Crispy Chili Oil. While I’ve never had a problem stocking up on these jars in my pantry, recently I felt like taking on the challenge of making my own. If you’re looking for a crispier and spicier homemade alternative to this classic chili oil, look no further.

Which chili peppers can I use?

Depending on your spice tolerance, different peppers will achieve a different result. Realistically you can use any fresh pepper for this recipe. I used a combination of Serrano, Rawit Indonesian pepper and Lemon Habanero peppers as I was aiming for a spicier version of the classic Lao Gan Ma oil. For a much milder oil you could try jalapeño or even bell pepper.

Many other recipes use only dried chilis instead of fresh. I personally find the combination of both fresh peppers and dried flakes works really nicely as the fresh peppers crisp up very well.

Why make it yourself?

The best part about making this chili oil yourself is to be able to adjust spice level and flavours. Addition of star anise, cinnamon or cardamom adds depth and flavour. Adjust the recipe to suit your taste!

In addition to this, the original Lao Gan Ma oil– as well as other standard chili oils– contain MSG, a flavour enhancer commonly added in Chinese foods as well as canned or processed foods. It’s made by fermenting carb sources like sugar beet, sugar cane, and molasses. While the research around MSG’s health effects is conflicting, it can be substituted for sea salt, which you probably already have in your kitchen and is a naturally occurring flavour enhancer packed with minerals!

How can I use this chili oil?

The options are endless. Not only does this oil add spice, but also adds umami, enhancing flavour or any dish!

  • Drizzle it over noodles
  • Swirl it into a soup or broth
  • Scoop it onto grilled vegetables
  • Pile it onto some fried rice
  • Spoon it onto eggs
  • Drip all over dumplings
  • I even dare say.. you can spice up pasta or pizza with this oil.

How can I store this chili oil?

You can keep the oil at room temperature in a sealed container or jar for a couple few weeks as long as the oil fully submerges the crispy bits. For longer storage however, keep this oil in the refrigerator. It will keep for at least one month.


  • 10 fresh chili peppers
  • 1 1/2 cup sunflower seed oil
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1/4 cup dried chili flakes
  • 2 pods star anise
  • 3 pods of cardamom
  • 10 cloves of garlic
  • 4 spring onions or 2 shallots
  • 1 tsp dried ginger granules (optional – or fresh minced ginger)
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt 


  1. Mince garlic. Finely chop spring onion (remove the green part of onion, you will only need the white portion).
  2. Cut chili peppers in half along the length of the pepper and remove the seeds. Finely chop the peppers.
  3. Pour oil into a sauce pan. Add garlic, onion, chili peppers, peppercorns, star anise, cardamom and ginger granules to the oil.
  4. Heat the oil on low-medium heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes, until the ingredients brown. The size of the chopped peppers and garlic (and the temperature of the oil) will determine how long before they crisp up. To avoid burning, keep your eyes on the oil during this phase. Once the ingredients start to golden, they will brown very quickly.
  5. Remove the pot from heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes allowing the flavours to infuse further.
  6. In the meantime, in a separate bowl mix chilli flakes, paprika, soy sauce, salt and sugar.
  7. Strain the oil into the chili flake mixture. Keep the crispy pepper/garlic/onion bits in the strainer, setting aside to cool and crisp up fully for an hour approximately.
  8. Pick out the star anise and cardamom pods. Swirl the crispy bits back into the oil.
  9. Pour into a jar or container and refrigerate the oil overnight. The flavours will develop further the longer the oil infuses.


I’m really excited about this recipe, it’s definitely a new favourite of mine. Questions while making your own batch? Don’t hesitate to ask me! Happy to help you out on this spicy oily journey. Curious to know how it turns out for you!