I always have chile oil in a jar in the pantry. My mother makes her own, and my recipe is an adaptation of hers.
Ingredients & tools
- at least 12 whole dried chilis
- at least 1/2 cup of neutral oil
- large mixing bowl
- container for storing chili oil
- cast iron pan
- blade grinder / mortar & pestle
- one chopstick
Sourcing, tools, etc.
Start with whole dried chilis, not chili flakes. I live in California, and I prefer Mexican dried chilis (those used for Mexican cooking, like chile de arbol), despite making a Chinese recipe.
Don’t let sourcing difficulties hold you back though, any whole dried chili at all can be made into a chili oil.
I look for ‘fresh’ dried chilis. Freshness is an interesting concept when it comes to something dried–I mean a chile that has a pliable quality to it still, and it isn’t so brittle that it feels like dust waiting to happen in your hand. If you live somewhere with hotter summers than I do, you can grow your own peppers and dry them yourself to make chile oil.
You’ll also want something to grind your toasted chilis with. I use a cheap blade grinder. Something like this serves nicely if you don’t already have one. Of course, you can always use a mortar and pestle but it’s really not necessary for this recipe. How fine you grind the peppers is up to you, but enjoy a toothiness to my chile oils–a fine dust is a little too much grinding.
Remove stems from dried chiles. While doing this, you can shake out any loose seeds if you’d like a slightly less spicy chile oil. I don’t usually bother.
Heat a well seasoned cast iron pan on the stove. Do not use any oil. Toast the chiles on both sides until they smell fragrant. Sometimes they blister! That’s a good thing! If they burn and blacken, start over, or remove the ones that are burnt. A little bit of burnt pepper is OK, but too much creates an acrid oil that you’re not going to enjoy eating. It takes around 2 minutes on each side for the peppers to toast, but watch carefully, peppers vary in toasting time. I usually flip them over individually with chopsticks, a spatula is too coarse of a cooking tool for this job.
Remove chiles from the pan as soon as they’re toasted. If some are ready sooner than others, remove those first! No rules here except get the chiles toasted and keep ‘em from burning.
Let the chiles cool a little and then grind them in a cheapo blade grinder.
Put the ground peppers in your mixing bowl and set to the side.
Return the pan to the stove. Heat some neutral high heat oil (grapeseed, canola) in the cast iron pan. The oil is heated through when a chopstick placed in the oil looks as if the oil is ‘bubbling’ around it. When you reached this point, pour the oil over your ground chiles in the mixing bowl. Marvel at the sizzle and smell. Let cool a bit and then pour into your container.
The chile oil is ready a few hours after made, but tastes better as it ages. It keeps indefinitely at room temperature if you use clean utensils when serving it.
- on soups
- on daal
- as part of a dipping sauce for dumplings
- as part of other sauces for stir frying and other types of cooking
- drizzled on pickles
- on cheese