Chili has long been a staple in many cuisines, increasing the demand for varieties of spicy condiments. One of the most favored other than hot sauce is chili oil.
In a 2019 survey by a leading producer of herb and spice flavor extracts, more than 50% of surveyed consumers said they prefer spicy options when cooking and dining out.
You can use chili oil as the base of your recipe, as a finishing sauce for your dish, or simply serve it as a dipping sauce. Here are some alternatives you can consider in a snap if you run out of them.
- Chili Garlic Oil
- Cayenne Pepper Oil
- Bird’s Eye Chili Oil
- Sichuan Pepper Oil
- Sambal Oil
- Tianjin Chili Oil
- Ghost Pepper Extract
- Serrano Chili and Shallot Crisp
- Sweet Chili Sauce
Read on if you are keen to find out how these alternatives work well for your recipes. But first, let us understand about the origin of this ingredient and also some benefits of using chili oil which is a favorite in many restaurants.
14 Best Substitute For Chili Oil
Chili oil is made from chili peppers steeped in vegetable oil and is generally red in color. Other oils used include sesame oil, soybean oil, grapeseed oil, peanut oil, olive oil, and rapeseed oil.
You can find many brands in the market, but the best chili oil is often homemade.
Chili oil can provide the following benefits:
- lower blood pressure
- improved cognitive levels
- Pain relief
- Reduced inflammation
- Immune system stimulation
- Chronic disease prevention
These benefits are from the chili alone, and do not include the benefits derived from the oil used.
We recommend the best substitute for regular chili oil is chili garlic oil. The addition of garlic enhances the spiciness of the oil. It is If you are out of chili oil or the kind you are currently using does not suit your palate, the best alternative is to create your own.
You can use most chilies and infuse them in oil to create a homemade chili oil. Creating your own is the best substitute if you are out of store-bought chili oil.
Chili Garlic Oil
Chili garlic oil is a favorite by many restaurants and a popular chili oil variety next to regular chili oil. You can find it ready to use in the market, but you can also make it your own.
Garlic has a pungent, spicy taste when raw that turns fragrant and nutty when cooked. You can combine the garlic with your preferred chilies, but use a neutral oil like grapeseed oil or avocado oil. The oil should not overpower the taste of the chilies and garlic.
Cayenne Pepper Oil
Cayenne is one of the most commonly used base pepper in making red pepper flakes. It gives quite a punch with a Scoville Heat Unit (SHU) of 30000 to 50000.
To make your cayenne pepper oil, steep cayenne pepper flakes in peanut oil to achieve a similar taste and appearance.
You can buy the red cayenne pepper flakes or make your own. If you cannot find dried cayenne, you can purchase fresh cayenne and sun-dried or oven-dried them. Crush the dried cayenne in a blender before infusing them in oil.
You can use cayenne pepper oil the same way you use chili oil.
Bird’s Eye Chili Oil
Bird’s Eye Chili are small pointed chilies that grow in small bushes. They are a staple in Thai cuisine. It has a peppery, fruity taste and intense heat of 50000 to 100000 SHU.
Bird’s Eye chili does not darken the oil too much, so expect your oil to look pale to colorless. You can also adjust the intensity of its heat by adding raw chopped bird’s eye chili.
You can infuse bird’s eye chili in a mixture of peanut oil, cinnamon, and garlic cloves simmered for an hour.
Sichuan Pepper Oil
Sichuan Pepper Oil is not made from chili but of peppercorns. Sichuan Pepper Oil comes in 2 varieties, red and green.
No, the oil does not come in those colors. The colors refer to the color of the peppercorn used. The oil comes from any neutral oil infused with red or green peppercorns.
The green variety has a more intense numbing flavor. Generally, the red peppercorn variety is recommended for use. It has a lemony, sweet, spicy, numbing taste.
Sichuan pepper oil has a pale color. It is a good substitute for chili oil as a frying base or a topping.
Sambal is an Indonesian chili paste or sauce. It is made from different chili varieties mixed with additional ingredients like shallots, ginger, shrimp paste, scallions, garlic, lime juice, and palm sugar.
To make the oil, simmer sambal in peanut oil to make the infusion. The overall taste is mild, sweet, and spicy.
You can use sambal oil the same way you use chili oil, including marinades.
Tianjin Chili Oil
Tianjin chili oil is a mixture of Tianjin chilies, Sichuan peppercorns, red chilies, and spices infused with peanut oil or any high heat oil (sesame, avocado, etc.).
Tianjin is a light chili, but combined with red chilies and Sichuan peppercorn, the hotness kicks up a notch. The pungent, musty taste and spicy aroma of Tianjin chilies remains dominant despite the addition of other chili varieties.
They are often used in Sichuan dishes, especially soups and stir-fries.
Ghost Pepper Extract
The Indian ghost pepper has a Scoville Heat Unit of over a million, making it one of the hottest peppers in the world. It is about 3 inches long and ripens into wrinkled, red-colored skin.
Ghost pepper has a fruity, sweet, slightly smoky taste and spicy aroma. The heat builds up slowly, so you can enjoy the flavor before the spiciness kicks in.
Like other chilies, it is nutritious. However, you only get a fraction of its nutrients because you can only consume them in relatively small amounts.
To make the oil, infuse ghost pepper in peanut oil. You can use it as a base oil for stir-fries, drizzle on salsa, and add to your dipping sauce, fish sauce, and marinades.
Chili crisp is almost the same as chili oil, except that chili crisp has fried bits of chilies and other ingredients that add a crunchy texture to the oil.
Serrano Chili and Shallot Crisps
Serrano chili has a slightly citrusy and earthy flavor that is more intense than its relative, the Jalapenos. The oil is infused with fried serrano chili, shallots, toasted garlic, ginger, and other spices.
Unlike chili oil, where only the liquid remains, the chili bits and other ingredients are not filtered but left in the oil. This results in a tangy, fiery textured condiment.
You can also use non-oil-based condiments to replicate or create a similar flavor profile as chili oil.
Sweet Chili Sauce
It is not chili oil, but sweet chili sauce is often used for dipping, so it is the best chili oil substitute for dipping sauce. Their combined spicy, savory, and sweet notes complement many Asian and Thai dishes.
You can create the sauce in your kitchen using simple ingredients like garlic, vinegar, sugar, lime, and red chili flakes or chili paste.
Tabasco Hot Sauce
Tabasco is a Mexican variety of chili pepper and the main ingredient in making the famous Tabasco hot sauce. Hot sauce is a generic name and does not necessarily mean it is Tabasco.
Hot sauce is any fermented chili sauce made from vinegar, salt, and any variety of chilies. It is not oily like chili oil, but it is saucy and spicy. The hotness depends on the Scoville heat of the chilies used.
Even if it is not oily, you still get the same spicy, slightly sweet taste of chili oil.
Sriracha is a sauce similar to Tabasco sauce but has less potency. Sriracha is made from red Jalapenos with a low Scoville heat of 2500 to 8000. Tabasco chili has SHU of 30000 to 50000.
However, comparing both sauces apples to apples, the Scoville heat is not much different. Tabasco sauce has 2500 SHU, while Sriracha has 2200 SHU.
How can it be close when there is a huge difference in the SHU of Tabasco and red jalapenos? This is due to the ratio of chili peppers used in creating both sauces.
The chili and garlic flavors stand out in Sriracha and less of the vinegar.
Gochujang is a thick paste from Korea made from fermented soybeans, sugar, sticky rice, and chilies. The paste is savory with a burnt flavor in red color.
Gochujang is a thick paste and requires thinning in a liquid. It is used in braises and long-simmering stews. You can also use it in marinating Korean bulgogi.
Gochujang has a sweet, salty, with hints of meaty taste, and can be extraordinarily spicy.
You would probably find this in specialty stores that sell international products.
Black Bean Sauce
This may sound unusual, but you can use black bean sauce as a substitute. Simply add chili flakes and let them steep.
Black bean sauce is a favorite condiment in many Asian and Chinese dishes. It has a salty flavor, but with the addition of chili flakes, it can match the taste of chili oil.
Another surprising substitute is soy sauce. Soy sauce is a staple in Asian cuisine as a cooking ingredient and dipping sauce. Add chili flakes and steep soy sauce to create a salty, spicy flavor.
Add lime juice to your spicy soy sauce to make an excellent dipping sauce for your dim sum.
Chili Oil Substitute Related FAQs
What oil should I use to make homemade chili oil?
If you want to make homemade chili oil, the two most important characteristics the oil should have is a high smoke point and a light to neutral taste.
The best oil for making homemade chili oil are peanut oil, avocado oil, vegetable oil, sesame oil, and grapeseed oil.
Are Sichuan peppercorns the same as black peppercorns?
No, they are not.
Black peppercorn comes from the pepper family with spicy hotness and is used in all cuisines. Sichuan is not a pepper with a tingling, numbing effect on the mouth and is generally used in Sichuan dishes.
Can I use chili oil for pizza?
Chili flakes and hot sauce are the most common spicy toppings used on pizzas, but you can also drizzle chili oil on your pizza.
It adds moistness to your crust and the same spicy punch as chili flakes.