Why Chili Crisp Is the Condiment I Put on Literally Everything

May  3, 2019
Photo by Ty Mecham

Some people go through hairstyle phases or Spotify-playlist phases or favorite-shoe phases. I go through sauce phases.

Which means, depending on the week, you’ll find me putting horseradish yogurt or Sriracha mayo or kale-cashew pesto or caper-raisin vinaigrette (hey hey, Six Seasons) on absolutely everything.

But for the past several months, I’ve been in a committed relationship with one sauce and— gasp—it isn’t even homemade: Lao Gan Ma’s Spicy Chili Crisp (or, as we’ll call it from here on forth, LGM’s SCC).

It's good on avocado toast. Photo by Emma Laperruque
It's good on scrambled eggs. Photo by Emma Laperruque
It's good on cacio e pepe. Photo by Emma Laperruque
It's good on steamed broccoli. Photo by Emma Laperruque

While this started to be produced in China in 1997, it’s only recently become an It condiment in the United States. Last year alone, Taste wrote about how “the cult of spicy chili crisp is real” (it is), NY Mag’s Mia Leimkuhler said “I panic if I don’t have at least five jars of this spicy chili crisp” (same), and Serious Eats published a copycat DIY recipe (imitation is the ultimate compliment).

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Top Comment:
“I once made the mistake of buying Chiu Chow Chili Oil because my Asian grocery store was out of SCC - what a disappointment! An overpowering sweetness and no crisp. Gotta have the real deal.”
— Anna S.

What makes it so special? LGM’s SCC is spicy, savory, and salty. But, most importantly, as the name indicates, it is crispy. While other condiments can easily check off those other boxes, it is in my experience the crunchy-crumbly texture that makes Chili Crisp so singularly addictive.

Oh, and the MSG—aka, monosodium glutamate. If you’re about to raise your eyebrows at this massively misunderstood ingredient, please read this first. The short story is: MSG is a jolt of umami, and umami makes food taste better, which means LGM’s SCC makes food taste better.

It's good on smacked cucumber salad. Photo by Emma Laperruque
It's good on pineapple. Photo by Emma Laperruque
It's good on papaya. Photo by Emma Laperruque
It's good on vanilla ice cream. Photo by Emma Laperruque

Like, all foods. If there’s something this condiment doesn’t play nicely with, I have yet to find it—and I’ve been looking. Here’s a totally incomplete, in-the-works list of all the things LGM’s SCC improves:

  • Saucy noodles
  • Cheesy pasta
  • Buttered rice
  • Pan-seared steak
  • Roast chicken
  • Blanched tofu
  • Vegetables (cooked any which way)
  • Brothy-chunky soup
  • Smacked cucumber salad
  • Lime-spritzed fruit
  • Ice cream (yes, ice cream)

And here are just a few of the many recipes on the site that would be even happier with a dollop of the good stuff on top:

Chili Crisp Brownies À La Mode

Have you tried chili crisp? Tell us what you love to put it on in the comments!

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Anna Shoemaker Bourreau
    Anna Shoemaker Bourreau
  • Deb Gain-Braley
    Deb Gain-Braley
  • Tracy Maguire
    Tracy Maguire
  • nsilverstein
  • Dot L.
    Dot L.
Emma is a writer and recipe developer at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles "on the fly," baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., reviewing restaurants, and writing articles about everything from how to use leftover mashed potatoes to the history of pies in North Carolina. Now she lives in Maplewood, New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's cooking column, Big Little Recipes, all about big flavor and little ingredient lists. And see what she's up to on Instagram and Twitter at @emmalaperruque.


Anna S. October 11, 2019
I totally agree on the power of SCC! I discovered it at an all-you-can-eat dumpling place in Paris years ago and have kept a stock of it ever since. I have a similar addiction to the Chinkiang vinegar they served also - mix the two together for the most umami blend ever! I once made the mistake of buying Chiu Chow Chili Oil because my Asian grocery store was out of SCC - what a disappointment! An overpowering sweetness and no crisp. Gotta have the real deal.
Deb G. October 3, 2019
Makes a great "savory" instead of sweet oatmeal.
Author Comment
Emma L. October 3, 2019
Oh yes, I love doing this! With a little soy sauce mixed into the oatmeal and a soft-boiled egg on top.
Tracy M. September 13, 2019
I am OBSESSED with this …. I eat it with a spoon while I am adding it to anything and everything I can. Its addicting and so so so good :) I get it on amazon.

nsilverstein August 26, 2019
Can anyone help me find Chili Crisp in nyc?
Dot L. August 21, 2019
I just bought a jar of this yesterday. We had it on Heidi Swanson’s Thai Zucchini Soup which is a green curry, lime, and coconut soup served with rice and herbs. It was really good. I think my jar will definitely get some use!
M May 16, 2019
Thanks for this. I've never tasted something that had so much flavour beyond the spice. It's killer on broiled toast. Garlic bread may have been de-throned.
Sonlyka May 13, 2019
Like Emily, we love the similar chili crunch made in Colorado. Will definitely try this one now.
Our go-to is on a mild cheese or Brie on a cheese platter.
Pat Y. May 12, 2019
I'm glad so many comments show that lots of people love it. But, ohhhhhh! is it HOT! My mouth is still burning! I'm afraid I'm one customer that can't handle it!
Barbra F. May 12, 2019
This stuff is amazing!! I love it. So often after reading a Food52 article, I purchase things, in the end, I am not so fond of (no one's fault, my curiosity get the better me) But this is the best thing I have tasted in ages. Thank you so much for introducing​ me to this, it's the best and I can't wait to try it on everything.
Jay H. May 12, 2019
If you love the chili crisp sauce, you must also try the, " Chili oil with black bean," sauce: It tastes like chili crisp with the added umami punch of fermented black beans. FYI, " Lao Gan Ma," apparently translates to, " Old godmother," but we call it, "Grumpy lady sauce," which better reflects her image on the bottle.
Cody K. May 8, 2019
just ordered a grip of this, i am hyped
Jennifer May 8, 2019
WoW this is amazing thank you for sharing, also has anyone tried these resusable storage bags before for left overs? They are a life saver! thought i would share!
Stephen A. May 6, 2019
Thanks, I have never heard of it. We have friends who are Chinese, and bring me HOT stuff often. Mamma Guan will not share her Kimchi recipe so they gave me a 1 kilo tub.
Brian M. May 6, 2019
Holy cow, I am saved! I have been addicted to CC for years, but I have never met anyone who had ever even heard of it. I thought that I was some weirdo addicted to an obscure product that I had stumbled over in a tiny market. People looked askance when I raved about it. Now I find that I have Sisters & Brothers United by Chili Crisp! Scrambled eggs and all Asian dishes are certainly go-to’s. But try it on peanut butter toast. Sometimes as a snack I just eat a spoonful of peanut butter that has been dipped in Chili Crisp!
Mary A. May 6, 2019
Love, love, love this stuff.
Sometimes, I’ll just eat it straight from the jar.
I know that sounds terrible but sometimes you just need that spicy crispy texture oozing around in your mouth.
Tracy M. September 13, 2019
I agree with you 100% !!
Lisa May 5, 2019
Oh my is so funny reading this because I have been obsessed with this condiment since moving from CA to OH. I literally use it in almost everything I cook (Asian and non-Asian dishes).

When I do a simple stir fry dish, I put some soy sauce and LGM’s SSC in my rice and mix it, then eat that with the stir fry.

I definitely freak out when I start running low :) I’m also moving to LA (Louisiana) soon and am scared the limited Asian markets there may not have it O.O!
Melinda May 5, 2019
It’s amazing! Our son who lives in japan started sending it to us and we love it!!
Kristin B. May 5, 2019
Is there a link somewhere to purchase? I may have missed it? Amazon?
Emily S. May 7, 2019
Most Asian grocery stores will have it. Don’t buy it on Amazon, it is always ridiculously priced there and always a couple of bucks and change in the Asian grocery stores. The sauce is from Taiwan (not China as mentioned in the article) but I have seen it in all types of Asian markets. Good luck!
Emily S. May 7, 2019
2.99 at my local Asian market, I just checked my jar. (And my mistake, it is indeed from China after I read the label again...I was thinking of a different condiment)
Zorayda N. September 14, 2019
The brand is Lao Gan Ma and you can order it through Amazon but make sure you order the right one. They make different products and they look similar.
TeresaE May 4, 2019
HELLO, MY FELLOW CHILI CRISP FANATIC! I thought I was the only one that put it on ice cream.
Liz A. May 4, 2019
if you like this you must try CHILE CRUNCH. my first flatmate when i arrived to nyc in 2013 was from the west coast and obsessed with this stuff. she literally had her friends mail her packages of it (and tbh, i do like it a bit better than LGM's). its more of a latin influenced version.
Eric K. May 5, 2019