Red Chile Oil with Toasty Bits (Chinese Mother Sauce #2)

April 19, 2017
4 Ratings
Photo by Bobbi Lin
  • Makes about 1½ cups
Author Notes

If your experience with chile oil up to now has been limited to supermarket brands, you are in for a real treat here. The spices slowly crisp up in the oil, tamping down their fiery natures and resulting in a crunchy, delightful gravel topped with a deliciously scented oil. Read the full article about Chinese mother sauces here. —Madame Huang

What You'll Need
  • 2 cups peanut or vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
  • 1/2 cup finely ground dried chiles
  • 1/4 cup coarsely ground dried chiles
  • 1/4 cup whole Sichuan peppercorns
  • 1 whole dried or fresh orange peel, removed in a single strip, if you can
  1. Pour the oils into a 4-cup saucepan and add all of the chiles and the Sichuan peppercorns. Bring the oil to a boil and then immediately reduce the heat to low so that the oil gently bubbles; do not cook the chiles over higher heat, as they will burn.
  2. After about 10 minutes, place the orange peel in the oil. I found through trial and error that the best way to cook the chile oil to perfection is to simmer the peppers over low heat for another 15 to 20 minutes or so, until the orange peel has turned brown. At this point, the peppers will be crispy but not browned, and the oil will have a gentle smokiness and will still be bright red.
  3. Remove the saucepan from the heat and let it sit overnight. You can either discard the orange peel or chop it finely and add it to back to the oil for a subtle, citrusy perfume. Either strain out the oil into a squeeze bottle and keep the solids in a jar, or else combine them in a jar. If you’re not using it up in a couple of days, for optimum freshness, then keep it chilled.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Madame Huang
    Madame Huang
  • Andrew Josefchak
    Andrew Josefchak
  • Chris Glenn
    Chris Glenn
Carolyn Phillips is a food writer, scholar, and artist. She is the author of the fully illustrated All Under Heaven: Recipes from the 35 Cuisines of China (McSweeney’s + Ten Speed Press, August 2016) and The Dim Sum Field Guide: A Taxonomy of Dumplings, Buns, Meats, Sweets, and Other Specialties of the Chinese Teahouse (Ten Speed Press, August 2016). Her work has appeared in such places as Best Food Writing 2015, Lucky Peach, Gastronomica, Buzzfeed, Alimentum, Huffington Post, Food52, Zester Daily, and at the 2013 MAD Symposium in Copenhagen. She and her husband were cultural consultants on the third Ghostbusters movie, her weekly blog is Madame Huang's Kitchen (, she Tweets as @madamehuang, and Instagrams as @therealmadamehuang. Carolyn’s art has appeared everywhere from museums and galleries to various magazines and journals to Nickelodeon’s Supah Ninjas series. She worked for over a decade as a professional Mandarin interpreter in the federal and California state courts, lived in Taiwan for eight years, translated countless books and articles, and married into a Chinese family more than 30 years ago.

3 Reviews

Andrew J. April 29, 2017
Two questions: First, do you recommend removing the seeds from the chiles? And also, what types of chiles do you usually use?
Madame H. April 25, 2017
The size and variety of the orange won't make that much difference here. Just use a paring knife to remove mainly the orange zest without too much of the pith which, as you correctly note, can be bitter. This sauce has so many powerful flavors going on that more or less peel won't make a huge difference. Happy cooking!
Chris G. April 23, 2017
Madame Huang:
One question: With all due respect, what kind of orange, since there is so much variation in size and flavor of the oranges and the peels as well? And does it matter if it the "peeled" zest or the whole peel, white pith and all? The reason I'm asking is I've seen so many recipes that tell you to try to remove only the zest and leave the white pith which imparts a bitter taste in the food?