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Best Chili Oil Substitute: 20 Great Alternatives


Chili oil is one of the most common condiments in households. It adds a kick to dishes and livens up recipes that otherwise will be bland. No wonder most recipes call for it, but what if you’ve run out and need a chili oil substitute? 

jar filled with chili oil and topped with red pepper.

What Are the Best Uses of Chili Oil? 

You can drizzle chili oil over pizza or pasta. It can also be added to sauces if you want a spicier dish. Chili oil can also be used as dip by itself, or you can combine it with other ingredients for a little zing. 

You may also put this condiment into burgers, noodles, and fried rice.

It can also be an ingredient in marinades for meat and dressings for salads. 

It is a versatile condiment; you can use it in almost everything. You can even use it for cooking meat and vegetables.

Best Chili Oil Substitutes

With tons of uses for chili oil, it is not surprising that you will end up with an empty jar at one time or another. It does not take too much effort to replace it. We have a list for you to choose from below. 

Here are the best hot chili oil substitutes.

1. Cayenne Pepper

One of the best chili oil substitutes is cayenne peppers. They pack a good amount of heat and are often used to make chili oil.

They can replace chili oil where the liquid nature of the ingredient is not significant. Cayenne peppers are easy to find and inexpensive, too. 

2. Sichuan Sauce

This sauce can replace chili oil in most recipes and is made from Sichuan peppercorns. This sauce is more is thicker than chili oil, though.

Its consistency makes it better for dipping and versatile enough to be used in cooking. Sichuan sauce is also spicy, so you’ll not miss the heat in your dish.

3. Gochujang

Gochujang is a Korean chili paste made from sticky rice, soybeans, sugar, and chilis. It provides moderate heat, although it is thicker than chili oil.

Gochujang is a paste and not a sauce. Before using it, you should thin it first if you plan to make a dip. You can also use this paste in stews and soups. 

4. Soy Sauce

Soy sauce is a kitchen staple you can use as a substitute for chili oil in some recipes. Keep in mind, though, that soy sauce is a thinner liquid. If you are using it other than as a dipping sauce, it will alter the texture of your dish.

It also lacks a spicy flavor, which can easily be solved by adding chili pepper flakes. 

5. Black Bean Sauce

Black bean sauce is a Chinese condiment. It is mostly salty and has an umami flavor, but it can also serve as a chili oil substitute.

You might need to alter the recipe to consider the saltiness, though. Plus, if you need something with heat, you can add chili flakes to black bean sauce to mimic chili oil better.

6. Sriracha

One of the main ingredients in making sriracha sauce is chilis. This makes it a great chili oil substitute. It also has a distinct, spicy flavor. Yet, the vinegar content shines more in this hot sauce. For this reason, using it in large amounts in recipes might alter the taste of your dish. 

7. Dried Pepper

If other sauces or fresh peppers are unavailable, you can use dried peppers in some recipes. They are in a different form, though, as they come in whole. This is unlike chili oil, but they can still work as pizza toppings when chopped.

You can also cook them into sauces. Dried peppers, like spices, tend to become more intense as they don’t have the water content to dilute them. Because of this, you should use dried peppers with caution. You don’t want to end up with an overly hot dish. 

Start with a small number of dried peppers, then add more as you taste your dish. 

8. Homemade Chili Oil

If you have the time, you can make your own chili oil. It makes a good alternative to chili oil, as it will have the same ingredients. Plus, doing it yourself enables you to adjust the proportions to your liking. Making chili oil is also a way to preserve a large chili harvest.

Here is a simple chili oil recipe you can whip up in 5 minutes:

Ingredients:

1 cup of oil, choose among the following:

  • Canola oil
  • Peanut oil
  • Sesame oil
  • Olive oil
  • Vegetable oil
  • Three (3) tablespoons crushed dried peppers or chili pepper flakes

Instructions:

  1. Combine the oil and the peppers in a saucepan. 
  2. Put it under medium heat and continuously stir for 4-5 minutes. 
  3. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  4. Store in tightly sealed jars.

9. Chili Flakes

Chili flakes are used to make chili oil, so they are an excellent swap. The only disadvantage is that it comes in a different form. Nevertheless, it can provide the heat you’d expect from chili oil.

They can also work in stews, soups, and sauces if flakes and seeds floating around don’t bother you. You can also sprinkle chili flakes on top of pizzas and pasta dishes. 

10. Sweet Chili Sauce

Using sweet chili sauce to replace chili oil also works. This is especially true if you are feeling adventurous and want a change in flavor in your dish.

Even when they have chilis, sweet chili sauce is mostly sweet. It may sometimes lack the heat of chili peppers. You can add chili flakes to the sauce if this is not hot enough. 

11. Chili Garlic Oil

If you have it around or have plenty of time to make it, chili garlic oil is another suitable swap. It has the same heat but an additional garlic flavor that goes well with savory dishes. You can use it in almost all recipes that call for chili oil. 

12. Heat Chilies in Oil

Heating whole chilis in oil is another way to make chili oil. The resulting oil would be infused with the heat of whatever chilis you used. Plus, you can customize it to suit your recipes better. It will also have the same consistency as chili oil, minus the flakes. 

13. Bird’s Eye Chili Oil

Bird’s eye chili oil is made from bird’s eye chili, a chili pepper that hails from Mexico. It is basically a chili oil, just made from a specific type of chili. Its uses are the same, and can replace regular chili oil in all recipes. 

14. Sambal Oil

Sambal oil is a thick chili paste. It is made from chilis, lemongrass, tomatoes, shallots, shrimp paste, and garlic. Like chili oil, sambal oil is an all-purpose condiment with endless applications.

It gives you the kick you need for your dishes. But, it comes with additional flavors that might not blend well with all recipes that call for chili oil. 

15.Tianjin Chili Oil

Depending on the recipe used, Tianjin chili oil can have different ingredients. Yet, the basic ones have Sichuan peppers, red peppers, and Tianjin chilis. This oil is deliciously spicy. Since it is a chili oil of another kind, it can replace regular chili oil in all recipes. 

16. Ghost Pepper Extract

Ghost peppers are among the world’s hottest peppers. They are around 1 million SHU. Its extract is one of the most extreme substitutes for chili oil. When using ghost pepper extract, a drop goes a long way. Start with a single drop and add more if necessary. 

17. Serrano Chili and Shallot Crisps

Another replacement for chili oil is the mixture of serrano chilis and shallot crisps in oil. The serrano chilis give this option a spicy taste, even spicier than regular chili oil offers. Meanwhile, the shallots add a delicate sweetness. This is a bit different, but it can affect dishes in a good way. 

18. Tabasco Hot Sauce

Tabasco hot sauce is a very popular condiment in the US. Most people already might have them in their pantries. Because of this, it is an accessible chili oil replacement when you’re in a pinch.

Use it as you would chili oil, but expect a vinegar taste to go with it. There might be a little change in the flavor of your dish, but it works in most savory recipes. 

19. Chiu Chow Chili Oil

Chiu chow chili oil is a recipe that originated in Chiu Chow, China. You’ll see jars of this in the Asian aisle of grocery stores, and the most popular ones are from the brand Lee Kum Kee.

The chili and garlic flavors are evident in this oil, which translates to dishes. This is a perfect chili oil substitute if your recipe contains garlic. 

20. Salsa Macha 

Salsa Macha is a condiment made from chilis, nuts, and oil. Since it has chilis, a spicy flavor is also present in this salsa. Yet, the addition of nuts and other spices creates a complex taste. It is a staple in Mexican cuisine and is used like a regular chili oil. That said, it is a suitable chili oil substitute.

How Much Chili Oil Should You Use?

How much chili oil you should use depends on your heat preference. After all, the main flavor note in chili oil is its heat. Using large amounts won’t be a problem if you have a high tolerance for heat. But, if you are avoiding hot food, it is best to use a substitute with a lower spice level. 

How Long Does Chili Oil Last?

Store-bought chili oil can last for 3-6 months sitting on the shelf. When refrigerated, you can extend its shelf life and makes it last for a maximum of 1 year. 
Homemade chili oil has no preservatives. They only last for 6 months, even when refrigerated. 

What Is The Best Way To Store Chili Oil?

You should store chili oil in a cool, dry place. To prolong its shelf life, the best way to store chili oil is to keep it in the fridge. Since it has oil, it is normal to see it solidify when refrigerated. That doesn’t mean that it has gone bad, though. Wait until it returns to room temperature, and it will be good. 

Is Chili Oil Healthy?

Chilis are healthy, so chili oil is beneficial as well. They have Vitamins A, C, K, and E. But, because of their spicy nature, you only get little of these benefits per serving. 

Summary

Replacing chili oil in recipes is easy. There might already be a substitute sitting there somewhere in your kitchen. You just have to know which ones to use. 

It is worth noting that a couple of the above substitutes can be much hotter. Some can even change the flavor of your dish. Ultimately, you need to choose the one that suits your recipes best.

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Natalia is a recipe developer, food photographer, and home cook. She started Flavorful Home to document her recipes and share home cooking tips. She loves creating flavorful and nutritious meals while keeping the cooking process simple and joyful!

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