Do you know what’s been causing a spicy sensation lately? Chilli oil. It’s like the new cool kid on the culinary block — but it’s not exactly new. So, why is chilli oil becoming such a hot commodity?
First of all, chilli oil is the flavour booster your food’s been waiting for. It’s the perfect blend of heat and flavour that can take your dishes from bland to grand in just a drizzle. Whether you’re a fan of Asian cuisine or not, this fiery condiment is versatile enough to play nice with pretty much anything. It’s like the hot sauce of the oil world and who doesn’t love a little heat in their life?
And let’s not forget the social media factor. Instagram is filled with videos of people pouring vibrant, fiery red chilli oil over their dishes, turning even the simplest meals into a visual feast. People love sharing their chilli oil creations and it’s creating a whole new foodie subculture.
But here’s the real deal-sealer for chilli oil — it’s the magical bridge between cultures. It brings people together over a shared love for spice. Whether you’re bonding over a bowl of spicy ramen, Sichuan hotpot, or a good old plate of nachos, chilli oil is the universal language of heat. It’s the condiment that transcends borders and connects taste buds around the world.
So here’s everything you need to know about different types of chilli oil and how to use it.
What’s the Difference Between Italian and Asian Chilli Oil?
Italian chilli oil, or “pepperoncini sott’olio,” is all about subtlety, said Mattia, founder of Pepetino — an Italian chilli oil with a uniquely Australian twist. “Pepetino, for me, is like a merging of my two worlds, my Italian upbringing and my newfound home in Australia,” he said, referring to Pepetino’s blend of lightly fermented Australian chillies and native spices, such as Lemon Myrtle, Wattleseed, Tasmanian Pepperberry, and Cinnamon Myrtle. Italian chilli oil is often characterised by a delicate balance of heat and flavour.
Asian chilli oil, on the other hand, is known for its bold, in-your-face spiciness. It’s often used as a key flavour component in many Asian cuisines, especially in regions like Sichuan, where the love for fiery foods runs deep.
Ethan Yong, founder and CEO of UmamiPapi, explains his crispy chilli oil has an emphasis on texture. “Rather than just chillies and oil, crispy chilli oil incorporates other ingredients with satisfying textures such as fried onion, shallot, garlic or nuts,” he said.
“It’s the perfect balance of aroma, crunch, flavour and mild spice, designed to blow your tastebuds away rather than set your mouth on fire.”
What Can I Use Chilli Oil In?
If you ask Yong and Mattia, they say anything and everything.
In Italy, Mattia explains chilli oil isn’t typically found on every restaurant table; rather, it’s a personal choice — available on request.
“Italian chilli oil is perfect for drizzling over pasta, pizza, or roasted vegetables,” said Mattia, who frequently posts aesthetic food-porn-style videos of different ways to use Italian chilli oil.
In contrast, Asian chilli oil is frequently served as a table condiment. It’s readily available in Asian restaurants and households, and people use it generously to spice up their dishes.
“Try it on eggs, sandwiches, burgers, pizza and pasta, dumplings, rice dishes, noodles, soups or even straight out of the jar,” said Yong.
Whether you favour the subtlety of Italian chilli oil or the fiery intensity of its Asian counterpart, one thing is certain — chilli oil has a place in everything.
The Best Chilli Oils to Buy
Mattia may be new to the chilli oil business, but he’s no stranger to the world of fiery condiments. Growing up with chilli oil, which he fondly refers to as “the spice of life,” Mattia combines his Italian heritage with native Australian ingredients to craft each pot of chilli oil. The result? An exhilarating chilli oil that sends a delightful tingle to your lips before settling into a harmonious blend of lemon myrtle and wattleseed.
It’s the perfect pantry partner whether you want to add a punch to your breakfast eggs or infuse flavour into a salad dressing. It’s not too hot, so even those who crumble at the words chilli can use it.
They also have a native chilli salt and spiced olive oil that’s worth a taste.
UmamiPapi can be best described as a sensational explosion of spicy, crunchy flavour. This soul-soothing bottle of crispy chilli oil stands as the ultimate condiment for both dipping and stirring. Yong, the creator of this delectable concoction, originally began crafting chilli oil as a simple hobby, sharing it with friends during the peak of lockdowns. Little did he know that his creation would evolve into one of Australia’s most beloved chilli oils.
For the full UmamiPapi experience, Yong recommends cracking open a jar and giving it a thorough stir with a spoon. This action perfectly melds the solid bits with the oil, resulting in a harmoniously smooth consistency that elevates your culinary delights.
You can choose from original or extra spicy in a large or jumbo jar.
Another pandemic project turned business is the local small-batch brand Bomb Ass Chilli Oil, also known as BACO. Hailing from a Vietnamese background, chilli oil was never something she or her parents used in cooking, so when Doan’s mother gave her a big bag of chilli, she decided to make chilli oil. The chilli oil itself takes days to make, as it needs time to infuse and get the aromatics and full flavour of the ingredients — the good stuff. According to Doan, the best part of the chilli oil is the bits down the bottom; it’s where you get the full experience.
Her chilli oil is MSG-free and full of yummy aromatics, including garlic, shallots, several varieties of onions, ginger and spices, mixed with a secret chilli concoction. If you can handle heat, then BACO is for you — if you can’t, consider the above.
You’ve probably seen Jessica Nguyen cooking, styling tables, or sharing her latest Vietnamese recipes on Instagram. Well, she also has a chilli oil with a fitting name. Chilli Oil on Everything is exactly that. This liquid red serum is packed with chilli, spring onion, red onion, ginger, star anise, cardamom, and bay leaves. Drizzle it over noodles, dip dumplings in it or pop it on Vegemite toast, Jess’s personal favourite.
She also has a spicy serum that’s 50ml of pure heat!
Mrs C’s’ isn’t just a catchy name — it’s a reflection of a rich, generations-old tradition. The real Mrs C, the heart and soul behind this crispy chilli oil, has been perfecting her secret recipe for as long as memory serves. This cherished formula has been passed down from mother to daughter through the ages. As you can imagine, there is no recipe, no measuring cups, just intuition. All we do know is it’s hot. Like, really hot. So, if you like spice, this is the one for you.
Heap this chilli oil over a bowl of chewy noodles or alongside pan-fried dumplings to elevate your meal to a restaurant-quality experience. Mama Liu’s is a Sydney-based, small family business specialising in North-Western Chinese chilli oil, made with a rich heritage and lots of love.
Mama Liu’s offers a trio of delightful chilli oil options to explore. First, there’s the OG chilli oil — a fiery, crispy, and toasty sensation that adds a kick to your culinary creations. For a different, more nuanced flavour, there’s the Spicy XO, crafted from premium dried shrimp, offering a harmonious blend of sweetness and spiciness. And, if you prefer a vegan option, Mama Liu’s has a plant-based chilli oil, capturing the same bold flavours as the OG.