17 Chili Oil Substitutes You Need to Know

chili oil substitutes

The origin of chili oil dates back to the Ming dynasty and might have been used for mere functions at first but now, it is the most common condiment in many households. Chili oil is the best choice for adding a kick to your dishes and livening it up.

Chili oil is also a famous ingredient in Mexican and Asian countries, from mild, to moderate, hot and the extra hot chili ones, they are all available in these countries. This oil is made using peppers and oil. The oil can be sesame oil, peanut oil, or grapeseed oil and the peppers can be dried, ground, or whole and can be combined with other ingredients too.

While chili oil is an ideal versatile oil to have in any household especially when they love their dish spicy, overconsumption can lead to acid reflux or heartburn. It’s not surprising that you will find a bottle of chili oil in many households and with its tons of uses, you will likely run out eventually hence, why you will need the perfect go-to substitute so you don’t end up disappointed.

Another reason people love chili oil is that it enhances your recipe’s overall taste and quality. This oil has a complex flavor profile which is why it is adaptable to different cuisines. In addition to that, you can infuse it with other ingredients like garlic and ginger to give it a little zing.

But finding ingredients that offer the same consistency and flavor can stop the running back to the grocery store when you run out.

17 Chili Oil Substitutes You Need to Know

One of the reasons why many people choose chili oil is that it adds heat to your dish without changing the overall flavor profile. Dishes that have a complex flavor can be made better by including chili oil. However, if you simply get your hands on chili pepper or run out of it, with the right chili substitutes, no one will even notice you served them meals without chili oil. So, here are 17 chili oil substitutes you need to know.

1. Black Bean Sauce

black bean sauce
Image: Taman Renyah // Wikimedia Commons

Black Bean Sauce can be an amazing replacement for chili oil. Black bean sauce is made with dry black fermented bean and vegetable oil or peanut oil. This ingredient contributes a flavor like no other to Chinese foods, it has a sharp, pungent, salty, and spicy flavor with a hint of sweetness. Black bean sauce is a lot similar to chili oil when it comes to adding depth of flavor to a savory dish.

This is not quite as spicy as chili oil so you can make it extra spicy by adding spices such as chili flakes, red pepper, and chili powder. Black bean sauce is mostly salty and has an umami flavor so consider the saltiness to alter the recipe.

2. Chili Flakes

Chili Flakes
Image: Wikimedia Commons

Chili flakes are often used in the making of chili oil so they are great alternatives. Chili flakes are also known as crushed chili peppers and it’s easier to find this in your rack than black bean sauce. Chili flakes come in different forms but they will give your dish the same heat you can expect from the chili oil.

In addition to chili flakes making an excellent substitute, they can work in soups, stews, and sauces if the flakes and seeds floating around do not bother you. Chili flakes are surely a great substitute for chili oil and more of the chili flakes will give you the ideal extra hot spiciness you are going for.

3. Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne Pepper
Image: yeowatzup // Wikimedia Commons

Just a pinch of cayenne pepper can spice up your favorite dish. Cayenne pepper makes an excellent substitute for chili oil particularly in spicy and ethnic cuisines. This type of spice can replace chili oil in recipes where the liquid nature of the ingredient is not that significant. Fresh cayenne pepper has a different texture but when it comes to heat, it is a great replacement.

To replace chili oil with cayenne pepper, just add the same amount of cayenne pepper as the recipe calls for chili oil. Cayenne peppers are lots easier to get your hands on and they are also very affordable.

4. Sriracha Sauce

Sriracha Sauce
Image: Steven Depolo // Wikimedia Commons

Looking for a versatile hot sauce that can replace chili oil? Sriracha Sauce is made using chili peppers, vinegar, sugar, and garlic so you can expect it to have the same level of heat as chili oil. This chili sauce is slightly sweeter and more garlicky in flavor than chili oil but it can be used to add spice flavor to anything from noodles to soups and even chicken wings.

5. Red Pepper Flakes

Red Pepper Flakes
Image: Wikimedia Commons

Another awesome ingredient that will ensure you are not disappointed about substituting chili oil is red pepper flakes. This spice is made from ground chili peppers and it has a similar level of heat to chili oil although it’s less complex. Red pepper flakes are commonly used in Italian cuisines to add heat and spice. Red pepper flakes are just the ideal option for adding heat to your dish without the oil.

6. Gochujang

Image: Leey // Wikimedia Commons

Gochujang is often used as the base of stew but surprisingly, this Korean chili makes an ideal substitute for chili oil in lots of recipes. This chili paste is made with chili peppers, glutinous rice, salt, and fermented soybeans. It has a more complex flavor which is made of earthy and spiciness but has a similar level of heat to chili oil.

7. Spicy Soy Sauce

spicy soy sauce
Image: Guilhem Vellut // Wikimedia Commons

If you’re looking to substitute salt in your dish then soy sauce makes the perfect recipe and you simply have to make it spicy to replace chili oil as well. Spicy soy sauce is also known as hot soy sauce and if you are someone who enjoys spicy dipping sauce for your sushi, fried chicken, or other savory dish then you surely would love this sauce.

Spicy soy sauce can be used as a condiment for sashimi as well. It can be sued as a dipping sauce, marinade, or an ingredient to add heat to stir-fries and soups.

8. Sweet Chili Sauce

Sweet Chili Sauce
Image: ImpromptuKitchen // Wikimedia Commons

Another chili ingredient that is our absolute favorite in the kitchen is the sweet chili sauce and also it works in substituting chili oil. Sweet chili sauce is suitable for those who are adventurous in the kitchen and they are cool with changing the flavor of the dish.

Sweet chili sauce has a sweet, savory, and slightly spicy flavor and the heat is mild as well. This sauce is thicker than the chili oil but you can dilute with cooking oil or olive oil of equal amount. This ingredient enables you to have control over your dish’s heat level.

9. Chili Garlic Oil

Chili Garlic Oil
Image: Alpha // Wikimedia Commons

Chili garlic oil will not only give you the spiciness you want but add some garlicky flavor to it as well. This is another suitable swap that has a similar level of heat and you get additional garlic flavor as well. This is made with garlic, chili, salt, sugar, and vinegar. If you have the time, this is quite easy to make at home and it can be used in almost all recipes that call for chili oil. But it can also be purchased premade at many grocery stores.

10. Louisiana Hot Sauce

Louisiana Hot Sauce
Image: Wikimedia Commons

Louisiana Hot Sauce has been around since it built a reputation for its quality. The main ingredient in these hot peppers and there is vinegar as the base as well. This cayenne-based pepper has a similar level of heat to chili oil and also has a tangy and spicy flavor.

11. Chiu Chow Chili Oil

Chiu Chow Chili Oil
Image: JFVelasquez Floro // Wikimedia Commons

Chiu Chow Chili Oil has a distinct flavor profile and it is known for its intense spiciness and fragrant aroma. This Chili oil originates from the Chiu Chow region of China, it is made by infusing whole dried chili peppers like Szechuan peppercorn and cumin in oil. Other ingredients that are used in this include garlic, ginger, and fermented soybeans. This flavorful oil can be found in Asian stores or your local grocery store.

This is the best choice of substitute for chili oil in dipping sauce, condiments, and herb and garlic-flavored dishes. Keep in mind that the chili and garlic in this oil are very evident and would translate to your dish.

12. Salsa Macha

Salsa Macha
Image: BurseraLinanoe Wikimedia Commons

Salsa Macha is also known as Mexican chili oil and the oil is made from variations of dried chilies, garlic, nuts, and seeds finely chopped and fried in oil. This rich oil has intense heat and a smoky flavor that would complement lots of dishes. The ingredients used in Salasa Macha often depend on the cook and region, but the main ingredients are always oil, nuts, and chili. It can be used like regular chili oil.

13. Sichuan Sauce

Sichuan Sauce
Image: Guilhem Vellut // Wikimedia Commons

Here is another excellent chili oil substitute with a sweet spicy, garlicky umami flavor profile. Sichuan Sauce is made from Sichuan peppercorns and it is thicker than chili oil but will do great in many recipes that call for chili oil. Sichuan sauces are known for their intense spiciness and characteristic numbing sensation. It is versatile enough for cooking and dipping as well.

14. Ghost Pepper Extract

Ghost Pepper Extract
Image: Rumi Borah~aswiki // Wikimedia Commons

Need something with an extra kick of hotness? Ghost pepper extract is among the world’s hottest pepper so be sure you want that much spiciness first. If you love cooking with fiery hot pepper, ghost pepper extract will give you what you are looking for. Start with a drop of this pepper and add more if necessary.

15. Harissa

Image: Jules // Wikimedia Commons

Harissa’s flavor tends to deepen when it is slow-cooked and on low heat too which helps unlock a whole new flavor profile. This North African chili paste is a great alternative if you want an ingredient with a similar heat level to chili oil but with a more complex, earthy, and spicy flavor.

16. Tianjin Chili Oil

Tianjin Chili Oil
Image: Anieyo // Wikimedia Commons

Tianjin chili oil is also known as Chinese chili oil and the flavor depends on the ingredients used. The basic ingredients in Tianjin chili oil are Sichuan peppers, red peppers, and Tianjin chili This oil is really spicy but also very delicious and it can easily replace the regular chili oil in all kinds of recipes.

17. Homemade Chili Oil

Homemade Chili Oil
Image: Sharon Chen // Wikimedia Commons

You don’t have to give up completely on using chili oil in your recipe if you can’t get it in the grocery store. If you have the time then you can make the chili oil yourself, this method is the perfect substitute and it enables you to make it as spicy as you prefer. This method allows you to use any chili pepper of choice such as cayenne, jalapeno, and serrano chili pepper.

You can make sure of any chili pepper you have available in your pantry and for the oil, the perfect options are avocado oil, almond, or peanut oil. You can whip this up in 5 minutes, here is how to make chili oil at home.

  • Combine the oil picked and the chili pepper in a saucepan, ensuring to add a good amount of oil enough to soak the chili peppers
  • Put this under medium to low heat to simmer and continuously stir for like 5 minutes until the oil turns red
  • Remove it from heat and let it cool for 10 minutes, you can add other spices to it
  • Then store in a tightly sealed jar.

Wrapping Up

Looking for the best chili oil replacements is not an easy feat as you often don’t know if you will get the same flavor profile but with this list of varieties, all you have to do is to pick any that is in proximity at the moment and substitute based on the intensity of the heat and flavor you desire.

In general, you should start with milder chili oil or the replacement and adjust the spice level used in the recipe according to your sensitivity to spicy food.

Also, your heat preference is going to determine how you swap out your chili oil for these substitutes. If you have high tolerance for heat then using large amounts shouldn’t be a problem and note that some are not as spicy as chili oil.

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