Everyone loves a powerful, tasty and storable pantry, but let’s face it – we can’t survive on anchovies and tomato paste alone. Most of the Main Ingredients We Will Rely On Much needs to be freshened up in the coming weeks and months of quarantine. In a world where shopping for fresh ingredients can be dangerous, it means getting creative with homemade condiments.

Illustration for article titled How To Make Your Own Chili Oil

Chili oil is there for you during these wild, unpredictable times. In its simplest form, it’s just cooking oil, garlic, salt, dried chilli flakes and about five minutes of work. You will find that the fruits of your hard work are just as intense and transformative as chimichurri or basil pesto, but made entirely from shelf-stable ingredients. Once you’ve tried your first batch, you’ll wonder why you ever bothered buying them – that is, when you can stop eating them long enough to think about your past mistakes. Here is everything you need to make your own:

  • A large (at least 4 cups) heat-resistant container
  • 2 tablespoons-1/4 cup dried chilli flakes
  • 2-4 cloves of garlic, chopped or thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt or more to taste
  • A pinch or two message (Optional)
  • 2 tablespoons of various dried spices (or more)
  • 1 cup of neutral cooking oil over high heat

If the crowds seem a little loose, that’s the whole point. Everything is negotiable except for the oil and chilli flakes, and even the ratio of these two main ingredients doesn’t matter: if you crave tongue-numbing heat, use more chilli flakes; If you don’t, you’re using less. As for the other flavors, you can go as maximalist or minimalist as you like. The value of a sink for whole condiments is a fantastically complex condiment, but I think there is something to be said for the perfect simplicity of shredded paprika flakes and garlic too. Verily there is no right or wrong answer – follow your heart.

Start by placing your chili flakes, garlic, salt, and optional MSG in a heat-resistant container. As you will soon see, the mixture bubbles like crazy when you pour in the hot oil. So use the largest container you have. Here I have a heaping 1/4 cup of Gochugaru (Korean red chilli flakes – fruity, relatively mild, and neon red), 4 small chopped cloves of garlic, about 1/2 teaspoon of table salt, and a pinch of MSG in a 4-cup Pyrex measuring cup.

Be sure to place a coaster under the container to protect your table or countertop. You’re about to pour hot oil into it, and that will leave a mark.

Next, collect all of your spices. I opted for star anise, sichuan peppercorns, green cardamom pods, some dried chilés de árbol for extra heat, cumin and a cinnamon stick for good measure. (Pro tip: cut cinnamon sticks in half to make storage easier.)

Toast everything in a dry pan over medium heat for a minute or two until the spices start to smoke, then add them to the measuring cup with the chilli flakes, garlic, and spices.

Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat until it too smokes slightly. Very carefully pour the boiling oil over the spices and flavors in the measuring cup and stir gently to combine.

Allow to cool completely and transfer to an airtight container for storage. It gets tastier the longer it sits, but you can start pouring your chili oil on anything as soon as it cools. For food safety, keep it in the refrigerator. How The University of Idaho’s expansion program helps explain thisRaw garlic can be a source of Clostridium botulinum – also known as the botulism bacteria. These bacteria thrive in low-acid and low-oxygen environments like a glass of chili oil.

If there’s one boring meal that isn’t enhanced by homemade chili oil, I haven’t met it yet – even a bowl of white rice with steamed tofu is addicting and drizzle enough. To be completely honest, I mostly use mine to spice up scrambled eggs (for some reason it’s extra right Cornstarch) but today I got some homemade dumplings out of the freezer and absolutely doused them with flavorful, garlicky, electric orange gold. It was exactly what I needed, and it is probably what you need too.

This story was originally published March 2020. It was updated on March 3, 2021 to recommend cold storage and to reflect Lifehacker’s current style guidelines.