Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

Chili crisp—the crunchy, savory mixture of aromatics (chili, Sichuan peppercorns, garlic, and more) and oil—is hot, both literally and figuratively. Chef Max Boonthanakit of Boon Chili Sauce said that back when he started his chili crisp brand, the now-ubiquitous condiment was relatively unknown on a wider scale. “We started Boon in 2018, and back then there were only a handful of chili oils being made in the US. We remember educating people on what chili oil/crisp was and how to use it,” he says. “We don’t have to do that as much anymore.” 

Jing Gao, founder of chili crisp company Fly by Jing, agrees. “When I looked at the industry, there were only a couple of brands that were readily accessible to the everyday consumer, but their products lacked quality,” she says. “For too long, Chinese and Asian pantry staples have been relegated to the ‘ethnic aisle’ of grocery stores. When I started Fly By Jing, I wanted to break out of that box and push authentic, high-quality flavors into every aisle.”

Today, there are hundreds of chili crisp brands to choose from, each with its own spin on the classic Chinese condiment. Boonthanakit thinks it not only speaks to entrepreneurs rounding out the market but also to an opening of people’s minds—and taste buds. “I appreciate that chili crisp is popular and mainstream in our culture. It just shows that people, as well as their palettes, are open and are willing to try new things,” he says. “I think that’s extremely important for our future. It’s good to keep an open mind.”  

In this market flush with offerings, we wanted to highlight a few (okay, a bunch!) of our favorite chili crisps, including spicy, garlicky, mild, and super savory picks. 

Our Favorite Chili Crisps, at a Glance 

Super Savory Picks

Lao Gan Ma Chili Crisp Kari Kari Chili CrispOO’mämē Szechuan Chinese Chile CrispMilu Chili CrispMomofuku Chili CrunchMe’s Way Classic Chili SauceMr. Bings Chili Crisp

For Garlic Heads 

Mama Teav’s Hot GarlicLiquid GoldS&B Chili Oil with Crunchy Garlic

For Hot Heads

Junzi Original Chili Oil Bowlcut Spicy Chili Crisp

Sichuan-Inspired Picks 

Hot Jiang Mama’s Chili Crisp OG SpicyBoon SauceBlank Slate Sichuan Chili OilFly By Jing Sichuan Chili Crisp

Chili Crisp with a Twist

Tasting India Bombay Chili CrunchOnino Chili CrispLittle Truc Roasted Chili Oil

What Is Chili Crisp?

Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

“In China, chili crisp is a universal condiment used on virtually any dish. I was privileged to always have authentic, homemade chili crisp within arm’s reach,” Gao says of growing up in Chengdu, China.

At its most basic, chili crisp is oil (usually canola, sesame, soy, or grapeseed oil) plus aromatics—most often with some sort of crunchy textural component like fried garlic, shallots, or even peanuts. Some chili crisps get an extra hit of umami with fermented black beans (which are actually soybeans). Other brands take influence from the Sichuan region with the addition of the namesake fruit of the prickly ash bush: Sichuan peppercorns. Any chili crisp with this piney, floral hit gets your mouth watering—literally—and is followed by a tingly-spicy sensation, known as málà. Then, there’s the chilis, which can range from mild to downright fire burning. The chili crisps we tried contained various kinds, including Arbol, Tianjin, Thai Bird’s Eye chili, paprika (which is made from dried, ground paprika chile), Japones chili, and Korean chili. Fly by Jing uses Erjingtiao chilis from Chengdu, which Gao says has “a mild spice but intense fragrance.” 

Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

No two chili crisps are truly alike, as the list below goes to show, and this means there’s a chili crisp for any palette and heat tolerance. Just a word of warning: don’t wear white whilst consuming, or you likely will end up with burnt orange stains on your clothes. We’ve learned this from a whole lotta chili crisp consumption.

How Can I Use Chili Crisp?

Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

The answer is: however you desire! Stir it into mayonnaise to give your sandwich (or French fry dip) a kick, or drizzle it onto roasted vegetables or meats. Gao says she likes to put her chili crisp on pretty much everything, but “a few of my favorite ways to eat it are on vanilla ice cream (trust me), tossed into a bowl of noodles (hot or cold) for a quick dinner, and even in cocktails like a spicy Margarita,” she says. “The options are endless. For someone who’s not sure about where to begin, I’d suggest adding it to avocado toast, frying your egg in it, or drizzling onto a grain bowl.” 

The Best Chili Crisps

Super Savory Picks

This is the chili crisp that started it all, so to speak, since it’s one of the first to be widely available in the U.S. It’s incredibly savory, with a sultry umami depth. Senior commerce editor Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm says it’s her favorite since it “has just the right amount of heat, as well as sweetness. I love how its varied, crunchy texture enlivens the likes of eggs, roasted meats, grain bowls, and brothy, noodle soups.” We tasted the spicy version and found it more of a medium heat level and wholly approachable. 

Good to Know

Spice level: Medium Amount: 25 ouncesIngredients: Soybean oil, chili, onion, soybeans, monosodium glutamate, Sichuan pepper powder, sugar, salt, sulfur dioxide, sodium sulfite
Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

Loaded with crunchy bits (peanuts, shallots, garlic) and with an umami boost from mushroom powder and fermented soybean, this is a sumptuous, savory, chili crisp. It had a bright tangy flavor that lifted everything to another level, and a touch of sweetness to round it out. 

Good to Know

Spice level: MediumAmount: 6 ouncesIngredients: Canola oil, peanut, garlic, dried chili peppers, cane sugar, shallot, sesame oil, fermented soybean, Sichuan peppercorns, spices, mushroom seasoning, sea salt, gluten-free tamari powderSerious Eats / Grace Kelly

A little spicy, a whole lotta savory—this is a nutty, crunchy, and wholly satisfying chili crisp. We really liked the fermented black beans, crunchy peanuts, and faint tingle from the Sichuan peppercorns. The crystallized ginger added a sweet and lightly spicy touch. 

Good to Know

Spice level: MediumAmount: 9.2 ouncesIngredients: High oleic sunflower oil, fermented black beans (soybeans, salt), crushed red pepper, crystallized ginger, peanuts, sesame oil, dried garlic, sesame seeds, dried shallots, Sichuan peppercornsSerious Eats / Grace Kelly

This is really, really savory, with a mushroomy smell and intense nuttiness. There’s almost a curry-like note, and it’s quite salty and rich. It’s perked up by an anise and piney flavor and isn’t super spicy. 

Good to Know

Spice level: MildAmount: 7.75 ouncesIngredients: Canola oil, ground chiles, soybeans, preserved black beans, onion, garlic, kosher salt, granulated sugar, mushroom powderSerious Eats / Grace Kelly

The original chili crisp is a little sweet, not too spicy, and has a very umami flavor (there’s a hint of saline from seaweed, too). We also tried the Momofuku black truffle chili crisp, which is spicy and has a backbone of truffle depth that’s not overpowering. A drizzle goes incredibly well on pasta dishes, particularly fettuccine alfredo, or even mixed with melted butter and drizzled on popcorn—yum. 

Good to Know

Spice level: MediumAmount: 5.5 ouncesIngredients: Grapeseed oil, puya chili, coconut sugar, sesame seeds, onions, garlic, mushrooms, chili de arbol, Japones chili, salt, red pepper, shallots, yeast extract, seaweedSerious Eats / Grace Kelly

This chili crisp has an almost cheesy aroma—like you’re taking a whiff of a chunk of parmesan. It’s quite thick, more of a paste than a chili crisp with oil and floaty bits, but the flavor is super savory and moreish. We may have eaten a few spoonfuls straight out of the jar. It has a nice sweetness too, and a bit of heat. Because it’s so rich and savory, a little goes a long way. You can taste the fish sauce, which gives it funk and roundness. 

Good to Know

Spice level: Medium-hotAmount: 8 ouncesIngredients: Soybean oil, fish sauce (anchovy, sea salt, sugar syrup), dried red chili pepper, garlic, sugarSerious Eats / Grace Kelly

If you grew up being the kid who brought Funyuns to school, then this chili crisp is for you. Not only does it have a pleasant sweetness and a teensy bit of heat (though it’s labeled as mild), but it’s also packed with crispy fried sweet onions. It’s not super salty, either, so you don’t have to worry about oversalting when you drizzle a lick of it onto a dish. You can also buy a spicier version, which has a good amount of kick to it.  

Good to Know

Spice level: Medium Amount: 7 ouncesIngredients: Chili peppers, onions, mushroom powder, non-GMO oil, garlic, spices, rice bran, turbinado sugar, saltSerious Eats / Grace Kelly

For Garlic Heads

If one (or two…or five) clove of garlic isn’t enough, then these are the chili crisps for you.

This stuff just oozes garlic—in all the best ways. Open the lid and that wonderfully piquant smell wafts out, and big crunchy pieces of—you guessed it: garlic—float like little golden icebergs upon a sea of spicy oil. We love it on rice, fish, and eggs, and think it would be a killer addition to any garlic bread recipe (or just dunk good bread in it—an easy way to earn a yum). The mild option still has a wee bit of spice to it that gets you at the back of the throat. Former updates editor Jacon Dean says, “Mama Teav’s is one of my absolute favorites. This particular chili crisp is made by Cambodian American siblings in honor of their mother, and for my palate, I think it’s the perfect combination of crunchy, savory, and unctuous. I love that the garlic is fried in grapeseed oil (which gives it a nice, clean flavor) and that the chilies are sun-dried before they’re roasted, and it’s nice that it comes in both mild and ‘OG heat’ levels of spiciness.”

Good to Know

Spice level: MediumAmount: 6 ouncesIngredients: Grapeseed oil, garlic, dried Thai bird chile, onion powder, dehydrated onion flakes, kosher salt, mushroom powder, celery saltSerious Eats / Grace Kelly

Garlic lovers, rejoice. Liquid Gold comes in three heat levels—spicy, ultra-spicy, and not spicy—all loaded with crunchy, toasty garlic pieces. The salt content on these is low, which is nice because you can add a spoonful to a meal without worrying about creating an inadvertent salt lick. The spicy isn’t super spicy, though the ultra-hot will get your mouth tingling. 

Good to Know

Spice level: MildAmount: 6 ouncesIngredients: Fried garlic, grapeseed oil, extra virgin olive oil, sugar, garlic powder, paprika, onion powder, msg, spices, sea saltSerious Eats / Grace Kelly

This was one of the first chili crisps I tried (Grace here!), and I’ve had a jar in my pantry ever since. I, as you may have guessed, am a self-proclaimed garlic head—no amount is too much. This super savory offering satiates my garlic cravings and goes well on just about everything. It’s also not spicy at all, making it a great option for those who pale at the sight of “extra hot” or 🌶️🌶️🌶️ on anything. Amanda Suarez, Serious Eats associate visuals director, claims this is her favorite chili crisp. “This is my fave; I put it on literally anything: eggs, ramen, and sometimes just with cheese and crackers.”

Good to Know

Spice level: MildAmount: 3.9 ouncesIngredients: Corn oil, chili pepper, fried garlic, sesame oil, monosodium glutamate, onion powder, salt, sugar, soy sauce powder (soy sauce [soybeans, wheat, salt], dextrin, salt), chili paste (chili pepper, salt, rice), fried onion, almond, ground sesame seedsSerious Eats / Grace Kelly

For Hot Heads

A few chili crisps that pack the heat and taste amazing doing it.

Dark and unctuous with lots of umami, this one has a kick of spice. It has a deep toasty flavor, and the jars come with little golden spoons for serving, which is a nice touch. 

Good to Know

Spice level: HotAmount: 3.53 ouncesIngredients: Canola oil, Tianjin chili flakes, cayenne pepper, Zhenjiang vinegar, brown cane sugarSerious Eats / Grace Kelly

This sweet and spicy chili crisp brings with it a whiff of anise and a floral chili flavor. It’s bright and intense, (and pretty spicy!), the heat lingering on your tongue followed by the numbing málà sensation.

Good to Know

Spice level: HotAmount: 5.8 ouncesIngredients: Sunflower oil, hot chili flakes, Korean chile flakes, garlic, onion, gluten-free tamari sauce, sesame seed, coconut amino, yeast extract, sesame flour, sugar, spices, birdseye chili, seaweed powder

Sichuan-Inspired Picks

Crispy and crunchy, with a little bitterness from the Sichuan peppercorns, this chili crisp highlights the piney, floral flavor of this little berry (yes, it’s a berry!). We liked the swirling flotilla of sesame seeds on top, which added a nutty crunch. 

Good to Know

Spice level: MediumAmount: 6 ouncesIngredients: Hot chili peppers, black peppers, prickly ash, sesame seed, fresh fried garlic, mushroom powder, soybean oil, spicesSerious Eats / Grace Kelly

This chili crisp was created by chef Max Boonthanakit to reflect his Chinese and Thai upbringing. Sichuan peppercorns are at the forefront, and the faint whiff of anchovy rounds it out. It also has a nuttiness from the sesame seeds and a faint sweetness from the fennel. This would go incredibly well on a bowl of Dan Dan noodles or Pad Thai.

Good to Know

Spice level: MediumAmount: 8 ouncesIngredients: Canola oil, chili, shallots, garlic, sugar, sea salt, fennel, Sichuan peppercorn, anchovySerious Eats / Grace Kelly

This is Riddley’s favorite Sichuan-style chili crisp. “It provides that expected tingly-numbness, but is also wicked spicy (at least for me),” she says. “Just a drizzle of the oil onto a bowl of soup or roasted vegetables is plenty.” It’s very Sichuan peppercorn forward, showcasing the berry’s piney, resinous flavor, and tingly effect. It also has a faint tang to it and the ginger adds a nice spice and freshness. It’s a little sweet, too.

Good to Know

Spice level: MediumAmount: 6 ouncesIngredients: Infused oil (sunflower and/or non-GMO canola oil, ginger, spices, shallots, garlic), Sichuan peppercorns, red chili flakes, toasted sesame oil, sea saltSerious Eats / Grace Kelly

This rich, umami-laden chili crisp has a good amount of Sichuan peppercorn but isn’t too spicy. “When building a chili oil, I think not only about heat from chilis but also the tingly sensation from our Tribute Peppercorns,” Gao says. “These aren’t just any Sichuan peppercorns. This variety grows in Qingxi village, and they are so prized for their many uses that they were offered in tribute to the emperor. We also build layers of umami with fermented black beans and mushroom powder.” It’s a great all-rounder and goes well on eggs, rice bowls, and soups, too. We also really liked Fly By Jing’s Chengdu Crunch, which is loaded with crunchy bits of fava beans, pumpkin seeds, and shallots. 

Good to Know

Spice level: MediumAmount: 6 ouncesIngredients: Non-GMO rapeseed oil, non-GMO soybean oil, dried chili pepper, preserved black bean, garlic, sesame oil, salt, shallots, ginger, mushroom powder, Sichuan pepper, seaweed powder, spicesSerious Eats / Grace Kelly

Chili Crisp With a Twist

This has big chunks of shallots, with depth and savoriness from mushrooms and curry leaves. It’s warm, cozy, and delicious on an omelet

Good to Know

Spice level: MildAmount: 10 ouncesIngredients: Garlic, grapeseed oil, herbs, mushrooms, shallots, a blend of spices including red chiles, kosher saltSerious Eats / Grace Kelly

This chili crisp is loaded with big chunks of crunchy bits (Marcona almonds, garlic, sesame seeds) and sorta tastes like Fritos, in a really, really good way. While it doesn’t taste spicy at first, there is a little bit of back-of-throat burn. 

Good to Know

Spice level: MediumAmount: 8 ouncesIngredients: Canola oil, dried chili peppers, Marcona almonds, shallots, garlic, sesame seeds, organic coconut sugar, saltSerious Eats / Grace Kelly

This one differs from the others in that it’s a chili oil with just a wee bit of crisp, while many other brands are heavy on crunch (though Little Truc does sell a crispier offering, called Chili Crush). It’s quite floral with a bit of a tangy backbone thanks to lemongrass. It’s bright but still with a mild burn and a nuttiness from the soybean oil. 

Good to Know

Spice level: Mild to mediumAmount: 7.5 ouncesIngredients: Soybean oil, dried chilis, garlic, lemongrass, spices, kosher saltSerious Eats / Grace Kelly

FAQs

What is chili crisp?

Chili crisp is a Chinese condiment that has spread throughout the world and comes in many iterations and expressions. At its essence, it’s an oil infused with chili and other flavors and loaded with crunchy ingredients, like fried garlic and shallots. 

Are chili crisp and chili paste the same thing?

Chili paste is thicker and often made of whole pulverized chilis, while chili crisp is an oil-based condiment with aromatics added. 

How should you store chili crisp?

While it will rarely go bad, it’s a good idea to keep chili crisp in a cool dry place, like a pantry,  and to keep the lid tightly sealed (which keeps out bacteria). 

Why We’re the Experts

Grace Kelly is the associate commerce editor at Serious Eats. Before this, she tested equipment and ingredients for America’s Test Kitchen.In her past life, she worked in restaurants and as a bartender. For this story, we interviewed Max Boonthanakit of Boon Chili Sauce and Jing Gao of Fly By Jing. We tasted over 19 chili crisps and used them for over a month in our daily cooking.

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