Chili Crisp Is Having a Moment, Here’s Everything You Need to Know About It

We have entered the time of chili crisp! People have declared it as the condiment of the moment. Following a similar trajectory as sriracha, chefs, foodies, and hot sauce nerds spread chili crisp love in America so much that its cult following quickly steamrolled into a broad cultural moment. But what is chili crisp? Where did it come from? Will it make me chilly? How do you use chili crisp? We’ll answer all these questions and more! Let’s get that dumb one out of the way right now: No, it won’t make you chilly. Okay, on to the rest!

What is chili crisp? 

Chili crisp is a blend of fried chili peppers and other aromatics mixed with a neutral oil. That’s a pretty broad definition because there is a lot of variety when it comes to chili crisp. Chili crisp is a hot sauce that originates from Chinese cuisine. Chinese hot sauces made with infused oil go back centuries and different regions have different styles. Even within those regions, families and restaurants have their own recipes. One classic version of chili crisp has Sichuan peppercorns, spices, garlic, and scallions fried and mixed in a neutral oil. In 1997, Tao Huabi is credited with the first large-scale commercial production of chili crisp. This was the Lao Gan Ma brand, which means Old Grandmother. It began in the Guizhou province of China and would eventually reach America where it kicked off the chili crisp craze. Lao Gan Ma chili crisp is made with soybean oil, chili peppers, onion, peanuts, soybeans, prickly ash powder, MSG, salt, and sugar.

Is chili crisp spicy? 

It depends on the type of peppers the producer uses. Trader Joe’s version is pretty mild as it uses bell peppers. The cult favorite Fly by Jing (a favorite of Vianai Austin from Mythical Kitchen) includes tingly and slightly numbing Sichuan peppers. Don Chilio is a Mexican chili crisp that offers sauces made with jalapeno, serrano, and habanero. Then there’s those little extra ingredients that can make a big difference. Momofuku Chili Crunch has mushroom powder and yeast extract for extra umami. Mẹ’s Way Chili Sauce gets its umami from anchovy.

Is chili crisp the same as chili crunch and chili oil? 

Yes and maybe. Chili crisp and chili crunch are used pretty interchangeably. Chili oil, however, can be a different thing. Chili oil is basically chili peppers in oil whereas chili crisp is fried chilis, plus aromatics, in oil. You’ll see the terms used interchangeably sometimes, but for the most part, chili oil is more strained and will have less debris than chili crisp.

How do you use chili crisp? 

Put it on just about anything and eat it. Given its Asian origins, many people put a scoop of chili crisp on rice, noodles, or dumplings, or stir it into soup. But it can liven up eggs, kick up veggies, brighten up a sandwich, pump up some pizza, spice up some tacos, and even invigorate some ice cream. Or if you’re like me, you don’t need to put it on anything! You can just do some chili crisp shots! Chili crisp is truly the little condiment that could, working its way up from obscurity to being the most talked about condiment that I take shots of when I’m lonely. Congrats, chili crisp!

best chili crisp

Best Chili Crisp

Now that you know all about chili crisp, find out what the best chili crisp is. We burnt our mouths tasting through the top chili crisp brands to find the best ones for you.

About the Author

Will Morgan

Will Morgan, a freelance contributor to Sporked, is an L.A. based writer, actor, and sketch comedy guy. Originally from Houston, TX, he strongly believes in the superiority of breakfast tacos to breakfast burritos. Will traveled the world as one of those people that did yoyo shows at elementary school assemblies, always making a point to find local and regional foods to explore in whatever place he was, even in rinky-dink towns like Tilsonberg, ON. Will spends his birthdays at Benihana’s. Let him know if can make it.

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