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BEST Chili Oil Substitutes + 2 To Avoid

I’ve personally taste-tested a variety of chili oil substitutes to find the best one for every cooking or baking occasion.

Whether you’re on the hunt for the closest flavor match, in need of a last-minute pantry substitute, or want a substitute that fits your diet, I’ve got the answers.

Here’s the quick answer.

The best substitute for chili oil is to make your own with a neutral oil and some dried chili flakes. But if you want an upgrade, why not try chili crisp? It’s just as spicy and has a nice crunchy texture. For non-spicy alternatives, infuse a neutral oil with smoked paprika or dehydrated bell peppers.

Ready? Let’s jump right in.

The experiment

I made a big batch of ramen to put several different chili oil substitutes to the test.

Chili oil is a condiment made from a neutral oil infused with chili peppers. Its main purpose is to bring heat to your dishes, so it’s got a spicy, uncomplex flavor (which means it’s easy to find a substitute!). 

It’ a common accompaniment for dumplings but has gained popularity over the years. Nowadays, you can see it slathered over anything – from plain noodles to cheesy pizza! 

Here are the substitutes I tested and my verdicts:

SubstitutesSubstitute directionsVerdict
Homemade chili oilReplace in a 1:1 ratio10/10
Chili crispReplace in a 1:1 ratio9/10
Salsa machaReplace in a 1:1 ratio9/10
Paprika-infused oilReplace in a 1:1 ratio8/10
Bell pepper oilReplace in a 1:1 ratio7/10
Chili garlic sauceReplace in a 1:1 ratio8/10
Hot sauceReplace with 1/2 the amount8/10

Common uses of chili oil

Here are some common use cases for San Marzano tomatoes and the best substitutes for those situations:

  • As a table condiment: Nothing beats the flavor of homemade chili oil. You can drizzle it over your noodles, soups, and even pizzas. Chili crisp is also a good option for added texture. And if you need a non-spicy alternative, try paprika-infused oil. 
  • For stir-fries, marinades, and dressings: Try using the homemade version or chili crisp. Salsa macha is also a good alternative and will bring a smoky twist to your dish. If you like garlic, try chili garlic sauce. 
  • For dipping sauces: You can make chili oil from scratch or try salsa macha for a more flavorful accompaniment. Chili garlic sauce and hot sauce are also easy, convenient swaps. 

Homemade chili oil 

Making your own chili oil is easier than you think! Plus, it allows you to control your chili oil’s heat level. 

Chili Pepper Madness offers a straightforward recipe that only requires three ingredients: a neutral oil, chili flakes or crushed dried chili peppers, and a dash of salt. 

And you only need 15 minutes spare.

Psst… if you’re a garlic fan like me, I would suggest adding a sprinkle of garlic powder to the oil as well.

If you’re craving for a more intense heat, try The Woks of Life’s Chiu Chow Chili sauce.

It uses chili flakes and fresh chili peppers.

How to substitute: replace chili oil in a 1:1 ratio with homemade chili oil.

Chili crisp 

If you’re looking for something that has a similar base to chili oil but offers more texture, let me introduce you to chili crisp.

It’s crafted with add-ons like peanuts, shallots, and garlic, adding a crispy (hence the name) texture and more layers of flavor.

Its crunch was the perfect contrast to my chewy ramen noodles. And it’s DELICIOUS over fluffy scrambled eggs. 

One of the most famous brands is Lao Gan Ma. It’s even part of Bon Appetit’s top 10 best chili crisp list.

How to substitute: replace chili oil in a 1:1 ratio with chili crisp.

Salsa macha 

Salsa macha is Mexico’s version of chili oil. Instead of chili flakes, it’s made with Mexican dried chilies like chipotle, mulato, guajillo, and pasilla, which gives it a smoky twist. 

It’s also enriched with ingredients like peanuts and sesame seeds, making it chunkier than chili oil. 

Like with chili crisp, I love the added texture this condiment brought to my bowl of ramen. 

You can easily find salsa macha in grocery stores (Gran Luchito is my go-to), or if you’re feeling adventurous, why not make it from scratch at home?

Lin’s Food has an easy recipe that adds chiles de arbol to the mix, which gives this salsa macha an extra kick. 

How to substitute: replace chili oil in a 1:1 ratio with salsa macha.

Paprika-infused oil 

If the heat of chili oil isn’t your cup of tea, here’s a milder substitute that’s just as easy to whip up: paprika-infused oil.

All you need to do is heat the oil, and then let the paprika infuse for 20-30 minutes before filtering it out.

The oil will have a beautiful reddish color, but won’t add any texture to your dish.

And instead of heat, this will bring a subtle smokyness to your dish. 

Psst… you can enjoy your infused oil for up to seven days! 

How to substitute: replace chili oil in a 1:1 ratio with paprika-infused oil.

Bell pepper oil 

Another non-spicy substitute for our heat-averse friends out there is bell pepper oil.

you can’t buy this condiment – you’ll have to make it by mixing oil with dehydrated bell peppers (which you should be able to find at your local fruit and veg market).

And if you can’t find any, you can dry your own batch in an oven or dehydrator. 

According to this substitute’s creator, using homemade dehydrated peppers will give you a more vibrantly-colored oil! 

The fruity flavors from the pepper that paired nicely with my ramen’s meaty broth. YUM!

How to substitute: replace chili oil in a 1:1 ratio with bell pepper oil.

Chili garlic sauce 

Chili garlic sauce is a bit different from the oil-based condiments we’ve been talking about, but it’s still a very decent substitute option.

It offers a milder heat then chili oil, and delivers a savory, garlicky kick that makes it just as addictive as chili oil.

It also has a chunkier consistency than chili oil, but doesn’t have the crunchy texture of chili crisp. It’s soft chunky.

If you’re familiar with Sriracha, the famous brand Huy Fong also has a chili garlic sauce. Try it, you won’t be disappointed.

How to substitute: replace chili oil in a 1:1 ratio with chili garlic sauce.

Hot sauce 

Hot sauce is a super convenient substitute for chili oil – you probably already have a bottle in your pantry.

Brands like Sriracha and Tabasco are well-loved for their ability to bring heat with just a dew drops.

And they also have extra flavor layers. Sriracha has sweet undertones, while tabasco is tangy.

These additional flavors can balance out your dishes in a way that chili oil doesn’t.

Remember, not all hot sauces are created equal. Pick your favorite and be aware of its heat level. You don’t want to go overboard.

How to substitute: replace chili oil with 1/2 the amount of your chosen hot sauce.

Other substitutes to consider

The suggestions above are my top chili oil substitutes, but the list doesn’t end there! 

Here are more condiments you can use as an alternative. They’re veering slightly away from the simple flavor of chili oil, but will still bring that fiery kick to your dishes. 

  • XO Sauce – this condiment isn’t just spicy – it also boasts a powerful salty kick because of the added dried shrimp, scallops, and ham. Be careful with this condiment! It’s much more flavorful than chili oil, so a little goes a long way.
  • Sesame chili oil – this is another oil-based condiment that’ll add a prominent heat to your dish. But since it has a sesame base, it has a pronounced nuttiness that’ll add complexity to your dishes. I think it would go great with a vegetable or chicken based ramen (I wasn’t a huge fan of it with my pork ramen).
  • Sambal oelek – this is a chili paste made of vinegar and chilis. It works best as a condiment for dumplings, sandwiches, and noodles.
  • Sichuan sauce – this ready-made sauce has a soy-sauce base, making it more flavorful than basic chili oil. You can use it directly as a dipping sauce for your egg rolls and dumplings or as a base for your stir-fries. 
  • Black bean sauce – For a truly different take, try this non-pepper alternative. It has a chunky, saucy consistency and has a decent amount of heat with added salty, umami notes. 

Substitutes to Avoid 

I encountered load of suggestions for chili oil substitutes while researching, but not everything worked out in my experiments.

Gochujang was one of the frequently mentioned substitutes. I love this Korean chili paste, but it has a prominent funky flavor that tends to be overpowering. It’s better used as in ingredient and incorporated into dishes rather than as a garnish or finished touch.

Another alternative that didn’t work for me is sweet chili sauce. This is an okay substitute if you only need an accompaniment for your dumplings. But its sweetness limits its applications.

If you want something mild, go for the bell pepper or paprika oil.

Best Chili Oil Substitutes + 2 To Avoid

I tested several different chili oil substitutes to find the best one. I also included an easy homemade version you can make in a flash!
5 from 2 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Ingredient
Cuisine: Asian
Keyword: chili oil substitutes, substitutes for chili oil
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 30 servings
Calories: 129kcal


  • 1 cup canola oil, or any neutral oil
  • 3 tbsp chili flakes
  • pinch of salt, optional
  • 1 tbsp granulated garlic, optional
  • 1 tsp white pepper, optional


  • Add the chili flakes and your additional spices (if using) to a heat-proof bowl. Mix well.
  • In a small pot, heat your oil until very hot. Do not allow the oil to smoke.
  • Pour the hot oil over your chili mixture. You should hear the mixture sizzle. Mix well and leave to cool. Strain if desired.
  • Transfer into a lidded glass jar and store in your fridge.


other options: chili crisp, salsa macha, paprika-infused oil, bell pepper oil chili garlic sauce, hot sauce, xo asuce, sesaame chili oil, sambal oelek, sichuan sauce, black bean sauce


Serving: 1tbsp | Calories: 129kcal

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