Add These Spicy Chili Crisps to Your Pantry
Do you want lots of heat, endless crunch, or perfect umami flavor?
Once upon a time, it felt like there was only one chili crisp to add to your pantry and dress your dumplings in. Lao Gan Ma, which remains a favorite thanks to its crunchy chili flakes and an abundance of lip-smacking MSG, deserves all the flowers it’s received. However, it is no longer the only chili crisp worthy of your attention.
There’s been a huge influx of chili crisp brands—from small batch options to tingly jars brimming with Sichuan peppercorns—that I now have a section of my pantry devoted solely to jars of red hot oil. There’s a Japanese-inspired chili crisp by way of Tijuana, a spicy favorite from a well-regarded Thai chef, and an extra garlicky recipe from a Khmer grandmother.
Whether you’re looking for a topping for jok, want to dress up a slice of pizza, or are ready to stir fry noodles with straight chili crisp, these are the new crunchy and spicy condiments you should definitely add to your collection.
I think of Fly By Jing as a gateway chili crisp. It’s become hugely popular since its launch in 2018 with good reason: The Sichuan chili peppers contribute a buzzy heat while fermented black bean provides a punch of umami that goes with pretty much anything. All of the ingredients are easily identifiable and work in tandem to create a chili oil that will enhance pizza, eggs, and anything else you think needs a hit of savory spice. (Founder Jing Gao even spoons it on top of vanilla ice cream.) Even more convenient? You can pick up jars of Fly By Jing at Costco now.
Created by chef Max Boonthanakit of Los Angeles’s newly opened Camphor, Boon Sauce, has remained a favorite of mine since its launch, thanks to the pungent aroma of anchovies and the complexities of prickly ash and fennel. It’s one of the spicier options on this list and is less crispy in texture and more jammy. Each batch of Boon is truly small batch, and jars can vary in heat depending on the batch. Boon tends to sell-out quickly, so if you’re interested in getting a personal stash it’s best to pre-order as soon as a new batch is announced (they’re currently on iteration 32).
Mother knows best and this continues to be the case in the chili crisp world. This vegan jar of chili crisp has simple ingredients in perfect ratios that result in a perfect umami-packed bite. The garlic here is truly the star: It adds so much crunch, texture, and aroma. The chilies, onions, mushrooms, and celery salt—suspended in grapeseed oil—are supporting players that contribute to the garlic’s overall success. Generously drizzle this over your next bowl of noodles, rice, or even a pasta dish in need of a kick.
Masienda already creates some of the best masa harina available, so it only makes sense that it also crafts flavorful salsa machas to go along with it. There’s four options to choose from: guajillo with cranberry and hazelnut; a chipotle, coffee, and peanut blend; a furikake-inspired arbol, nori, and sesame oil; and guajillo, cherry, and cacao nib. Each jar provides something different and heat ranges from mild and sweet to fiery and nutty. There’s also tons of texture that will work for different applications—atop a steaming bowl of soup, tossed in a salad, or drizzled over tacos and flautas (made with Masienda masa, of course).
What really sets KariKari apart from the rest of the chili crisps on this list are the huge flakes of garlic in each glass jar, thinly sliced and perfectly crispy. It really lives up to its name—karikari is a Japanese onomatopoeia that describes crispiness. This is for the garlic enthusiasts, who really want that irreplaceable punch of garlic in each bite of their chili crisp. Underneath all the garlic is a nutty blend of peanuts, fermented soy beans, chilies and Sichuan peppercorns, and mushroom powder to round out the garlic flavor. This one isn’t too spicy but would fare well atop any bowl of noodles or showered over garlic knots because no one ever complains about extra garlic.
Nariz de Perro—or “dog’s nose” chili crisp—hails from Tijuana and will allegedly make you sweat, not unlike the moist surface of a dog’s nose. Born from Petu-ya, a yakitori restaurant on the edge of Mexico, this chili crisp is a perfect combination of Mexican peppers and Japanese influence and is loaded with sesame seeds, cumin, ginger, and shiitake mushrooms. It’s definitely one of the spicier options on this list, but still brings a depth of flavor and butteriness that comes from the sesame seeds.
If you’re sick of getting your CBD dose through stale gummies, try Loud Grandma instead. This CBD-infused chili oil was dreamt up by James Beard-semifinalist Calvin Eng and his longtime friend and partner, Ben Gabriel. This chili crisp is made with Pot d’Huile’s CBD-infused olive oil and features garlic, Szechuan peppercorns, and both fermented black soybeans and roasted soybeans for added crunch. It’s not the spiciest option on the list—in fact, you could argue it’s the chillest.
A lot of chili crisps get their crunch from the addition of peanuts and, while that’s certainly delicious, it can be a challenge for those with dietary restrictions. Enter Chili Cheeks, a chili crisp with nuttiness that stems from the addition of sunflower seeds. Along with sunflower seeds, neutral grapeseed oil is infused with the aromatic flavors of shallots, cumin, fish sauce, garlic, ginger, and a blend of chilies. A kiss of MSG perfects this jar and pays homage to the OG chili crisp, Lao Gan Ma. An added bonus is that the label—and subsequent merch—is ridiculously cute.