What Is Spicy Chili Crisp?

Spicy chili crisp is everything you could ask for in a hot sauce. It’s pleasantly spicy, surprisingly crunchy and goes on just about anything—including ice cream!

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In the world of hot sauces, spicy chili crisp is a fairly new addition to the marketplace. We’re here to break down everything you need to know about this addictive condiment.

What is spicy chili crisp?

Spicy chili crisp is a blend of various chili peppers, soybean oil, garlic, onions, spices, soybeans and peanuts. You definitely taste the peppers, but it’s not as spicy as you would think. Most of my friends who avoid spicy things have become converts and use it in small amounts in a lot of dishes.

It’s an intriguing blend of salty, spicy and umami savoriness that is so addictive. My first spoonful was on top of a saltine cracker, and with one bite I was hooked. 15 minutes later, a sleeve of saltines and 1/3 of a jar was gone. I’ve been putting it on everything I can think of since.

Where did it come from?

The most famous brand, LaoGanMa, was the brainchild of Tao Huabi. In order to support her family after she was widowed, she opened a noodle shop in the southwestern Chinese province of Guizhou, an area well known for its chili peppers and spicy cuisine. As word of her spicy noodles started to spread, she realized it was the sauce people were in love with, not the noodles. Capitalizing on the fame, she closed the noodle shop and launched the LaoGanMa Special Flavor Foodstuffs Company in 1997. Her spicy chili crisp has since become one of the most beloved condiments in China and is quickly conquering the rest of the world.

Are chili oil and spicy chili crisp the same?

While they may sound the same, chili oil is usually vegetable or other neutral oil simmered with chili pepper flakes, garlic and sometimes ginger or other ingredients. The end result is typically a lot of oil flavored with chili. Spicy chili crisp, on the other hand, can be thought of as a jazzed-up version of chili oil. When you first open the jar you’ll see a layer of oil, but when you dig into it, you find the crunchy goodness just below the surface.

chili crisp eggJames Schend/Taste of Home

What’s spicy chili crisp good on?

It may sound like a cliché but I’d ask what isn’t it good on. I think almost any time you’d normally reach for a bottle of hot sauce is a good opportunity to make the switch. Keep in mind the texture will be crunchy, so sauces or glazes won’t be the same—in some cases they’ll be better! I like to mix a tablespoon or two into a cup of mayonnaise; it makes a great dip or sandwich spread.

You can also try it on your eggs in the morning. Sometimes I’ll pour a little of the oil in the jar into the skillet before I fry up some sunny-side up eggs and then spoon more on top. Avocado toast only gets better with spicy chili crisp ladled on top as well as pizzas of all kinds. One of the most surprising uses for it is on top of vanilla ice cream. That’s right, ice cream. There’s something about this combo that just works. The sweetness of the ice cream balances the heat of the chili and the crunch is a great counter to the creamy smooth ice cream; trust me, you just have to try it.

If spicy chili crisp doesn’t satisfy all your spicy cravings, you may want to try sriracha or wasabi.

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Originally Published in Taste of Home

James Schend
Formerly Taste of Home’s Deputy Editor, Culinary, James oversaw the Food Editor team, recipe contests and Bakeable, and managed all food content for Trusted Media Brands. He has also worked in the kitchen of Williams-Sonoma and at Southern Living. An honor graduate of The Culinary Institute of America, James has traveled the world searching for great food in all corners of life.