The Absolute Best Ways To Use Chili Crisp At Home

What is chili crisp, you say? What? Where have you been? Chili crisp is the red-hot star of the condiment world — some have even said it will "make you want to break up with Sriracha" (per Inverse). It's been around for a while, but was pulled from the refrigerator door and brought to the attention of many in 2020, when Sam Sifton wrote a piece for The New York Times Magazine titled, "Your Quarantine Cooking Needs Condiments.” The article was accompanied by a photo and recipe for Tofu and Green Beans with Chili Crisp.

For the uninitiated, chili crisp is a speckled sauce with legions of devoted fans, including professional chefs and home cooks (per Insider). Chinese noodle shop owner Tao Huabi is credited with creating the fiery concoction of oil blended with fried shallot, garlic, and pepper flakes (which provide the crisp) and the iconic brand Lao Gan Ma in the 1990s. Newer offerings have stormed the marketplace, including the popular Fly By Jing, which Sifton noted is his favorite because it includes flavor enhancers like mushroom powder, fermented black beans, and fresh Sichuan peppers, and is made with all-natural ingredients. In conclusion, Sifton called chili crisp "a condiment to improve all it touches, a shortcut to deliciousness.”

According to the r/cooking community on Reddit, chili crisp is at home on everything from a mound of buttered rice to a bowl of ramen or noodles to a slice of pizza. "Just put it on everything,” suggests one Redditor.

The sky's the limit when it comes to chili crisp

While you might not want to spoon it in your morning coffee or on your cereal, the appeal of chili crisp is that it's a "sky's the limit” condiment (per The Washington Post). Washington Post recipe editor Ann Maloney noted she has tossed sauteed vegetables with the punchy sauce, used it to jazz up scrambled eggs, and poured it on as a marinade for shrimp before broiling the shellfish.

Eater's James Park keeps nearly a dozen jars of chili crisp in the refrigerator. He spreads it on toast and pizza and drizzles it on fried eggs. To make next-level roast chicken, Park combines copious amounts of chili crisp and softened butter and rubs it all over the bird (per Eater). Want to add some heat to soup broths? Stir in some chili crisp. "There's so much you can do with this powerful condiment beyond drizzling it on dumplings,” Park writes.

A bit of sweet and a bit of heat

If you've come to the conclusion that chili crisp should strictly be used to augment savory foods, like rice, noodles, sandwiches, and meat — think again. Pastry chef Pichet Ong, a James Beard award nominee (seven times) and co-owner of NiHao, a contemporary Chinese restaurant in Baltimore, Maryland, keeps chili crisp in the kitchen and likes to use it in surprising ways. One dessert treatment features a melange of fruits, including starfruit, guava, watermelon, and Asian pear, and a dipping sauce made with chili crisp, lime, sugar, Maldon salt, and dried shrimp. The heat of the chili crisp is "less potent” when paired with something cold, Ong told Insider.

If chocolate sauce and a Maraschino cherry is your idea of the perfect topping for vanilla ice cream, you might not be ready for a sundae topped with chili crisp. Dan Souza, of Cook's Illustrated and the YouTube series "What's Eating Dan,” tried a homemade version of chili crisp on vanilla ice cream and found it to be love at first bite. (Yes, you can make your own chili crisp). His version contains spices like cinnamon, cardamom, and ginger, in addition to the signature ingredients like fried garlic, shallots, and hot peppers. It sounds like an absolute taste sensation, with the coolness and creaminess of the ice cream offering what Souza calls a "respite” from the heat of the chili crisp.