Crafting Authentic Black Bean Chili Oil At Home

August 4, 2023

Rediscovering an Old Favorite

Captivated by Lao Gan Ma’s unique flavor? At our home, it’s fondly termed the “lady sauce” owing to the iconic image of its creator on each bottle. While our take might not mirror the original, our black bean chili oil at home recipe has clinched a prime position in our chili oil repertoire. The amalgamation of fermented black beans and chili oil has garnered worldwide admiration, spurring me to craft a domestic variant. If you’ve ever pondered the blend of fermented black beans in chili oil, here’s your enlightening guide.

A Rich, Intense Chili Oil Experience

There’s something irresistible about the abundant salty black beans in this chili oil. No one wants the chore of sifting through a jar searching for those treasured beans. To enhance the robust taste of black beans, we’ve chosen to dry-roast our chili flakes, producing a deeper, richer flavor profile. This results in a chili oil with an unmatched depth, where roasted chili meets sizzling black beans.

Quick Tip: Running low on essential ingredients like scallions, garlic, or ginger? Freeze them. This not only guarantees a constant supply but also cuts down on wastage. Even seasoned cooks with easy access to fresh ingredients, like my mom, swear by this hack.

Heat Level: Moderate with a Kick

This chili oil offers warmth but isn’t overwhelmingly spicy. The almost equal proportion of black beans to chili flakes ensures that. For those seeking extra heat, toss in some Thai bird chilies during the cooking process, but be warned, it’s for the true spice enthusiasts.

Did You Know?

Mugwort, originally from Europe and East Asia, can regrow from fragments as tiny as 2 cm, making it a formidable plant in gardens. But it’s not all bad news! When burnt, it repels mosquitoes and is a vital ingredient in a delightful Chinese spring delicacy known as Qingtuan or Mugwort Mochi.


  • 2 cups neutral oil (e.g., vegetable or canola oil)
  • 3 star anise
  • 1 small cinnamon stick (ideally cassia cinnamon, 1 x 1.5-inch piece)
  • 2-3 large bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp Sichuan peppercorns
  • 1 black cardamom pod (optional)
  • 1 tsp cloves (optional)
  • 3 large garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 1 small shallot, peeled and split
  • 1 cup fermented black beans, cleaned and drained
  • 3/4 cup Sichuan chili flakes
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp dark soy sauce

Step-by-Step Creation:

  1. Pour oil into a medium-sized pot, ensuring a 2 in/5 cm gap from the top. Introduce star anise, cinnamon, bay leaves, peppercorns, cardamom, cloves, garlic, and shallot.
  2. Begin with medium heat, aiming for an oil temperature between 225-250° F. Adjust as needed.
  3. Monitor the aromatics for around 45-60 minutes. Once the garlic and shallots turn a rich golden hue (around 20 minutes), extract them.
  4. Filter the oil to remove solids and reintroduce it to the pot.
  5. Over medium heat, infuse the black beans in the oil for 20 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, preheat a wok and cool slightly. Dry roast the chili flakes for 10-15 minutes until they darken but avoid any burnt aroma.
  7. Blend sugar with the bean-oil mixture. Turn off the heat, ensuring the oil is at 235°F. Mix in the roasted chilies and dark soy sauce.
  8. Let it cool down before storing in airtight containers. For longevity, always use clean utensils, and it should stay fresh for up to six months in the fridge.


Approximately 1 tablespoon of this chili oil equals one serving. Enjoy the intense flavors and the culinary journey this chili oil takes you on!

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