Chili oil is an infusion of chili peppers in a base oil like sesame oil. It is a condiment commonly used in Chinese and Korean cuisine. Chili oil can easily be prepared at home and enjoyed with the dishes. It is generally reddish orange in color and tastes like chili peppers, although slightly less intense. This makes it ideal as a sauce or dip for many recipes.
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Chili oil is prepared by cooking red chili peppers in a base oil. Depending on the variety of chili pepper used an the base oil, there can be many combinations for chili oil. Commonly used base oils for this purpose are soybean oil, sesame oil, tea seed oil, peanut oil or grapeseed oil. The chili may be fresh or dried. The Japanese have a special variety of chili oil called Rayu. It is made jut like chili pepper but there are other ingredients in it like ginger, turmeric, paprika and guava leaves. In Italy, a similar oil is made with olive oil as base called Olio de peperoncino. It is also known as Calabrian chili oil because it is made with chili that grows in Calabria, Italy. Chili oil made with szechuan chili is known as Szechuan chili oil.
There is another oil that is obtained from chili. It is called chili seed oil , which is extracted from the seeds of chili peppers. It is generally obtained from the seeds of Capsicum annum.
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Chili oil is also known as chili pepper oil, hot chili oil, or simply hot oil. Depending on the variety of chili pepper, its heat value (SHU) changes.
How to make chili oil at home ?
The procedure to make chili oil is very simple. These are the steps to make chili oil.
- Choose the base oil. This depends on personal choice. One can go for peanut oil, almond oil, or sesame oil. Take some base oil and pour it on the pan.
- Cut chili peppers along its length. One may choose to take out its seeds. They are notorious for adding spice and heat to the oil. If you want more of the chili heat, use the seeds.
- Fry chili peppers in oil in a frying pan for 8 – 10 minutes. Then, one can either pour it directly into a jar or filter the oil. Some recipes taste better with filtered oil, while some others taste good with the fried chili in the oil as well.
- Let the oil cool and cover the jar with a dark lid.
Chili oil is not easy to substitute, because of its unique flavor. If there is a need for a chili oil substitute in a recipe, one can use dried chili flakes to get the heat and spiciness.
Besides its use as a condiment, chili oil can also be used for various healing purposes. This oil absorbs many nutrients from the chili peppers like capsaicinwhich lend it powerful therapeutic properties.
- Anti-inflammatory – reduces inflammation.
- Analgesic – powerful pain reliever by numbing the sensation of pain.
- Hypoglycemic – can lower blood glucose levels.
- Antioxidant – Chili peppers are strong antioxidants and they lend some antioxidant power to its oil.
These properties are because of capsaicin in chili which is also present in the chili oil.
Color, Taste and Aroma
Chili oil develops a reddish tinge because of the chili peppers. The aroma is also reminiscent of chillies. Taste is spicy.
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1. Relief from Pain
Capsaicin is a well known analgesic. It numbs the location wherever it is applied and block the nerves from carrying the sensation of pain. That is why it is used in creams to relieve joint pain in arthritis . One can make a homemade cream using chili oil and some cream base, like beeswax. Or, one can directly apply chili oil on the painful joint. Capsaicin is very effective topical pain reliever for people suffering from osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. This study finds that about 80 % of arthritic patients get significant pain relief within 2 weeks of regular usage.
2. Relief from Post herpetic neuralgia
Capsaicin has found to be an effective pain reliever in neuralgia . It relieves the characteristic burning pain which feels like an electric shock. Similarly, chili oil can help in reducing pain in other kinds of neuralgia, like diabetic neuropathy. Capsaicin has also been found to alleviate some pain in trigeminal neuralgia , a condition that causes facial pain along the trigeminal nerve. These are strong evidences for the effectiveness of capsaicin based creams for reducing the extreme discomfort in nervous system related pain and tingling.
Capsaicin based creams are an effective treatment for psoriasis. On a similar note, chili oil can also be used to provide relief from the symptoms of psoriasis. It can be mixed in a soothing cream base like olive oil, beeswax, aloe vera and propolis to make a home remedy for psoriatic lesions.
4. Other Health Benefits
Because of the presence of capsaicin in chili oil, it can be used to alleviate the following conditions.
- Inflammatory pain in muscles and tendons, like in tendonitis.
- Bursitis, an inflammation of the bursae in the joints.
- Any kind of itching. This makes it useful in insect bites and all kinds of itchy conditions.
- Fibromyalgia – Capsaicin is one of the few substances to provide relief in fibromyalgia.
Chili oil may have a strong reaction in certain people. This is generally not an allergic reaction or a chemical burn, but a strong reaction of the body to the excitation of the nerves. If the oil feels too stingy and discomforting when applied to the skin, one should avoid using it topically. It should not be used in areas of sensitive skin.
Chili oil made with garlic may be susceptible to the bacteria Clostridium botulinum if kept for long. Therefore, chili oil recipes that have garlic in it should be consumed fresh and quickly.
Nutritional and Medicinal Information
These are the nutrition facts about chili infused oil. Chili oil contains nutrients from the base oil as well as the chili pepper. The most important compound found in chili pepper is capsaicin, the uses of which are well documented. However, these peppers are rich in a lot of nutrients, like Vitamin C and carotenoids. Chili peppers are also rich in Vitamin A, B – Vitamins, Vitamin E, Vitamin K and minerals like Iron, Copper, Magnesium, Manganese and Phosphorus. Some percentage of these nutrients, especially the fat soluble one leach into the oil. If you use chili peppers with the oil, then you get the nutrition from the chili as well, although some of it is destroyed in the cooking process.
Capsaicin content in chili oil is about 7 %. 
Consumption of chili oil with chili in it may improve the absorption of non heme iron from the food. This is because chili peppers are rich in Vitamin C. Even though they are fried, some of the Vitamin C might remain. Vitamin C improves the absorption of non-heme iron ( the one that we get from plant sources ) and makes it more bioavailable.
Chili oil may also contain other beneficial compounds in small quantities, like Capsanthin (Paprika oleoresin ) and Capsorubin. Among these, Capsanthin is noted for its ability to raise HDL cholesterol in the body, which is healthy.
Buying and Storage
Chili oil is generally resistant to rancidity if it is made with a resistant oil. One should note that some commercial chili oils are actually adulterated with coloring dyes. If these dyes are not organic, they can be harmful to the body. One should therefore go for purely organic chili oil. A better way is to prepare it at home. The process is quick and one is sure about its purity.
1. Treatment of arthritis with topical capsaicin: a double-blind trial.(PMID:1954640)
2. Post-herpetic neuralgia and topical capsaicin C.Peter N. Watson, Ramon J. Evans, Verna R. Watt
3. Analgesic effect of capsaicin in idiopathic trigeminal neuralgia.Fusco BM1, Alessandri M
4. Determination of capsaicin in chili oil with HPLC. YOU Guo-ye1 et. al.
5. Dietary capsanthin, the main carotenoid in paprika (Capsicum annuum), alters plasma high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol levels and hepatic gene expression in rats.Aizawa K, Inakuma T. Br J Nutr. 2009