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Feature

November 3, 2021
Our Chili Crisp Power Ranking, According to A Hyper Enthusiast Who Has All The Empty Jars To Prove It
From shiny newcomers like Fly by Jing and Momofuku to the classics (i.e., Lao Gan Ma).
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For the uninitiated, chili crisp is the fiery, savory, and crunchy condiment that originated in Chinese cuisine but can nowadays be found on just about any dish. The vibrant red chili oil can be used to spice up some leftover rice or broth, and the crunchy garlic, soybean, or peanut bits (depending on the brand) will add depth and texture to tacos, noodles, or even ice cream.

Chili crisp shines brightest, however, when it comes to weeknights when you throw together what’s left in your pantry and hope for the best. Even if the end result is largely meh, some chili crisp will at least provide enough flavor to prevent you from giving up on your home-cooked meal and ordering takeout for the fifth time this week instead.

When it comes to choosing a chili crisp, there are a ton of different options on the market, from toasty, almost-sweet ones made with sesame oil to hot and lip-numbing jars with Sichuan peppercorns. Here are the ones that are worth having on hand, maybe even in your bag, if you’re willing to risk some bright red spillage.

We’re recommending these products because we actually use, and like, them. Things you buy through our links may earn us a commission.

Our Current Favorite

There’s a reason Fly By Jing has been everywhere on your social feeds lately. It’s so good we literally can’t stop using it, and there was even a collective sigh of grief in my apartment when our first jar ran out. The spiciness brings plenty of heat and complex savory notes to just about any dish, and you can even pair this with desserts or pastries for a sweet and spicy kick. Fly By Jing is also one of the tingliest chili crisps we’ve tried, thanks to the numbing effects of its Sichuan peppercorns.

Get Fly By Jing Sichuan Chili Crisp ($15)→

The Crunchiest

Momofuku’s chili crunch is a well-rounded chili crisp that we’ve tried on everything from quesadillas to steaming bowls of pho (the full list of dishes and ingredients we’ve slathered chili crisp on is genuinely embarrassing at this point). It’s versatile, tasty, and gets the job done spice-wise. We also appreciate how there’s a solid crisp-to-oil ratio — the little oil that’s left once the crispy bits are gone can be easily drizzled onto a scallion pancake or some runny eggs.

Get Momofuku Original Chili Crunch ($12)→

A Sesame-Forward Jar

Chili crisp made with sesame oil is harder to find because the traditional chili frying process is incompatible with sesame oil’s lower smoke point. However, this chili crisp is made at lower temperatures, so you get the rich, almost sweet nuttiness of the sesame oil with all the fiery umami flavor from Sichuan peppercorns and MSG.

Get Bullet Sesame Oil Chili Crisp ($10)→

The Original

Lao Gan Ma is the OG chili crisp, often found in home and restaurant pantries alike. The trifecta of flash fried chilis, peanuts, and MSG are the ideal dressing for just about anything. We love using a spoonful to add some texture and heat to fried rice, but you could also add some to your favorite instant ramen to dress it up as a low-effort weeknight meal.

Get Lao Gan Ma Fried Chili in Oil ($3)→

For Those Who Want Extra Spice

If you really want to turn up the heat, you can’t go wrong with this relatively new chili crisp from The Spicy Mamas. It’s hot, but not so spicy that you’ll feel miserable or lose all sense of flavor. You can still taste the funky savoriness of the fish sauce and mushroom powder, while MSG rounds out the satisfying factor.

Get The Spicy Mamas Killer Spice ($8)→

A Fun Tingly Option

Sichuan peppercorns give this chili crisp a tingling sensation, so it’s ideal for making málà-esque sauces or mapo tofu. The bright red oil adds a smack of color and flavor to crispy dumplings or soft tofu — and it’s even solid in a breakfast-for-dinner waffle situation.

Get Su Chili Crisp ($14)→

A Milder Garlic Topping

If you like the concept of a chili crisp but can’t really hang with spice, this Japanese garlic crunch delivers plenty of flavor and texture without making you feel like you’re fighting for your life on Hot Ones. The thin slices of garlic are a perfect ramen topping that’ll make it seem like you put a lot more effort into your meal than you actually did. You could also toss some smashed cucumbers with this garlic crunch and some sesame oil for a fun snack or side dish that’s equal parts fiery and refreshing.

Get Shinshu Busan Chili Oil with Garlic Crunch ($8)→

A Great All-Around Option

Boon’s humble jar of chili crisp contains more than meets the eye. It’s made with a blend of chilis, spices, anchovies, shallots, and garlic — all of which add flavor to the versatile sunflower oil base. To say you can put this on everything is an understatement: we’ve tested it on burgers, fried eggs, and ice cream, and it’s a consistent presence in our stir fries and other “all I have are some frozen veggies and tofu” weeknight dinners.

Get Boon Chili Crisp ($18)→

A Peanut-less Crunch Option

Milu is a fast-casual Chinese spot in Gramercy, but they also sell an assortment of their own spices and sauces that are true pantry staples for easy home cooking. Their take on chili crisp has plenty of heat without sacrificing flavor, and it has a great texture thanks to the toasted soy nuts that provide extra crunch. It’s also a great Lao Gan Ma substitute if you can’t have peanuts.

Get Milu Chili Crisp ($12)→

A Great Vegan Pick

Many chili crisps use fish sauce or MSG to add some complexity and savoriness to their oil, but this Spicy Mamas version is ideal for folks who can’t have either of those ingredients. The Vegan Spice garlic chili oil instead uses shiitake mushroom powder to give its sauce a slight funkiness, and it still tastes great on everything from eggs to pasta.

Get The Spicy Mamas Vegan Chili Crisp ($9)→

The Trader Joe’s One

It’s great that Trader Joe’s is introducing the concept of chili crisp to folks who might not otherwise have access to it in their local grocery stores. That being said, this Chili Onion Crunch is just fine. It is indeed crunchy, but the flavor profile leans more smokey and savory than fiery. This chili onion crunch also uses olive oil as its base, so it’s less versatile than chili crisps that use a more neutral oil like sunflower or canola. Still, it’s a solid option for people who don’t really do spice or for anyone who just wants a savory crunchy dressing on sandwiches and the like.

Get Trader Joe’s Chili Onion Crunch ($4)→

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