We make hot pepper (chili) oil as a replacement for the red pepper flakes we often see in Italian restaurants in the United States. Why? Because when we went to Italy, we found that they were using the hot pepper (chili) oil to spice up their pizza, spaghetti, etc. rather than the red pepper flakes.
Why Make Hot Pepper (or Chili) Oil?
In Italy, we noticed that many restaurants had hot pepper (or chili) oil on the tables instead of pepper flakes, and we found ourselves liking it better. It spreads the flavor out a bit, and you don’t get the sudden shock of biting into a red pepper flake.
Leave it to the Italians to find another great way to use extra virgin olive oil in their meals. Since we enjoyed it so much, I decided to make some, and it couldn’t be simpler.
How To Make Chili Oil
Simply take an appropriate bottle (I save the bottles that we get balsamic vinegar in because they’re nicely sized and have a nice pouring spout/cap combination) and sterilize in boiling water or the dishwasher.
Also, buy or grow some small hot peppers. I grew one plant of Thai hot pepper this year, and what you see in the picture is about half of the hot peppers we got from that one plant – you don’t need many plants. If you’ve got excess hot peppers left, you can also make hot pepper jelly.
If you make a small slit in the peppers before adding them to the bottle, you can speed up the infusion process – but in these photos, I didn’t slit the peppers.
Add extra virgin olive oil (you probably don’t need a great extra virgin olive oil for this, because it’s going to get hot and you may not be able to tell that it’s a great olive oil) and wait.
When you first add the oil, the peppers will float to the top, but as they fill with oil they’ll gradually sink to the bottom of the bottle. After several weeks, the oil will begin tasting spicy, and eventually will be quite spicy.
Use to shake on pizza, pasta, and anything that you’d like to kick up a notch (as Emeril would put it). These might also make nice homemade hostess or Christmas gifts.