Chili Oil Guide: Shelf Life, Usage Tips & More | 2023

img of chili oil shelf life, expiration date, and storage tips

Chili oil is that delightful condiment we all love to have in our fridge or pantry, adding a fiery kick to our favorite dishes. But have you ever wondered how long it lasts and how to use it safely?

The quick answer is yes, it will eventually go off, but it does have a pretty long shelf life. Pantry items like oils with a long shelf life might seem to last forever, but it’s always better to be safe and make sure you’re not pouring something bad all over your food.

There are also some risks with oils that have been infused using fresh ingredients that are important to take into account, but we will get into that later.

Let’s dive into the world of chili oil, spilling all the flavorful details you need to know!

What is Chili Oil?

Chili oil is a simple concoction made by infusing oil with chili peppers. You can find it mainly in Asian cuisines, particularly in regions like Sichuan, Hunan, Guizhou, and Shaanxi[*]. The best part? It’s super convenient to have in your kitchen because you can quickly spice up any dish without extra hassle.

Does Chili Oil Go Bad? How Can You Tell If It Is Still Good?

A good, fresh chili oil will be:

1. Fresh, chili flavor

When you taste fresh chili oil you should only taste the clean chili flavor and heat. The taste of the oil shouldn’t be obvious if it is a neutral oil.

2. Neutral smell

Oil should not have a strong smell if it is fresh. If the oil has a clean, very mild scent then it is safe to use.

There are just a few signs to look out for, but eventually, your chili oil will let you know it is past its best.

How Long Does Chili Oil Last Unrefrigerated?

Freshly homemade or store-bought chili can be stored at room temperature in your pantry in a sealed jar for up to 3 weeks.

We suggest that you make small batches so it’s easy to use within the three-week window without having to worry about refrigerating.

How To Tell If Your Chili Oil Is Bad?

So, as we mentioned before, all oil goes bad, especially those infused with something extra like chili. It does have a long shelf life if stored correctly, but it’s always beneficial to know what to look for if it goes off.

Let’s start by having a look at what should you look out for in rancid chili oil:

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AppearanceCloudy, murky, or changed color
TasteStale or off taste
Smell Rancid or off smell
TextureThick or sticky consistency
Expiration datePassed expiration date on the bottle


Appearance: If the oil appears cloudy, murky, or has a change in color, it could indicate that it’s not suitable for consumption.

Can Chili Oil Go Mouldy?

Chili oil, any oil for that matter, can get cloudy when refrigerated. If you remove it from the fridge and leave it to come to room temperature it should look clear again.

If it remains looking cloudy at room temperature we recommend following the steps above to check if your oil has gone rancid.

Bad Flavor:

Any oil that has gone bad will get a very unpleasant flavor. It will taste very old and stale so this is the easiest way to tell if your oil has gone off.

Off Smell:

If you don’t want to taste the oil in case it tastes bad you can try the smell test. If the oil smells off, like it’s been left out for a long time, then your oil is probably past its best.

Texture – Bubbling on the surface

If the oil has been infused incorrectly it could make the chili go bad which can produce small bubbles. The easiest way to see this is to look through the glass and serif there are any bubbles forming and making their way to the surface.

Expiration Date:

Check the expiration date on the bottle. If it has passed, the oil may have gone bad.

How To Store Chili Oil?

Freshly made or store-bought chili can be stored at room temperature in your pantry in a sealed jar for up to 3 weeks.

However, if you want to prolong its life, you can keep it in a sealed jar in the fridge for up to 6 months.

Does Chili Oil Need To Be Refrigerated After Opening?

No, it is not necessary to store your chili oil in the fridge. However, if you want to prolong its life, you can keep it in a sealed jar in the fridge for up to 6 months.

Can Bad Chili Oil Make You Sick?

In short, yes, bad chili oil can make you sick if it has been infused incorrectly. [*]

Rancid oil, as we discussed, will merely taste and smell foul, but in the worst cases, it will contain spores that cause botulism. The symptoms of botulism include nausea, vomiting, slurring speech, impaired vision, and even death.

The easy way to avoid this is to infuse your oils with dried chilis. It is spores present in the fresh ingredients that cause botulism, so going with the dried version infuses quicker and is safer in the long run.

What Can I Substitute Chili Oil For If I Run Out?

If you happen to not have any chili oil on hand, you can quickly whip yourself up a small batch as we did above, but obviously, it won’t pack as much of a punch because it hasn’t had long to infuse.

If you want a more intense hit of heat quickly, you can substitute two tablespoons of peanut or vegetable oil mixed with one tablespoon of cayenne pepper. This is going to be very spicy, so approach with caution.

Make Chili Oil at Home

Yes, you can make chili oil at home, and the process is pretty straightforward.

As we mentioned above, infusing fresh chilis can have some disastrous side effects, but this method uses dry chili flakes that are totally safe.

Once you’ve made your own chili oil, why not try and change it up by using different dried chilis to create oils of different flavors?

Jalapenos, habaneros, and other chili peppers all have their own distinct flavor and will make oils that are totally unique from one another.

Get the recipe:

Here is a quick and easy 5-minute chili oil recipe:

  1. Add 1 cup of vegetable oil (or any other neutral oil), a pinch of salt, and two tablespoons of dried chili flakes to a small pot.
  1. Heat over medium-low heat and let it simmer for 5 minutes. Stir often throughout.
  1. Allow to cool for at least an hour or until the oil has reached room temperature. Decant into a sealed jar.
  1. If you want to add extra flavor, you can also infuse dried herbs, soy sauce, and Sichuan peppercorns
  1. Strain the oil through cheesecloth if you want it to be smooth and free of silt.

The most important part of making your own chili oil is not overheating the oil; you want it to heat just enough to infuse the flavors without starting to smoke, as this can be dangerous.

Here is a quick and easy Asian version from CiCi Li you might also want to watch.

What can I use chili oil for?

Chili oil may have originated in China, but it can be used across a whole host of cuisines. Wherever you can add heat, you can use. 

Here are a few ideas of different ways you can put this classic condiment to use:(*)

  • Cooking Oil: Instead of frying your meats and vegetables in regular oil, you can replace it to add flavor right from the start.
  • Dipping sauce: Not for the faint-hearted, it makes a delicious, spicy dipping sauce for dumplings and spring rolls. It’s even tastier if you add a little dash of soy sauce and some fresh ginger to add a salty kick to the dip.
  • Finishing: It is so versatile you can drizzle it on almost anything from savory to sweet. Try adding a little to a salad as a dressing or even drizzle some over some fresh mango with some lime juice; it just makes everything taste better!
  • Marinade: This makes an excellent marinade for several proteins. Brush it over chicken, pork, or seafood, and let it marinate for at least an hour before cooking.


So what did we learn today?

  • Does chili oil go bad? Yes, chili oil can eventually go off.
  • If you want to make your own always use dried chilis
  • If refrigerated, it can last up to 6 months 

All in all, this is a really easy condiment to make for yourself, and it is bound to get used a lot, especially if you love cooking Asian meals.

We hope this has inspired you to use this classic sauce and all the possibilities it brings to the table, literally.

Up Next: The Optimal Shelf Life of Oils

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