Chili Oil Shelf Life: Can It Go Bad? How Long Does It Last?


Chili oil is a delicious condiment that we love having on hand in our fridge or pantry.

It is made simply from oil that has been infused with chili peppers of some kind.

Chili oil is primarily found in Asian cuisines[*], especially in the Sichuan, Hunan, Guizhou, and Shaanxi regions.

We think it’s really handy to keep in your pantry to quickly add a hit of spice to your cooking without any extra prep. 

Not only is it very convenient but it can last on your shelf for a good while.

So the burning question is: Does chili oil go bad? 

Short Anwser:

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.

Today, we will give you some insight into chili oil and give you a little recipe to make it for yourself. So if you are ready, let’s get into it.

What’s Chili Oil Made Of?

image of Chili Oil

Chili oil can be simply made by infusing dried chili flakes with a neutral oil like vegetable or canola.

If you want to you can add some extra flavors like spices, dried herbs, and salt to add extra flavors.

How To Know If 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:

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

Does Chili Oil Go Bad?

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.

Do I Need to Refrigerate my Chili Oil 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.

How Long Does Chili Oil Last Unrefrigerated?

Freshly made 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.

Why Has My Chili Oil Gone Cloudy?

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.

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.

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.

Can I Make Chili Oil at Home?

Yes, you can, 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 once, 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 version of Asian chili oil from CiCi Li you might also want to watch.



So what did we learn today?

  • Chili oil does 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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