By now, you’ve likely heard of chili crisp—a spicy, crunchy, and savory oil-based condiment usually packed in artfully designed jars. If you haven’t yet tried it yourself, you’ve probably at least encountered it on TikTok, where tons of creators have been posting drool-worthy clips, dousing the red-speckled sauce on everything from noodles to ice cream.
The highly-stanned condiment packs an array of tasty ingredients like chili peppers, various oils, garlic, shallots, and spices like mushroom powder, ginger, seaweed, and Sichuan pepper. While it’s been used in China for centuries, it only really started to pop up in stores across the US over the past few decades, Jing Gao, founder and CEO of the chili crisp brand Fly By Jing and author of The Book of Sichuan Chili Crisp, tells SELF. Then during the pandemic, its popularity really surged here, when home cooks started experimenting with the sauce as a way to shake up their meals, she explains.
“Chili crisp became an easy and delicious way to add a spicy, umami twist to any dish,” Gao says. She’s been scooping the condiment onto meals since she was a child, eating it on foods like pizza, tacos, mango, or her favorite—fried chicken.
You don’t need to be a cooking pro, though, to mix it into your meals—but you just may need a little help figuring out the best way to do so. Whether you’re looking to use up a jar sitting in your fridge or have been eyeing one at the grocery store, we’re here to help you make the most of it. Here are a few ideas from Gao on how to best enjoy the condiment in surprising and delicious ways—plus a few chili crisp recipes to put the sauce to work.
1. Toss it into practically any type of pasta.
The spicy and umami flavors in chili crisp make it a great addition as a finishing sauce on noodles and pasta because they help with brightening up dishes, says Gao. And it works well on all kinds: Try it on soba noodles, vermicelli, rice noodles, spaghetti, rigatoni, macaroni and cheese, or even lasagna, she says. The more you scoop, the higher the heat.
2. Bake it into delicious treats.
Who doesn’t love a sweet and spicy duo? The next time you start a baking project, consider tossing in some chili crisp for an extra flavor boost, says Gao. If you’re stuck on what to add it to, try mixing it into anything with chocolate, she says. That’s because the earthiness of the condiment pairs deliciously with cocoa flavors. Throw a scoop into a batch of chocolate chip cookie dough, cake batter, or your favorite brownie recipe. Since the sauce is packed with so many spices, you don’t have to worry about accidentally cooking the heat off—there will still be plenty even after it bakes.
3. Spice up your favorite dressing or marinade.
Not sure how to season a dressing or marinade? Chili crisp to the rescue! If you’re going the marinade route, try mixing the sauce with aged black vinegar for a perfect pairing of tangy and umami, says Gao. Remember, the spicier you like your meal, the more time you need to let the sauce soak into proteins or veggies before you get cooking. When it comes to using it as a dressing, try spooning it straight out the jar to flavor up some arugula—the peppery taste of the greens complements the Sichuan pepper and garlic in the chili crisp, she explains.