This chilli oil is based on a Sichuanese recipe that's a staple for many of their fiery sauces. The heating of the oil in the beginning adds a smoky undertone to the spicy chilli flavour. I've added fennel seeds which impart a slight sweetness and that delicious aniseed flavour I love so much. This amount gives you far more than you will need, but it lasts for a couple of months and is a handy condiment that can be used for any number of things. It's a lot easier if you have a thermometer for this recipe. You can guess, but the temperature of the oil is very important. If it’s too hot you will end up with a bitter mess, but not hot enough and you miss out on the right amount of sizzle that releases all the lovely fragrance of the chilli and fennel.

500 ml





Skill level

Average: 3.1 (25 votes)


  • 550 ml grapeseed oil
  • 50 g fennel seeds
  • 100 g chilli flakes

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Resting time overnight

Place the oil in a medium saucepan over a high heat and warm it for about 5–10 minutes, until it reaches about 180°C. If you don’t have a thermometer you’ll have to just pay attention and remove it from the heat once you see the oil start to shimmer and you see it start to smoke.

Remove from the heat and let the oil cool to between 120°C–140°C. Depending on the type of pot you use, this will take about 5 minutes.

Add the seeds and flakes to the oil. They should sizzle nicely and result in some very spicy and aromatic smells that will make you sneeze if you breath them in too much. Give them a good stir.

Let the oil cool and then pour the mix into a sterilised jar and let it sit overnight before you use it.

The oil needs to be stored in a coolish, dark spot and should last a couple of months. I tend to leave the fennel and the chilli in the oil, straining it off as I need it.  The toasted fennel and chilli is also good to use in cooking or for making sambals.



• I use a GM free canola oil as it has a high burning temperature and is quite neutral, making it a great carrier for other flavours. A vegetable or rice bran oil would also be appropriate. 


Photography by Benito Martin. Styling by Trish Heagarty. 

Pop by Berta restaurant in Sydney and tell chef O Tama Carey how much you enjoy reading her peas of wisdom, and check out her behind-the-stove shenanigans on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.