From dark chocolate bark to savory oatmeal, 8 unique ways to use chili crisp

Try our tips for a spicier day, from breakfast to dessert

By Ashlie D. Stevens

Food Editor

Published August 8, 2021 5:30PM (EDT)

Chili Oil (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Chili Oil (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

Over the past several years, chili crisp, a crunchy and spicy condiment made with fried chili pepper, garlic and roasted soybeans, has seen its popularity heat up across the United States. A well-stocked condiment collection these days includes at least a jar, perhaps by Lao Gan Ma, Fly by Jing or Loud Grandma

But after you've used it on the basics — over leftovers, swirling into rice, as a topping for dumplings — consider spooning chili crisp into these eight dishes for a more flavorful day, from breakfast to dessert. 

Drizzled over vanilla ice cream 

In 2018, dessert shops in Sichuan, China, starting posting images of creamy white ice cream flecked with deep red chili oil. The trend hit the States soon after, and for good reason. The mix of creamy and cold ice cream with spicy chili crisp is a delicious juxtaposition. 

Swirled into spaghetti al limone 

This idea comes from Jenn de la Vega, who published her recipe for Chile Crisp Spaghetti al Limone over on TASTE. "I wondered if chile crisp would stay crisp if I cooked it in a sauce," de la Vega wrote. "And the answer is yes!" 

I love this recipe. The delicately acidic cream sauce is given a serious spice boost from the addition of chili crisp, which also adds a delightful textural contrast that isn't always present in pasta. Also the umami of the crisp pairs beautifully with the umami of the pecorino cheese. 

Whipped into mayonnaise 

Amp up your ho-hum lunch by crafting a quick sandwich spread from velvety mayonnaise (we like Kewpie) and chili crisp. It's also a great binder for a more flavorful egg, chicken or tuna salad. 

Incorporated into chocolate 

The bittersweetness of chocolate and the spice of chili crisp are a natural, if not intuitive, pairing. Melt 8 ounces of dark chocolate and spread it on a parchment-covered sheet pan and sprinkle with chili crisp to taste. Put the pan in the refrigerator until the bark completely sets up and break into shards for snacking. 

Sprinkled on mango 

One of my favorite summertime snacks is chile-spiced mango. For a play on that, cut up some mango, spritz it with a little bit of lime juice and drizzle it with chili crisp. 

Spooned onto hummus 

I love hummus, but the stuff from the grocery store can definitely veer a little bland. There are a few add-ins that help — a squeeze of lemon juice, some chopped olives or roasted red pepper, pine nuts — but chili crisp is an all-in-one solution. It adds spice, crunch and salt. 

Layered onto grilled cheese 

As mentioned in the spaghetti al limone and ice cream examples, chili crisp plays really well with creamy flavors. Spice up your basic grilled cheese with a smear of chili crisp before frying. 

As an addition in savory oatmeal 

While I like a bowl of oats spiced with cinnamon, brown sugar and a pat of butter, I absolutely love savory oatmeal. It's simple to make — cook the oats down in stock instead of water and reach for add-ins like fried or soft-boiled eggs, crumbled bacon, avocado, dashi or citrus kosho. Chili crisp is the perfect final touch. 

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By Ashlie D. Stevens

Ashlie D. Stevens is Salon's food editor. She is also an award-winning radio producer, editor and features writer — with a special emphasis on food, culture and subculture. Her writing has appeared in and on The Atlantic, National Geographic’s “The Plate,” Eater, VICE, Slate, Salon, The Bitter Southerner and Chicago Magazine, while her audio work has appeared on NPR’s All Things Considered and Here & Now, as well as APM’s Marketplace. She is based in Chicago.

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