Chilli oil is perhaps one of the most convenient condiments to have around. It is the easiest way to spice things up (and when we say “things,” we mean every cuisine and savory food item you can think of).
Agreed, chili oil does have a surprisingly long shelf life. But no food lasts forever, and chili oil is no exception. So, to answer your question, yes, chili oil does go bad.
In this article, we will give you a crash course on everything you need to know about this condiment, from how it is made to proper storage to signs of spoilage. So, keep reading!
How long does chili oil last?
While oils alone have impeccable shelf lives, this changes when oils are infused with other ingredients. Moreover, there is an additional risk factor when mixed ingredients are rather fresh. There are two parts to this answer.
If your chili oil is unopened, there is not much difference with regard to storing it in the fridge or the pantry (or any cool and dry place).
However, if you open and start using your chili oil, the shelf-life decreases, and proper storage becomes even more vital. This part is where the storage difference kicks in.
- In the fridge, chili oil will last longer (upwards of 9-12 months).
- When you keep it in a cool and dry place, it will last for a maximum of six months.
(Author’s note – the coldness attained from refrigeration helps infused oils and prevents them from going rancid. However, freezing is not a good idea.)
With that said, there are also other factors that come into play, such as the place of manufacturing or whether you make chili oil at home or get it from a store.
When you look at chili oils available in the Indian market, there usually isn’t a final date of consumption specified through disclaimers such as “use by” or “best before.” On the other hand, homemade chili oils have a shorter shelf life and will last around six months if you store them properly in an airtight container in the fridge.
How to tell if your chili oil has gone bad?
If you have any doubts about your chili oil not being consumable, these are the signs you need to look for to know for sure –
Smell it. Irrespective of the chili oil being store-bought or homemade, the oil shouldn’t be the dominant smell (due to it being a neutral oil) when you sniff chili oil. Instead, you should be able to smell chilies. If it smells off, discard it.
Quick container inspection
The second test is inspecting the container itself. If you see any bubbles on the surface, it is an indicator of either wrong infusion or spoilage. The answer, despite the reason for bubbling, stays the same – throwing it away.
Finally, there is the taste test. Always taste the oil before you add it all over your food. If the chili oil tastes bad, different from how it is supposed to, stale, or just downright unpleasant, you know the drill.
It is normal if your chili oil seems cloudy after being refrigerated. However, if it continues looking the same way even after you bring it to room temperature, it is a sign of the oil going rancid. If it is the latter, you need to get rid of it.
What happens if you consume spoiled chili oil?
The effects vary depending on what has caused spoilage. If your chili oil solely has rancid oil, the worst that will happen is your food will smell or taste bad.
However, if the reason for spoilage is the wrong infusion, your spoiled chili oil can lead to botulism. This bacterial infection is caused due to the emergence of spores through infusing oil with fresh ingredients.
So, your oil will develop poisons that do not affect taste or smell. If you notice nausea, impaired vision or speech, and vomiting, consult the doctor immediately.
Can you make chili oil at home?
Yes, you can. The best way is to heat the oil and let it infuse for some time with the chilies (and other ingredients).
- Warm the chosen neutral oil on medium heat for 3-4 minutes. Do not let it smoke. The idea is to heat the oil just enough to let it do its magic – not enough to burn the other ingredients.
- You can pour the hot oil over the dried chilies (yes, dry) after crushing the chilies or using the flakes, or you can put the chilies in the oil during the heating process to let it infuse.
- What else can you add? Star anise, garlic, soya sauce, salt, and garlic are just a few examples. However, the shelf life will get affected due to the presence of fresh ingredients. So, if you decide to add other ingredients, ensure that you make the chili oil in small amounts and consume it soon.
- Let the mixture cool down before you store it in a dry airtight container and keep it in the fridge.
Author’s note – if infused incorrectly, chili oil can make you sick.
Is chili oil good for you?
Chilli oil is a condiment associated with Chinese cuisine, which is also where it originated (China). However, the condiment is slowly making its way into other regions’ foods.
The two basic ingredients are chilies (peppers, flakes, etc.) and a neutral choice of oil such as vegetable or sunflower oil. But when it comes to food, you get a little creative liberty. So, feel free to add other ingredients such as salt, garlic, or soya sauce.
Not only does chili oil help bad things taste good and good things taste even better, but it also comes with health benefits!
- Chilli oil helps with digestion and boosts metabolism.
- It aids weight loss.
- Surprisingly, chili oil also helps reduce pain, such as joint pain.
Best ways to store chili oil
The best ways to store chili oil are in a cool, dry place (such as your pantry) or the fridge.
But what is the better option out of the two? If you want your chili oil to last longer (and not get rancid), keeping it in the fridge is the best option. In this case, chili oil lasts upwards of 9-12 months.
If you store your chili oil in a cool and dry place, ensure that the container you use to store it is completely airtight or sealed and the product is away from sunlight. Depending on the storage conditions and temperature, chili oil (homemade or store-bought) will last between three weeks and six months.
We know what you are thinking; “Can’t I freeze chili oil to make it last longer?”
Putting your chili oil in the freezer is not the best option if you want to prolong the product’s shelf-life or use it simultaneously because it is prone to solidifying constantly. Freezing chili oil also alters the flavor.
If you do decide to do it, there are two things you should know –
- Freeze chili oil in an airtight container for not more than three months because it will get spoiled.
- Use the oil within two days of thawing.
This discussion brings us to the next question – how do you thaw chili oil? Defrosting most frozen products works the same way. Take the airtight container where you have stored the chili oil and put it in a bowl of warm or hot water until the contents begin to soften or return to room temperature.
Author’s note – do not directly heat the chili oil to bring it back to its original state.
1. How can chili oil be used?
Chili oil is a versatile must-have product because it is the easiest way to spice things up. The product can be used in several ways, such as a cooking base, a dip, or a topping for food.
2. Does chili oil go bad?
Yes, chili oil does go bad. However, there are some signs you can look for before you use the product, such as checking the smell (the chili should be the dominant smell) and taste (bad, different, or unpleasant taste).
The most significant aspect of making or getting chili oil is storing it properly. Right storage dictates the condiment’s shelf life, quality, and safety.
While making chili oil at home sounds convenient, ensure that you get the process right. Finally, always check if the product is safe for consumption before exploiting this blessing!
Milburn Adler is a food enthusiast and connoisseur of wine. His area of expertise is food fusions and gourmet foods. He lives to experiment with new recipes every day and spends most of his day looking for fresh and exotic fruits and vegetables.