A milder version of the spicy chili crisp that is a popular Chinese condiment and often found in Chinese restaurants, this chili onion crisp recipe uses simple ingredients to make one of your favorite sauces. No need for specialty grocer stores; you can make this right at home in your own kitchen!
I first discovered the amazingness that is chili onion crunch through Trader Joe's. (Who else?!) I bought an impulse jar one day, and we started putting it on everything. Later I learned that their chili onion crunch was actually a knockoff of the true Chinese chili crunch, which I didn't even know existed. (Apparently I live under a rock.)
The typical chili crunch recipe includes things like red pepper flakes, Sichuan peppercorns, chili oil and other ingredients that when I eat them, make me feel like steam is coming out of my ears. 🔥 This popular condiment, while delicious, has a spice level that even my adventurous five year old couldn't handle. Ok, even me!
The Trader Joe's chili onion crunch is slightly milder, but still hot. So I set out to make a copycat recipe for Trader Joe's chili onion crunch, but with a slightly lower heat level so that I could enjoy my meal without a box of tissues at my side. 🤧
The beauty of this recipe, though, is how flexible it is. If you want to make it your own recipe, you can! You can add chili peppers for extra flavor, or mix it up with different ingredients like soy sauce, chile oil, or mushroom powder and see how they affect the umami of the end product.
Just remember the golden rule - you can always add more, but you can't take it out!
How to make this chili onion crunch recipe
The crunchy texture is what gives this the best mouthfeel, so the most important thing is to keep everything crispy and toasted!
You're adding the ingredients to the pan based on the duration you want them to cook. The nuts are the heavier ingredients and will need to be toasted the longest, so those go in first. The fresh shallot and garlic need a few minutes to brown up, so those go next.
The sesame seeds and dried minced onion are already crispy and are just getting tossed with everything to enhance the flavor over heat, so they go in last. Think about how your flavors will layer and the speed at which everything will cook.
First, you're going to add your nuts to a food processor and pulse them until you have a chunky texture. You could also use a spice grinder for this step if you don't have a food processor.
Think like the texture of granola - all about the same size, no big chunks, and not a fine powder.
Next, you're going to add your olive oil to a pan and warm it up over medium heat. Add the nuts and cook, stirring frequently to prevent burning.
Once the nuts have started to become fragrant and begin turning a toasty brown caramel color, add the fresh shallot and garlic cloves.
The oil may bubble or look a little frothy at this point, that's ok! Cook for another 3-4 minutes until the garlic is toasted, slightly brown, and fragrant.
Add the dried minced onion and sesame seeds and cook for one or two more minutes, stirring constantly to avoid burning. If the pan is bubbling or at a low boil, turn it down until the bubbles settle. It's ok if it takes a little longer - you just don't want to overdo it.
Remove the pan from the heat and add the coconut aminos, chili powder, paprika, cinnamon, coconut sugar, and salt.
Stir until combined.
Allow to cool for five minutes or so, then transfer to a jar or other airtight container and finish cooling in the fridge.
I like to use these small mason jars, as they allow me to use a small amount at a time and also give away as gifts.
This recipe makes a great housewarming gift or holiday gift for neighbors or friends!
If there are ingredients here that you don't have, that's ok! We can make substitutions pretty easily in this recipe without really affecting the overall flavor too much. It's very flexible and very forgiving.
If you don't have olive oil, try avocado oil or peanut oil. (If you use a spicy oil, that's ok too - just know it will make the end product, well, spicier.)
If you don't have coconut sugar, try a little honey.
If you don't have coconut aminos, use soy sauce.
If you don't have macadamia nuts, try cashews.
Other ways to use this crunch
- Use it as a stir-fry sauce
- Add it to homemade pad thai
- Mix it with mayo
- Toss wings with it and bake them
- Add to charcuterie as a dipping sauce
- Use in my green beans recipe instead of the listed ingredients
- Use it as a regular old salad dressing
- Drizzle on top of fried eggs
All the recipes linked above are also included below for easy reference! How do you use your chili onion crunch?
One of our favorite ways to use this slightly spicy condiment is on the trending cucumber + pepper salad recipe - snacking cucumbers, snacking peppers, tossed with chili crunch and Everything But The Bagel seasoning.
- 1 cup olive oil
- ½ cup macadamia nuts, chopped
- ¼ cup sliced almonds, chopped
- 5 cloves garlic, diced
- 2 tablespoon diced shallot
- 2 tablespoon dried minced onion
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
- 1 tablespoon coconut aminos
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon coconut sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- In the bowl of a food processor or spice grinder, pulse the macadamia nuts until you have small pieces (see photos).
- Add the almond slices and pulse again, until you have a "crumble" type texture. This should not be as fine as sand, but should still have. a little bit of substance to it, without any really large chunks.
- In a skillet over low heat, warm the olive oil, then add the nuts. Cook for 10 minutes on low, stirrin frequently to avoid burning.
- Once the nuts have started to become fragrant and begin turning a toasty brown color, add the fresh shallot and garlic cloves.
- The oil may bubble or froth at this point, that's ok! Cook for another 3-4 minutes until the garlic is toasted and fragrant.
- Add the dried minced onion and sesame seeds and cook for 1 more minute, stirring constantly to avoid burning. If the pan is bubbling, turn it down! It's ok if it takes a little longer - you just don't want to overdo it.
- Remove the pan from the heat and add the coconut aminos, chili powder, paprika, cinnamon, coconut sugar, and salt. Stir until combined.
- Allow to cool for 2-3 minutes, then transfer to a jar and finish cooling in the fridge.
If your olive oil starts frothing or bubbling, turn your pan down. We don't want anything to burn, just get toasted. You can always cook it more, but you can't un-burn it!
Your finished product, once cooled, will be slghtly solid. This is ok! Olive oil hardens when it gets cold. Once you use it in a salad or toss it with something, it will soften right up and coat everything nicely.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 32 Serving Size: 1 Tbsp
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 85Total Fat: 9gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 34mgCarbohydrates: 1gFiber: 0gSugar: 0gProtein: 0g