On the deliciousness index, heat and texture are paramount, and one surefire way to accomplish both is with a drizzle of one of the best chili crisps. Sure, any old crispy-crunchy topping can take a dish from good to great, and regular hot sauce can deepen a meal’s flavor profile with just a shake. But what if one magical condiment could achieve both at once? Chili crisp is that condiment.
With a base of chiles fried in hot oil, every version of chili crisp is made with a different permutation of fragrant spices and crispy add-ins like fried garlic, shallots, soybeans, and Sichuan peppercorns. Some lead with heat; others are deeply umami; some a little sweet, and all elevate eggs, noodles, tacos, and fried chicken sandwiches. Making your own is no great undertaking, but in case you’d rather just pop open a jar, we’ve rounded up some of the best chili crisps according to Bon Appétit staffers, from the pantry staple Chinese home cooks have been using for decades to a modern version you can only buy on Instagram.
Lao Gan Ma translates to “Old Grandmother,” and in the world of chili crisps, the title could not be more accurate. Food critics and writers often credit this spicy, texture-packed Chinese sauce in the iconic red jar with kicking off the chili crisp boom in the United States. Every bite is the Platonic ideal of what a chili crisp should be: crunchy, spicy (but not too spicy), and versatile enough to put on everything. Are you having an egg for breakfast? That goes great with some Lao Gan Ma. Leftover pizza for lunch? Drizzle on some Lao Gan Ma. Adding some pep to your popcorn? That’s LGM, baby. For an unbeatable classic chili crisp flavor, Grandma’s the only way to go. —Nico Avalle, digital operations associate
I didn’t know anchovies were missing from my chili crisp until I tried Mẹ’s Way. This Vietnamese-style condiment is plenty spicy, but it’s the savory funk of fish sauce that sets it apart from the pack. I find myself reaching for it when I need not just texture and heat but also a bold wallop of flavor. It can fix a litany of sins, from undersalted frittatas to bland noodles. —MacKenzie Chung Fegan, senior commerce editor
Hungry diners are still lining up to eat at David Chang’s restaurants 18 years after Momofuku Noodle Bar opened, so it’s no surprise that the brand’s new instant noodle packs and chili crisps have already garnered cult followings as well. Just a tiny spoonful of the Momofuku Chili Crunch is chock full of heat. It packs a deep umami punch thanks to mushroom powder and yeast extract, balanced by sweetness from coconut sugar. In addition to garlic, it gets its crunch from sesame seeds, making it a personal favorite to add to ramen, congee, and gyoza. I cannot stress enough that a little bit goes a long way, so be careful if you can’t handle a ton of spice. Want to crank up the heat even further? Try their Extra Spicy Chili Crunch if you’re up for the challenge. —Julia Duarte, art assistant
As chili crisps go, S&B Crunchy Garlic with Chili Oil isn’t particularly spicy. If you’re wondering “What’s the point then?” it’s about everything else in the bottle. Heaps of garlic, crisp as a potato chip; toasty ground sesame seeds; bits of almonds; and loads of MSG—a tasty treasure trove for texture addicts. A spoonful of this Japanese-made self-proclaimed “umami topping” is extraordinary atop thickly sliced tomatoes, leftover pizza, steaming hot congee, eggs every which way, in sandwiches, or stirred into a stick of soft butter and plopped on grilled vegetables or meat. I truly take the bottle’s directive to heart (“use on anything you like”) and have no less than a six-pack on hand at all times. —Shilpa Uskokovic, food editor
One jar of Fly by Jing is not enough. Inspired by the fly restaurants of Chengdu in China’s Sichuan province, Fly by Jing products—whether it’s the chili crisp or zhong sauce—are truly transformative for any dish. I plow through the Sichuan chili crisp too quickly—on scrambled eggs, veggie dumplings, cold noodles, avocado toast, fried rice. Thanks to fermented black beans, mushroom powder, and seaweed, it has an endless umami flavor. And the smoky-tingly heat, attributable to both spicy chiles and numbing Sichuan peppers, is at just the right level to keep me going back for more. —Emma Laperruque, senior cooking editor
I have developed a pretty high heat tolerance over the last two years, and I couldn’t have done it without Junzi Kitchen’s chili oil. Made with Tianjin chile flakes and cayenne peppers, this very spicy condiment is perfect on eggs, spooned over vanilla ice cream, or as a dipping sauce for grilled cheese (apologies to tomato soup). While I’m normally of the opinion “the crunchier the chili crisp, the closer to heaven,” Junzi’s house-made chili oil is less crispy than others on this list, but it always has a special place in my pantry. Plus, the wide-ish opening of the jar is the optimal size for dunking chicken nuggets. — Esra Erol, senior social media manager
For the garlic heads who think anything can be improved by adding a clove or 40, Mama Teav’s may just be for you. Siblings Christina and Anthony Teav, who worked at fine dining restaurants in the Bay Area, started the hot garlic chili crisp company using their mother’s recipe. The eponymous Mama Teav, a refugee from Cambodia, finessed the formula over the years, settling on ultra-crispy fried garlic and lots and lots of chiles. The crisp factor is real: I find that this condiment has far more texture than most on the market and leans more savory than sweet. The original is no joke when it comes to spice; no shame in going for the new mild version, which I’m able to apply more liberally to food. —Serena Dai, digital editorial director
There are few condiments I use jar after jar of without getting palate fatigue, but The Bits Chili Oil is one of them. Made in west Los Angeles out of the home of Susan and Mike Wong, the oil actually has a consistency more like a spread, making it perfect to slip into almost any dish for a flavorful, garlic-forward umami bomb. The Bits has tons of allium flavor from crispy garlic and shallots, which give it hints of sweetness too. Plop a spoonful in soups, sauces, and stir frys or drizzle it atop pizzas, noodles, roasted veggies, and more. —June Kim, head of video
An homage to Lao Gan Ma with a twist, this gently spicy chili crisp is packed with all the classic components (Sichuan peppercorns, fermented soybeans, chiles, garlic) as well as a special ingredient: full-spectrum, hemp-derived CBD oil. The brainchild of Brooklyn-based chef and restaurateur Calvin Eng, this complex chili crisp was crafted to tingle your tongue and please your palate while imparting the mind relaxing and stress reducing effects of cannabidiol. Since CBD is non-psychoactive, a drizzle of Loud Grandma on your eggs or stirred into your soup won’t get you high, but a THC-infused version is rumored to be in the works—personally, I’ll be keeping an eye out for that one. —Chala June, associate editor
Liquid Fire is a bit minimalist by chili crisp standards—it’s mostly just chiles and caramelized garlic. But sometimes I don’t want all those bitsy bits that come standard in most bottles. The garlic really is front and center here and gets bolstered by a little sugar and a little MSG, plus five types of chile peppers and Sichuan peppercorns. For me, this Filipinx-owned company’s condiment has the ideal level of heat: enlivening but not overwhelming. For moments when you only want the sweet garlic of it all (i.e., no heat at all), the brand offers Liquid Gold, which gets equal rotation in my kitchen. They also have Liquid Patáy (Tagalog for “dead”) for the true chile heads among you. —Joe Sevier, cooking and SEO editor