Spicy aioli with doubanjiang (chili bean paste) is set to become a new classic. It’s what you get when you combine the creamy texture and rich flavor of aioli with an iconic Sichuan seasoning that’s been cultivated for hundreds if not a thousand years.
After marrying Jie over a decade ago and starting to cook with Sichuan ingredients, I was surprised that ingredients from one of the great cuisines of the world had not widely made their way into non-Chinese cooking.
Part of the reason was likely the limited availability of ingredients. Most Sichuan food ingredients were only available at Chinese grocery stores in large cities. It was only about 15 years ago that Jie and I had to drive from lower Alabama to Atlanta or New Orleans to buy many of the ingredients that Jie grew up eating. Luckily, with the rise of online shopping these ingredients are easier than ever to find.
While I am infatuated with the traditional uses that Jie introduced me to, I have become obsessed with finding ways to incorporate these diverse and storied ingredients into foods that I was accustomed to during the first chapter of my life. It is my hope that increasingly home cooks and chefs will discover these legendary ingredients.
What is Spicy Aioli
It is rumored that aioli dates to the Roman Empire. Traditionalists insist that aioli is made with only two ingredients, oil emulsified into smashed garlic paste. Emulsification takes place when two or more ingredients that usually wouldn’t mix (think oil and water) are combined into one. This happens by slowing whisking one ingredient into the other.
While aioli may have begun as an emulsification of garlic paste and oil, it has now become synonymous (at least in the U.S.) with seasoned mayonnaise – sriracha mayo / aioli. Mayo is typically an emulsion of egg yolk, oil, and lemon juice or vinegar. While aioli purist may be “up in arms,” we say if it taste good just do it!
When looking for an aioli to drizzly on top of tacos and grilled corn, I came across a vegan aioli on the Minimalist Baker. Instead of egg yolks it’s made with raw cashews. Even for people who are not vegan, we’ve discovered that cashews make a tasty plant-based substitute in creamy and cheesy sauces!
For our variation we added Sichuan doubanjiang (chili bean paste) and homemade chili oil to cashew aioli to create an aioli that is fragrant and mildly spicy. If you are not familiar with doubanjiang you are in for a treat.
Sichuan doubanjiang, translated to chili bean paste, is a sophisticated Sichuan ingredient that delivers a fragrantly spicy and complex deep umami flavor to any dish it touches. Doubanjiang is made by fermenting broad beans, er jing tiao chili peppers, wheat flour, and salt (and sometimes red chili oil). Doubanjiang is stirred daily for 1 to 3 years depending on the type.
You can buy doubanjiang online from The Mala Market (no affiliation to us). They import quality Sichuan ingredients from suppliers that have been making doubanjiang for centuries. You can also find it on Amazon or at your local Chinese market (if you are lucky enough to live close to one).
The Mala Market sells a one-year and a three-year aged version. For this recipe we are using the one-year aged version because it has a brighter flavor and a deep red color that we think pairs well.
- Raw cashews
- Doubanjiang (chili bean paste) – see post above for more information on this ingredient. You can buy doubanjiang online from The Mala Market (no affiliation to us), on Amazon, or at your local Chinese market.
- Lemon juice
- Chili oil (optional) – using chili oil adds creaminess and additional flavor. If you just want creaminess without the work of making homemade chili oil (we think it’s worth it though!!!), you can substitute any vegetable oil
Note: additional salt is not needed because chili bean paste (doubanjiang) has a high salt content.
See recipe card for quantities.
How to Make Spicy Aioli with Doubanjiang
Cover the raw cashews with boiling water and let soak for one hour (alternatively you can soak in cold water for 4-6 hours).
Drain the cashews and put into a high-speed blender with the water, chili bean paste (doubanjiang), lemon juice, and chili oil.
Blend on high for approximately one minute. Blending time will vary depending on the power of your blender. The aioli should be smooth and creamy when finished. Taste and adjust seasonings accordingly.
Transfer to a small bowl or squeeze bottle and use as a topping on your favorite recipes. It goes great on tacos, burgers, grilled corn, and even french fries!
Variations and Substitutions
If you don’t want to use the cashew-base you are in luck because mayo works equally as well. We experimented with blending mayo and doubanjiang in a blender, but mayo tends to fall apart easily.
If you want to use mayo, we suggest blending the doubanjiang separately to get a smooth consistency and then folding it and the other ingredients into the mayo with a spoon. This will prevent the mayo from separating.
A high-speed blender works best. Less powerful blenders will get the job done, but you may have to stop and scrape to sides of the blender a couple of times to get a smooth consistency.
Spicy aioli can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days. One benefit over mayo-based aioli is that cashew aioli can tolerate being gently heated in the microwave when ready to use leftovers. Mayo-based aioli will fall apart if heated.
Spicy Aioli with a Touch of Sichuan
- A high-speed blender works best. Less powerful blenders will get the job done, but you may have to stop and scrape to sides of the blender a couple of times to get a smooth consistency.
- ¾ cup raw cashews
- 2 tablespoons doubanjiang chili bean paste
- ½ cup water
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice about half a large lemon
- 1-2 tablespoons chili oil (optional) using chili oil adds creaminess and additional flavor. If you just want creaminess without the work of making homemade chili oil (we think it’s worth it though!!!), you can substitute any vegetable oil.
- Cover the raw cashews with boiling water and let soak for one hour (alternatively you can soak in cold water for 4-6 hours).¾ cup raw cashews
- Drain the cashews and put into a high-speed blender with the water, chili bean paste (doubanjiang), lemon juice, and chili oil.¾ cup raw cashews, 2 tablespoons doubanjiang, ½ cup water, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1-2 tablespoons chili oil (optional)
- Blend on high for approximately one minute. Blending time will vary depending on the power of your blender. The aioli should be smooth and creamy when finished. Taste and adjust seasonings accordingly.
- Transfer to a small bowl or squeeze bottle and use as a topping on your favorite recipes. It goes great on tacos, burgers, grilled corn, and even french fries!
malaeats.com is created for informational purposes only. Although we do our best to provide nutritional information to our readers as a general guideline, we are not certified nutritionists and the nutritional values provided should be considered estimates. Numerous factors such as variations in fresh ingredients, brands purchased, etc. will alter the nutritional values in any recipe. Different online calculators also provide different results depending on their sources. To obtain accurate nutritional information for a recipe, please use your preferred nutrition calculator to determine nutritional information with the actual ingredients and quantities you used.
- Cook to a minimum temperature of 165 °F (74 °C).
- Do not use the same utensils on cooked food, that previously touched raw meat.
- Wash hands after touching raw meat.
- Don't leave food sitting out at room temperature for extended periods (less than 2 hours is recommended by the CDC).
- Never leave cooking food unattended.
- Use oils with high smoking point to avoid harmful compounds.
- Always have good ventilation when using a gas stove.
See more guidelines at the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention website.
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