I've become obsessed with Lao Gan Ma brand chili sauces. This "Old Godmother" brand sauce is apparently a phenomenon in China and feels like it's about to break out in the export market similar to the rise of Sriracha.

PHOTO BY TY MECHAM: https://food52.com/blog/24111-best-chili-crisp-lao-gan-ma

With its signature red label featuring an image of its unsmiling founder, each jar of Lao Gan Ma contains a mix of chili flakes and onions soaked in soybean oil and some combo of garlic, fermented cabbage, mushrooms and black beans, depending on the varietal.

Lao Gan Ma is less of a hot sauce, more of a slightly tingly umami flavor. Salty and savory. The large crisp chili flakes also provide a satisfying crunch.

I would put it on everything I eat. The only problem is that the first ingredient is Soybean Oil. A typical serving, in the way I want to eat it, will be hundreds of calories and many grams of fat.

By contrast, the Nutrition Facts of many other chili/hot sauces such Huy Fong Foods Sriracha and Chili Garlic Sauce are 0 calories, 0 fat.

Are there any condiments that give the tingly/salty/fermented/umami flavor of Lau Gan Ma but without the oil?

  • 3
    I'm not really sure how to answer this, but the yt channel Chinese cooking demystified has a recipe video for this stuff and they talk about the different flavor elements. youtu.be/nkTQTS2RSCU maybe it's helpful?
    – kitukwfyer
    Commented Mar 31, 2020 at 22:57
  • btw, zero calories zero fat is a get around the food laws. They're not really zero, they're <0.5g per whatever they consider to be a serving. Check the figures for 100g not per serving for something closer to the truth.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Apr 1, 2020 at 6:26
  • 1
    @Tetsujin fair enough, but there's still going to be a huge difference between chili oil and vinegar-based sauces. 60g of LGM is marked as 422 calories and 41g fat, vs. ~100k 1g fat for 100g of sriracha.
    – pkamb
    Commented Apr 1, 2020 at 6:40
  • Also, soybean oil is a polyunsaturated fat. Not proven that it's "good" but certainly proven that it's not bad.
    – Raydot
    Commented May 13, 2020 at 15:39

1 Answer 1


Fermented chopped chili (duojiao) or pickled pepper (pao jiao) would be a good alternative in terms of flavor: spicy, tingly, salty, umami. The two are prepared using a very similar recipe, with the former the Hunanese variant and the later the Szechuanese varient. The usage, however, is very different from that of Lao Gan Ma: Lao Gan Ma is usually added to stir fries, but pao jiao/duojiao require a longer cooking process (e.g., steaming, braising, stewing) for the flavor to be fully released.

Fermented chili/pickled pepper is extremely easy to make: the main ingredients are red chili peppers (perhaps chopped), some sugar, salt, garlic and ginger (and Szechuan peppercorns, if you are making the Szechuanese variant) to taste, and (imporatantly) rice wine. The umami flavor comes from the fermentation process, while the wine contributes to an esterification process that adds more flavor to the completed dish.

  • Thanks for these recomendations. I will look into finding and tasting some of this. Do you happen to know of any brands/types of condiments that can be added to any prepared food, rather than ingredients that really need to be cooked into the food itself? That's what makes LGM so great.
    – pkamb
    Commented Apr 1, 2020 at 22:03
  • 1
    @pkamb Duojiao is actually already quite amazing as a condiment, just that cooking makes it even better. Pickled pepper is always an ingredient though.
    – xuq01
    Commented Apr 1, 2020 at 23:31

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