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In Portugal, chilies in olive oil are a very typical form of spicy sauce, in both commercial and artisan forms. Different types, amounts, and mixes of chillies result in different flavours and it can be very nice.

However, I worry about botulism. I have googled for this and find many warnings against preserving garlic or other spices in oil, but nothing related to chilies in particular.

Are chilies different?

Or are the commercial chili olive oils prepared in a way that makes them safe? Any way to achieve the same at home or should I just stick to the industrially prepared products?

  • I think this is a dup of cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/9451/… and cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/12761/…, because there is no safety-wise difference between keeping garlic or chili in oil. Any thoughts? – rumtscho Mar 24 '12 at 19:43
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    I've edited the title, because chili oil sometimes refers to a shelf-stable infusion, something like this: asianfoodgrocer.com/img/prods/sesame-oil/… – Cascabel Mar 24 '12 at 19:49
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    @rumtscho the question is exactly whether there is a difference or not. I specifically mention knowing that garlic in oil is dangerous, but keep running into the chilies in olive oil preparation both commercially and in restaurants &c – luispedro Mar 24 '12 at 22:08
  • @luispedro: The second linked question does pretty much cover this this: it's safe if it's properly commercially prepared. In restaurants hopefully they've either done this, or they don't keep it around long enough for it to be dangerous. – Cascabel Mar 25 '12 at 4:47
  • Well, just need to make sure your acid and salt ratios are correct and cook the veggies/garlic/etc... Using raw is always asking for trouble. – zerobane May 11 '18 at 19:25
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There's nothing magical about garlic that causes it to be especially prone to botulism - it's just commonly found as an example because it's commonly used to prepare flavoured oils.

All low-acid foods must be acidified or pressure-canned before long-term storage. Storage in oil creates an anaerobic environment which further promotes botulism, and room-temperature storage is even more risky.

Chili peppers are low acid, like all peppers, so yes, they're a risk.

  • Isn't olive oil (and several other vegetable oils) antiseptic? ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17536679 or oliveoilsource.com/asktheexpert/can-bacteria-develop-olive-oil – d-b May 7 '18 at 14:55
  • @d-b, pure olive oil contains no water, so bacteria can't grow in it. Once you add garlic, or peppers, or whatever else, it's no longer water-free. The PubMed article you cite mentions an antibacterial effect against Salmonella and Listeria, but Botulinium is considerably more durable than either of those. – Mark May 12 '18 at 20:16

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