Some like it hot! Yeah, that’s us! We love spicy food, and not just for the heat. We love spices for the aromas…the flavors…the excitement they bring to plant-based meals. We’re not alone. Just think of all the classic spicy dishes around the world…like Mexican salsa, Indian curry, and Korean kimchi. International Hot & Spicy Food Day (January 16) is the perfect day to enjoy all these foods and more. Check out some of our favorite hot & spicy recipes below. Plenty of Wicked products are loaded with spices too!
You might be wondering…What’s the difference between “hot” and “spicy”? Technically, “spicy” just means the dish contains a lot of spices, but “hot” means “my mouth is on fire” because the food is crammed one particular spice: chile peppers. There’s one component in chile peppers that brings the heat: capsaicin (cap-SAY-iss-in). That hot capsaicin is straight up unpleasant for some people. If you’ve ever gotten pepper-sprayed or rubbed your eyes after chopping hot chile peppers, you know what we’re talking about! But when you eat hot peppers, something else happens. Capsaicin triggers an endorphin rush that can be pleasurable, even addictive. Chiliheads can’t get enough of the stuff. There’s even some evidence that hot chile peppers are good for you: they can help clear up your sinuses and congestion when you have a cold, and they may even help reduce your heart disease risk. So what appears like it might be bad for us, might actually be good for us!
Just keep in mind that you can control the heat when you’re cooking spicy food. Simply use more or less of the chili powder, hot sauce, sriracha, harissa, gochujang, or other chile-containing ingredient in the recipe. Ok, but what if you used too much and the dish is already on fire? Try adding a bit of fat. Capsaicin is fat-soluble, so anything with a high fat content will help cut the heat. Try vegan butter, plant milk or plant-based yogurt. Those might also help if your mouth is already on fire from eating something hot. In that case, whatever you do, don’t drink water. That will only make things worse by spreading the flames around your mouth! Play around with the international spicy recipes below and you’ll find your sweet spot for heat. Some like it wicked hot, some like it mild, some like it somewhere in the middle. Where do you like it?