various chile peppers with different colors

How to Build Your Spicy Food Tolerance

Some people love super spicy food; others just can’t take the heat. If the agony of a scorched tongue keeps you from enjoying your favorite spicy dishes, don’t worry. We’ve all been there! 

Even people who made a career out of eating spicy food were once a newbie in the game. No one is naturally immune to the scorching heat of chili peppers. You have to build a tolerance for spiciness over time until scorching hot food becomes more enjoyable to eat. Don’t let your weakness for spiciness keep you from enjoying scorching-hot dishes. Here are ways to build your spicy food tolerance:

Take Baby Steps

Don’t pop those ghost chilis just yet. Developing a tolerance for spicy food starts by being accustomed to the spiciness gradually. 

Start by getting to know some of the mild chili peppers and hot sauces and incorporating some of them into your meals. 

For instance,  jalapeño peppers, guajillos, and Fresno peppers have tolerable spiciness, which a newbie could handle. Sriracha sauce, Tabasco Orginal Red, chili flakes are moderately spicy; eat these once you've started getting used to spicy food. For instance, you can sprinkle some chili flakes on your pizza, add a dash of hot sauce to your mac n' cheese, or a splash of Sriracha sauce on hard-boiled eggs and diced fresh tomatoes. 

You can also try mildly spicy dishes like gumbo, jerk chicken, or Japanese curry to start. And if you think that surviving moderately spicy sauces is enough to withstand the heat of Ghost Peppers or other spicy chilies, think again. Building a tolerance for spicy dishes is not a one-and-done process. The process will take more than a week, a month, and longer for some people. It depends on how sensitive you are to the heat. 

Eat Spicy Food Each Week

If your tolerance for spicy food reaches a more comfortable level, you can start adding a hot dish to your daily meals. Start by eating a spicy dish once a week, then gradually working to two hot dishes in a week. When you’re at the point where you’re starting to crave spicy dishes, try a maximum of 4 times a week.

You can whip up spicy dishes or use hot sauce to spice up your regular meals. You can also try fresh chili peppers to season your favorite dishes if you think you’re getting the hang of it. 

A great strategy to try is to eat spicy foods with double the minimum heat for your next tolerance test. For example, if you’ve become used to eating fresh jalapeño peppers, step up your game by trying out Hungarian wax peppers next time. Hungarian wax peppers have about 5,000 SHU while jalapeño pepper 2,500 Scoville heat unit.

Savor the Flavor

You’re more likely to build a high tolerance for spicy foods if you’re savoring the flavor of the food instead of slathering the hot sauce thickly. The spiciness is supposed to enhance the taste of the dish as well as elevate your eating experience. It’s not supposed to overwhelm the senses and make eating uncomfortable. 

So remember, use the spice sparingly, enjoy your food, and be patient. If you couldn’t finish your food because it’s too spicy, you are using too much chili. 

Also, don’t combine different spices simultaneously because the heat might affect the flavor of the dish. Try one spice at a time and find out which ones you enjoy the most.

Take the Heat a Notch Up

When you're at the point where you're starting to seek spiciness in your daily meals actively, you can move from mild to moderate spiciness or moderate to scorching hot. For example, you can swap your Tabasco sauce for Sriracha sauce or, if you can take it, Asian chili oil. If you've gotten used to eating jalapenos and serranos, you can try bird's eye chili and habanero. If Japanese curry has become too mild for you, perhaps you’re ready for Indian or Thai curry. This is just a matter of challenging your comfort zone in every test. 

Test your tolerance for spice by serving the hot sauce or chili on the side instead of sprinkling everything all over. This way, you can control the level of spiciness at your own pace.

Explore Other Flavors

Apart from using hot sauces and fresh chili peppers to spice up your daily meals, you can also try exploring other hot condiments. Horseradish, wasabi, mustard seeds, etc., are just some of the condiments and spices you can try to test your tolerance for spicy foods. Of course, none of these are hotter than chili peppers, so try these only if you’re new to eating spicy foods or you simply want to explore other flavors. 

Protect Yourself

Because capsaicin burns and is painful when rubbed on places where it shouldn’t (ex: your eyes), you need to prepare your food correctly and protect yourself while at it. 

If you’re using fresh chili peppers, use rubber gloves to protect your hands and to prevent yourself from spreading the chili extract all over. If you’re making hot sauce, cover your nose with a face mask to avoid a sneezing fit. If you’re using extra hot chili peppers, you need to wear goggles too.

Use Milk Or Other Foods That Help Tame The Heat

Before eating a spicy meal, have a glass of milk nearby. The casein in milk binds with capsaicin, cutting down the heat significantly. If you don’t have milk, you can use a dollop of sour cream or a cup of yogurt to tame the heat. Never drink water or other water-based drinks because capsaicin is a type of oil; it’s not water-soluble. You’ll only worsen the burning sensation if you drink water while eating a spicy meal.

If you don’t have dairy on hand, you can use sugar, honey, even biscuits, and other crunchy-sweet food/condiment to tame the heat. 

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