There are those of us who seek out spicy foods on occasion, and there are those who just can't get enough of that face-tingling, self-inflicted masochism. Either way, if you can look past the simple dichotomy of pain versus pleasure, the spicy experience has so many nuances to explore: from the relentless heat that can dominate a dish, to the soothing spice that warms slowly from the inside out, to the stinging bite that wakes you up just a little bit more.
Whether you’re looking to swiftly and efficiently clear out your sinuses or perk up your usual flavor profile, there are countless ways to get your spicy food fix. We rounded up a few of our favorite mouth-numbing, sweat-inducing, heartburn-bringing recipes for your perusal. Keep the cold milk and the antacids on standby.
Magic Kimchi Paste Recipe
Use this universal kimchi paste to make a traditional Napa cabbage kimchi, or ferment something else entirely. The best part about making kimchi yourself is that you can amp up the heat as much or as little as you want.
DIY Bloody Mary Recipe
The same principle goes for the brunch standard, the Bloody Mary. Do you prefer the kick in your Bloody to come from a bunch of splashes of hot sauce, or from a generous spoonful of horseradish? Make it at home, and you get to decide.
Steak with Spicy Nahm Jim Jeaw Recipe
This Thai-inspired chile sauce relies on fish sauce, bird's eye chile peppers, and aromatics for a spicy, tart, funky dressing for basically anything, from vegetables to meat to rice.
Mapo Doufu Recipe
This spicy tofu-focused dish is super easy to throw together, and it's sure to make your eyes water and your mouth tingle, with hot bean sauce, ground chiles, and a sprinkling of Sichuan peppercorns. (We’ve even got a vegan version, too, if you'd rather skip the ground beef.)
Dan Dan Noodles Recipe
Pickled mustard greens, homemade spicy chile sauce, and gingery stir-fried pork are the building blocks of these comforting Sichuan dan dan noodles, perfect for a cozy night in.
Spicy Lamb with Hand-Pulled Noodles Recipe
If you’re going to follow anyone’s advice on spicy lamb noodles, it should probably be Jason Wang from the beloved New York-based spicy noodle spot, Xi'an Famous Foods. Watch him make this hand-pulled noodle dish in the MUNCHIES Test Kitchen here.
Buffalo Chicken Wings Recipe
Frank’s Red Hot doesn’t use peppers that rank super-high on the Scoville scale, but even if it did, it gets tempered by butter and vinegar in classic Buffalo sauce, making these Buffalo-style chicken wings the kind of spicy you can handle any night of the week.
Turkey in Blackened Chile Mole Recipe
The blackened mole sauce that smothers this turkey is made from chiles de árbol, and while the small, thin chiles have the look of something that would definitely make your nose run and your eyes water, they’re pretty mild in heat, all things considered.
Homemade Sriracha Recipe
The iconic store-bought stuff you know and love is made of red jalapeños, but a mix of those and/or Fresno or serrano chiles would work in this homemade sriracha sauce, too.
Spicy Chongqing Chicken Wings Recipe
We’d be remiss if we didn’t suggest you give the new-classic, mouth-numbing Chongqing chicken wings from Danny Bowien's Mission Chinese Food a try.
Bacon-Wrapped Jalapeño Poppers Recipe
Jalapeño poppers are the appetizer you make when you don’t want your non-spicy-food-eating friends to feel left out, and there’s enough cheese and bacon here that even the spiciest pepper gets muted.
Black Pepper Crab Recipe
Thai bird’s eye chiles and eight tablespoons of whole peppercorns combine to make the buttery, spicy sauce for this indulgent Thai-inspired crab dish.
Kelis' Classic Jerk Sauce Recipe
Kelis’ jerk sauce will bring all the tears to your eyes and the burn to your lips, but in the best way possible.
Blistered Shishito Peppers Recipe
On occasion, you might come across a shishito pepper that surprises you with an unexpected kick, but for the most part, these peppers are extremely mild but very flavorful, especially when roasted or blistered. If you want to make these charred peppers hotter, add a side of smoky chipotle aioli.
Pimento Mac and Cheese Recipe
Pimentos, or cherry peppers, are ever so slightly higher up the Scoville scale than the shishito, so it’s a no-brainer to turn the popular Southern pimento cheese dip into a spicy baked mac and cheese.
Serrano Pepper Salsa Recipe
If you’re up for just a little more kick to your homemade salsa, don’t bother de-stemming or seeding your serrano peppers before pan-roasting them.
Piri Piri Chicken Recipe
This riff on the classic Portuguese chicken dish relies on a sauce of fermented piri piri peppers and paprika for a subtle heat that's perfectly balanced by a side of crispy fries and rich homemade aioli.
Spicy Drunken Fish Recipe
It’s not so much the fish that’s drunk in this recipe, so much as the likely eater—this spicy Chinese fish dish is often served in bars to sober up some over-indulged patrons.
Homemade Red Chile Oil Recipe
"Toasty bits" of red pepper flakes and dried orange peel brighten up this simple and versatile condiment that you should have in your fridge at all times.
Easy Homemade Hot Sauce Recipe
Pro tip: Make a big batch of this simple homemade hot sauce, and you'll have an easy, useful present for all your friends who love hot sauce on everything but never thought of making their own.