How to Adapt to Spicy Food

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Spicy food is enjoyed the world over. In some countries, spicy foods are even fed to the very young to help acclimate their taste buds to the delicious heat. Eating spicy foods will open up a whole new world of culinary delights to those who dare to venture, but for those who haven’t eaten many spicy foods, work is required to handle the hotter stuff. Follow a few simple guidelines to acclimate to the spicier food of the world.


EditAdjusting Your Eating Habits

  1. Start small. Begin eating foods that are only slightly spicier than what you are currently accustomed. For example, add more black pepper to your meal than you normally would, or garnish something with a few sprinklings of red pepper flakes.[1]
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    • There are hot varieties of candies and other small snacks that can help inject a regular helping of heat into your day. Check your local Latin market for a good selection of spicy candies.[2]
  2. Eat slowly. Devouring an entire plate of peppers at once will not do you any favors when trying to acclimate to spicier foods. Doing so will more likely turn you off of spicy food altogether. Instead, add just a bit of spice to each meal over a long period of time. Savor the spice to get the full experience of the heat.[3]
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    • Be patient. Don’t get discouraged if your palate doesn’t seem to be adjusting to the heat. It can take anywhere from a few weeks to months to get accustomed to the new level of spice.[4]
  3. Learn the types of heat available. Not all types of heat in food are the same. The heat found in dishes with hot peppers are a much different experience than dishes that are heavy in garlic or wasabi. Education will help you branch out into hotter foods that are appropriate for your level of tolerance.
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    • Some foods, such as garlic and radishes, have a natural spiciness to them that don’t stem from the heat-causing agents of chili peppers. These can be a great gateway into spicier foods, without necessarily packing the physical sensations that dishes featuring hotter substances possess. If you are just starting out, you might start with these foods, as they cannot physically damage your mouth with their oils.[5]
    • When cooking with peppers, look into each pepper’s heat index rating (referred to as the Scoville Scale). Measure which peppers you can handle as a baseline, and move up from there. Go for broke! [6]
  4. Gradually increase the amount of spice in your food. As you adjust to the level of heat you can tolerate, increase the heat level of your meals. As you do so, you will open up a wide range of food options you might never have considered trying. You can achieve this in a variety of ways.
    Adapt to Spicy Food Step 4.jpg
    • Increase the quantity of the spicy food you are eating. Eating larger quantities of spicy food at a faster rate increases the reaction your body will produce to the heat.
    • Add a hotter variety of the type of spice you enjoy. Many spicy foods come in a variety of heat levels, including chili peppers, onions and mustard.
    • Add foods that provide a different kind of heat. Mustard, horseradish and wasabi, for example, produce a shorter heat located in the nasal passages, rather than the mouth.[7]
    • Cut back on the bread and milk. Rather than fight the heat, allow it to work its course! The goal is to build your tolerance.
  5. Study up on different cuisine. Many different types of cuisine throughout the world utilize a few staple spices in their dishes. Become familiar with the go-to spices of each regional cuisine to prepare yourself for a particular level of heat.
    Adapt to Spicy Food Step 5.jpg
    • Indian cuisine, for example, often employs a few specific peppers in a spice mixture called a masala. Most common in these masalas is the green finger chile. Chefs will often adjust the spice mixture of the masala, so ask ahead to gauge the spiciness featured in the masala.
    • Ethiopian food often contains a spice mixture called “berbere,” which features not only red chili peppers, but ginger, garlic and cloves. This mix of heat can create a much different (and hotter) experience than a dish featuring only capsaicin-based spices.[8]

EditSupplementing Your Food Choices

  1. Eat foods that help absorb heat. During your quest to improve your tolerance, keep a selection of foods nearby that absorb the oils that create the spicy sensation. These side dishes can help lower the overall heat experienced with the food while still helping your taste buds acclimate.
    Adapt to Spicy Food Step 6.jpg
    • Starchy foods, including bread, crackers or potatoes, are a few examples of foods that can absorb capsaicin, the oil that causes the heat in spicy foods.[9]
  2. Eat dishes that mix heat with other flavors. A particularly hot spice or pepper can be diluted into a more tolerable state by mixing it into a dish with other strong flavors. Lime and cilantro, for example, both have cooling effects and can help counteract the spice. Medleys featuring a mix of vegetables or meat can also help dilute the spice.[10]
    Adapt to Spicy Food Step 7.jpg
    • Sugar also helps dilute the heat associated with spicy foods. A spicy dish with a little sweet on the side will help create a well-rounded dish.[11]
  3. Keep a glass of milk nearby. Milk is a classic reliever of heat thanks to a compound called “casein” that binds with capsaicin and washes it away. If you are entering new territory in terms of heat, or simply need occasional relief in between bites, take a few sips of milk.[12]
    Adapt to Spicy Food Step 8.jpg
    • Dairy, such as yogurt or sour cream, works similarly to milk when it comes to relieving heat, and can make for a great side item in many spicy dishes.


  • Take note that the spiciest parts of hot peppers is their veins and the juices they give off. The actual flesh of the pepper is not very spicy.
  • Ice water is helpful for temporary relief, but will not actually wash away the capsaicin oils associated with the heat. [13]


  • Do not allow any juice to get on your lips, eyes, or anything else sensitive as the burn can last at least 15 minutes.
  • When headed to the bathroom, be sure to wash your hands after handling peppers.
  • If you will be handling large quantities of hot peppers that will be cut or sliced open, such as when making Jalapeño poppers, be sure to wear latex or rubber gloves. The active ingredient in hot peppers can permeate through the skin and cause a severe burning sensation.
  • If you fall attached to spicy foods, you may find yourself buying a lot more food, as peppers or hot sauces can get rather expensive over time. Watch your budget.
  • Overeating spicy foods can numb your taste buds, disabling your sense of taste for a while.
  • If you have any health issues and are concerned whether spicy food could affect them, consult your physician before consuming these types of food.[14]

EditRelated wikiHows

  • Make Spicy Mexican Eggs
  • Fix an Overspiced Stew
  • Discreetly Spit out Your Food
  • Eat a Chili
  • Cool Burns from Chili Peppers
  • Enjoy Spicy Foods
  • Eat Spicy Food

EditSources and Citations

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