How 6 Super Spicy Foods Get Their Kick - Vox Creative

How 6 Super Spicy Foods Get Their Kick

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This feature was produced in collaboration between Vox Creative and BP. Vox Media editorial staff was not involved in the creation or production of this content.

If you're the type who always has a bottle of hot sauce at the ready or scan restaurant menus for the spiciest options, you're not alone. Spicy foods have become one of the hottest (literally) dining trends, with more of us than ever craving a kick. But what drives the burn in our favorite spicy dishes? What is the essential ingredient propels a food from flat to fiery? Here, we explore six famous foods from Buffalo wings to the ubiquitous Sriracha hot sauce to see how they get their heat.


Buffalo Wings

Though their name refers to the city that bred them, Buffalo wings are commonly referred to as "hot wings" for the spicy sauce slathered on them once they come out of the oven or deep fryer. The sauce is typically part fiery cayenne pepper and part butter, which helps temper the burn. You'll nearly always find them served with a side of ranch and celery sticks, to help put the fire out on your palate.


Thai Red Curry

A dish that originated in India now has regional variations across Asia. One of the most popular curries is red, which can deliver serious heat thanks to a paste made primarily from dried chili peppers, lemongrass, and garlic. A thai curry dish is characterized by a mixture of meat and vegetables cooked in curry paste and coconut milk, which has a creamy texture and slightly sweet flavor help mellow the heat.


Jerk Chicken

Native to Jamaica, jerk seasoning is most popularly used as a dry rub or marinade on chicken but also adds a kick to pork and fish. It's all about the seasoning — a potent blend of allspice and Scotch bonnet peppers, an intense chili pepper variety from the Caribbean that packs 40 times more heat than a jalapeño. Scotch bonnet peppers have a surprisingly sweet flavor profile as well, which gives jerk its unique flavor. The allspice-pepper blend is often spiked with warming spices like cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg.


Dan Dan Noodles

Lovers of Sichuan cuisine come for the heat — and stay for the dan dan noodles, one of the cuisine's most popular dishes. The noodles are served in a spicy broth-like sauce, which packs serious heat from red chili oil, made by infusing sesame or peanut oil with hot Chinese Tien Tsin chili peppers. Pungent mustard stems, Sichuan pepper, ground pork, and scallions round out the dish.


Shrimp Creole

New Orleans residents know a good shrimp Creole when they taste one. Influenced heavily by French and Spanish cuisines, this classic Louisiana Creole dish includes shrimp simmered low and slow in a tomato sauce spiked with a cayenne pepper-based hot sauce — most commonly Tabasco (this is Louisiana, after all). Shrimp creole is a favorite for people who crave something spicier than gumbo or jambalaya.



While many of us are accustomed (or addicted) to drizzling Sriracha over everything, the condiment is mostly used in Thailand — where it originated — as a spicy dip for seafood. Made from a bold paste of red jalapeños, a boatload of garlic, vinegar, and sugar, Sriracha's sweet and spicy flavor profile has helped make it a darling of American food companies, from potato chips to pizza chains.

This feature was produced in collaboration between Vox Creative and BP. Vox Media editorial staff was not involved in the creation or production of this content.

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