When I was a toddler, anytime I didn’t want to eat something, I claimed it was "too spicy." My mom reminds me (often!) that I once declared steamed broccoli seasoned with just butter and pepper too hot to handle. I’ve come a long way since 2, but I still sympathize with people who can’t take the burn.
Now, it’s fair to say not all "spicy" dishes are created equal. Some come in hot and heavy, eliciting tears and numb tongues. Others build a slow, steady heat that doesn’t require a glass of milk nearby. But the difference really depends on the person who’s cooking (and eating!). While some might love the burn of harissa or a serrano pepper, others with more delicate palates might balk at basic black pepper. Here, we’ve gathered 11 dishes with a little or a lot of heat. The key is to taste as you go, learning what level of spice is too overwhelming or just right.
How hot can you handle? Any favorite spicy dishes? Share in the comments!
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).