Cayenne, habañero, jalapeño, ghost pepper, datil, and serrano peppers bring the heat in these dishes.
If you can handle the kick, you’re in the right place. These recipes pack a punch. The reason? Chiles contain capsaicin, an oil that tricks the brain into feeling pain. Why, then, do chiles have such ardent fans? That pain leads to the release of endorphins, which causes what chile-lovers call a “chile high.” If you want to reduce how “hot” chiles taste, remove the white-ish veins and the seeds, where the capsaicin is most highly concentrated.
Have a recipe that calls for roasted chiles? See how to roast chiles here.
Front and Center: Chile Main Dishes
Jerk Quail with Mango Habanero Salsa brings quail to a whole new place. Luckily, this stand-out recipe includes a cooling side of flavored sour cream. As with jerk, we expect some heat in enchiladas. Anything in red enchilada sauce is tasty, but these Red Chile Chard Enchiladas get a double thumbs-up for chile saturation. And as in all classic versions of the dish, this Thai Green Papaya Salad gets its kick from birds’ eye chiles—hot!
Then things take a surprising turn… A bit of humble cayenne turns these Watermelon Slices with Feta and Mint into something that makes people say “hey, what’s in these?” in the happiest of ways. Jarred chile-bean paste turns bland spaghetti squash into a vibrant plate of noodles in this recipe for Chile-Laced “Noodles” that’s also a quick (once the squash is cooked) weeknight dinner.
Finally, Grilled Lobster with Green Chile Butter is a revelation. It’s like, why have we been eating lobster with regular butter when green chile butter exists?
Add Chile to Taste: Chile Condiments
Sweet & Spicy Pickled Jalapeños can be kept for several months in the fridge, so make a batch so you can add a bit of heat to sandwiches, wraps, and salads at will. Similarly, Brazilian Hot Pepper Lime Sauce can be kept for a week or so in the fridge. It calls for pickled malagueta or cumari peppers (order online or at markets carrying Brazilian specialties), and includes plenty of onion and garlic.
Any chile-lover is going to get excited when they read a recipe that says “caution” at several points in order to warn the cook of excessive chile exposure. If that’s up your alley, check out this Fermented Chile Sauce, featuring chipotles and arbol chiles. The fermenting part is easy, by the way, as it simply involves letting the sauce sit in a cool, dark place for a week or so.
If you can get your hands on datil chiles from Florida, make the most of them with this Datil Pepper Sauce.
Too hot for you? This Mango Jalapeño Salsa uses the soft sweetness of ripe mangos to tame the heat of jalapeños. Serve with chips, or on fish or chicken.
Spicy and Sweet: Chile Desserts
Chile and chocolate are, oddly to some, a classic combination—one the Aztecs enjoyed. These Cocoa Cayenne Pecans are an easy treat and make a great DIY holiday food gift. Chiles’ aggressive heat can be wonderfully tamed when included in ice cream, as in this Datil Ginger Peach Ice Cream Sandwich.