Increase your spice tolerance and learn how to cool down your mouth when eating spicy food with this guide

Spicy food is admired all over the world, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone is used to it. Luckily, you can learn to love the heat if you’re willing to put the effort in to challenge your palette with some spice! We’ve put together plenty of tips and tricks to help you turn up the heat, from choosing spicy foods to what to pair with them to cool down your mouth.

Things You Should Know

  • To raise your spice tolerance, start with mildly spicy food and slowly work your way up to hotter foods.
  • Eat spicy foods each week and try a variety of different peppers, spices, and cuisines.
  • To cool down your mouth, drink milk or eat something with butter or cheese in it. The fat and protein will neutralize the heat.
1

Start small with mildly spicy food.

  1. Start out by adding a dash of mild hot sauce to your mac and cheese or mixing in a pinch of red pepper flakes with your pasta. Not only are you going to enjoy your food more if you can actually taste it, but you’ll also get your tongue used to the sensation.[1]
    • Dishes like jerk chicken, mild curry, and gumbo are great if you’re trying to expand your culinary horizons.
    • Spicy mustard is a great way to inject some mild spice into a dish. For a quick dash of heat, try some spicy Mexican or Indian candy.
    • If you’re scouting out new hot sauces, look for labels with “mild” printed on them. If they list the Scoville units/SHU (the unit of measurement for spice), look for something around 450 SHU.[2] For reference, a standard jalapeno pepper has between 2,500 and 8,000 SHU.[3]
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2

Eat something spicy every week.

  1. As you expose yourself to the spice, your tongue gets used to the sensation, and the flavors of each dish will start to become more dynamic.[4] If you keep at it, those mildly spicy foods will eventually taste like nothing, and moderately spicy food will start to taste mild. Try to eat something spicy at least once a week. It takes time to build up a tolerance to spicy food, so be patient![5]
    • The chemical responsible for the heat in spicy food is called capsaicin.[6] The same way that your body builds a tolerance to things like alcohol and caffeine, it can build a tolerance to capsaicin.
6

Drink milk to stop the spice in its tracks.

  1. This has been proven time and time again in medical studies, so pour yourself a tall glass of milk if you’re sitting down with some friends to enjoy something super spicy. Every few bites or so, take a sip. This will dramatically cut back on the amount of heat you experience, as the fat and protein in milk will neutralize the spice in your food.[10]
    • A dollop of sour cream can also help if you’re eating some spicy chili or tacos.[11]
    • Skim milk is just as good as whole milk when it comes to taming the heat.[12]
7

Go for ice water or acidic drinks if you have no milk.

  1. A regular glass of water isn’t going to do anything to help with the heat. In fact, it may make the burning feeling worse. This happens because the water spreads the capsaicin around in your mouth.[13] If you have to drink water, put ice in it to at least numb your mouth.[14] Alternatively, sipping something acidic may soothe your pain. Lemonade, orange juice, or tomato juice will all work.[15]
    • Alcohol may help dissolve some of the capsaicin, but you need to consume a lot to really feel the benefits, which isn’t ideal.
    • Acidic ingredients will also help cut through the spice and cool you off. If your tacos come with a few lime wedges, add them to your dish.[16]
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9

Get something starchy along with your spice.

10

Breathe through your mouth while you eat.

12

Take an antacid with spicy food.

13

Wait 15-20 minutes for the pain to vanish.

  1. If your mouth is on fire, just remind yourself that this feeling isn’t going to last forever. A large part of handling spicy food is having the mental fortitude to fight through it. If you’re reading this after eating something extremely spicy and wondering how you could ever adapt to this feeling, come back after 15 minutes to see how you feel then![23]
    • While it may be rough on your stomach if you have a preexisting condition, like IBS, you aren’t in any serious danger if you’ve eaten something spicy. If you’re freaking out a bit right now, just take a deep breath. You’ll feel better soon.[24]
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Community Q&A

  • Question
    What if it hurts my stomach?
    Leyla Jeena
    Leyla Jeena
    Community Answer
    If the spicy food hurts your stomach, it is most likely that you ate the spicy food too quickly or that you ate too much. If this happens, drink milk or take a heartburn pill.
  • Question
    What are the different levels of spicy?
    Community Answer
    Community Answer
    Spiciness is measured by the Scoville scale; a Jalapeño is around 3,500 Scoville whilst the hottest pepper in the world - the Carolina Reaper - is around 1,500,000.
  • Question
    Can hot and spicy foods harm my taste buds?
    Community Answer
    Community Answer
    No, spicy foods do not do any damage to your taste buds. It only feels painful because a chemical in spicy foods binds to your pain receptors and creates a feeling of pain, despite no harm actually happening.
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About This Article

Marrow Private Chefs
Co-authored by:
Private Chefs
This article was co-authored by Marrow Private Chefs and by wikiHow staff writer, Janice Tieperman. Marrow Private Chefs are based in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida. It is a chefs’ collaborative comprised of an ever-growing number of chefs and culinary professionals. Though regionally influenced primarily by coastal, traditional southern, cajun, and creole styles and flavors, the chefs at Marrow have a solid background in all types of cuisine with over 75 years of combined cooking experience. This article has been viewed 442,244 times.
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Co-authors: 62
Updated: January 31, 2024
Views: 442,244
Article SummaryX

To adapt to spicy food, start by trying foods that are only a little spicier than what you’re used to. For example, add a few red pepper flakes to your meal or try a spicy candy. Then, gradually increase the amount of spice in your food either by adding more spice to your dishes or by eating larger quantities of the food. If you try something that’s still too spicy for you, eat starchy foods such as bread or potatoes to absorb some of the heat. For tips on what to drink when you’re trying to adapt to spicy food, read on!

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