While some people balk at putting spicy sauce on their food, others relish the opportunity to feel a little fire. And while plenty of spicier foods are both flavorful and pack a punch, some people prefer to feel the burn instead.
For that, diners will need to opt for dishes with the addition of either a handful of peppers or something else fiery. Although peppers are the most common way to add an afterburn to any dish, foodies can’t always tell they’re there—especially when the ingredient is an unexpected one in sweet treats or traditional dishes.
But all over the world, there are foods so fiery they come with a warning label. Some even require that foodies sign a waiver before partaking, and there are often age limits imposed on such menu items. It’s not surprising, given how spicy some ingredients are. There’s even a heat index for pungency of foods, particularly peppers, based on how much capsaicin (the heat-inducing stuff) they contain.
Of course, indigestion is a chance many are willing to take, all in the pursuit of a thrill on a plate. After all, for people who love food, there isn’t often a dish they’re willing to pass up, even if it means burning off their taste bud in the process.
Ready for a mouthwatering trip around the world? Here are 20 of the spiciest foods in the world to try—but have a cool glass of milk (and maybe your doctor’s direct contact information) at the ready, just in case.
20 Ghost Peppers Do Anything But
The name might suggest this pepper is a bit less in-your-face than foodies might expect—but to underestimate the Bhut jolokia is a bad idea. These peppers—also known as ghost chilis—grow in Northeast India (though you can buy them online) and pack a seriously spicy punch. NY Post notes that the pepper is 107 to 417 times spicier than a jalapeno and 10 times as fiery as a habanero! And keep in mind that if you do dare to try one, you might want to stop at just a taste: more than a small amount could even be harmful to your health.
19 No-So-Innocent Pepper Snacks
Potato chips are relatively benign in terms of spicy foods, right? So you wouldn’t expect some innocent chips on the shelves of Trader Joe’s to contain ghost peppers—but these apparently do. Thrill-seekers with daring palates may do well to grab a few bags, but for the rest of us looking for a chip with some flavor will be a bit more surprised. Of course, if potato chips aren’t your thing, you can opt for a sweeter treat that still packs a punch—there are actually ghost pepper jelly beans, too. The sweet and sweltering snacks offer a unique form of culinary experimentation, but only for those who are willing to sacrifice their taste buds.
18 A Heaping Spoonful Of Horseradish
Horseradish doesn’t often rank highly on the list of spicy foods, but when you break it down by the science, the dish is pretty heated. While peppers are spicy because of the capsaicin in them, horseradish doesn’t have that component. Instead, it has isothiocyanate, a component that reacts with air and saliva to create that fiery-mouth feeling—according to Horseradish.org. People who like a side of wasabi with their plates already know if you scoop too much, the burn can overpower the rest of your meal. Of course, that variation of horseradish has also inspired foodie “challenges” that involve people eating entire cups full for kicks.
17 Are You Brave Enough For This Burger?
Burgers are a staple in most restaurants across the US, and in many countries all over the world. But at one burger spot called Xtreme Smokehouse in Iowa, the restaurant lives up to its name thanks to a fiery burger which contains layers of peppers and spicy sauce. According to Fox News, patrons have to sign a waiver before placing an order for one of the burgers—just in case they have a reaction or assorted negative effects from consuming so much sizzling goodness. It’s not your average burger though, so Xtreme Smokehouse’s plate isn’t for the faint of heart.
16 Trinidad Scorpion Is The Pepper To Spray
The Trinidad Scorpion is another pepper that ranks highly on the Scoville heat scale: 2 million heat units are in each pepper. That’s equivalent to a shot glass full of law enforcement-grade pepper spray, according to Live Science. Which makes the pepper-eating challenge surrounding this food’s debut all the more intimidating. The pepper is also closely related to the ghost pepper, and experts say that eating the pepper raw will cause your mouth to go numb, then blister immediately. Within a day or so, however, things should go back to normal—not that you’ll feel that way while you’re trying to gulp it down.
15 Carolina Reaper (In A Smokin’ Sauce)
If you didn’t already know, there’s a spiciness scale for food—mostly peppers, as they contain measurable amounts of capsaicin, the stuff that makes us sweat and blisters our tongues. The Scoville scale ranks pepper spiciness, starting with the practically neutral bell pepper and rising all the way to the ranks of the Carolina Reaper. If the name itself doesn’t say it all, the Carolina Reaper might as well have flames shooting out of it—it makes a hot sauce so zesty that it can numb your entire face as you eat it. If you enjoy pain, however, feel free to order a bottle!
14 Fire Noodles Pose A Challenge
When most people think of prepackaged noodles—like ramen—they mostly imagine MSG and salt. But the noodles Spoon University tested surpassed all expectations in terms of both flavor and heat. Bokkeum Myun noodles (which means “fire chicken stir-fried noodles”) are “insanely spicy” and brought Spoon University’s two testers to their knees. But the taste-testers did admit the noodles packed a ton of flavor—at least for the first few bites. After that, the burning sensation kept them from tasting much else—and the pauses they took for snapping photos enhanced the burn that much more. Of course, at that point they’d forgotten the noodles were meant to have a chicken flavor in the first place.
13 Naga Chili On The Side
Although the Naga chili is one of the most absolutely scorching peppers on the planet, people in Bangladesh even eat it raw as a side dish. They also consume it pickled, which has the potential to enhance the flavor while cutting the heat a bit. But either way, you probably wouldn’t want to eat an entire Naga chili unless you’re feeling truly adventurous—or you’re okay with having your tongue go numb for at least a day or so. While people in Bangladesh are likely accustomed to the harsh heat of this pepper, this is one meal to eat at your own risk.
12 Vindaloo Pork Ranges From Spicy To Melt-Your-Tongue-Off
Vindaloo, a spicy pork dish, has a reputation for ranging from mild to positively scorching, and it all depends on the recipe you or the chef use. And some restaurants choose to take things up a notch with ultra-spicy varieties of Vindaloo—some companies even package the curry with a warning label. One type of vindaloo carries the label “volcanic vindaloo” due to the fact that it incorporates Naga chilies into its recipe. Unless you’ve already been to Bangladesh and sampled raw Nagas, that’s bound to be a surprisingly scorching supermarket lunch for those who don’t heed the package’s warnings.
11 Widower’s Curry Packs A Punch
Any dish with the descriptor “widow” in the name is bound to be a difficult meal to stomach, and Widower’s Curry is no exception. The plate is commonly found in Britain, but variations of it exist all over the world. A sweltering pot with plenty of Naga chilis —at least 20 to be precise—takes the cake when it comes to spiciness rankings, according to Huffington Post. But get this: one man, a doctor, was able to consume an entire meal of Widower’s curry and live to tell the tale. His daughter, who recorded the event, noted that he wasn’t even stressing while eating the volcanic-level curry.
10 Who’s Going To Take The Phaal?
Another, more intense version of Widower’s Curry, Phaal is a dish that packs a sufficiently spicy punch. It’s so sweltering that to reduce their risk of sustaining a contact burn or firing up their lungs, chefs wear gas masks to prepare the plates. Think of preparing peppers at home—smoking them or even chopping them—and then consider how many times hotter a Naga chili is than your typical jalapeno or habanero. It might just be enough to singe your eyebrows—so imagine what it will do to your taste buds! People who have tried the dish report that it numbed their mouths and practically their entire faces, too—yum!
9 Steel Pot Required To Withstand The Heat
Sichuan spicy pots are traditional dishes in China, but people all over the world concoct their own variations. And in some places, these pots become even more blazing thanks to recipe tweaks like adding more chilis. Thankfully, these pots also incorporate all types of toppings and sides, so if you find yourself enjoying (or trying to enjoy) a meal of one, there will at least be a bit of veggies and meat to take the edge off. Still, there are no guarantees you’ll walk away without your eyes watering and nose running, if you can finish your bowl in the first place.
8 Flavorful And Mouth-Searing Kimchi
Kimchi is a traditional dish from Korea that has many flavorful variations. But the most common preparation involves chili flakes for a super spicy bite. The basis of kimchi is fermented vegetables, typically cabbage, but also onion, radish, and garlic. Apparently, there are hundreds of varieties available, but the taste of the dish also depends on who’s cooking it and what they have on hand. It’s not unheard of to have ghost pepper kimchi, but it’s not something you’ll find on most restaurant menus—at least, not without a clear warning that you’re about to set your mouth (and entire digestive system) ablaze.
7 Spice Up Your Chocolate
Spicy hot chocolate is nothing new—remember, the original chocolate recipe had a bit more flavor than just milky sweetness. But “The World’s Hottest Chocolate Bar” takes foodies’ passion for fiery desserts to the next level—they advertise that it’s “hellfire infused”. Not only does the chocolate bar use pepper extract in its chocolate infusion, but it has such a high concentration of the elixir that the candy bar is extremely tiny. A full-size bar would have way too much pepper extract to the point that it probably wouldn’t be safe to eat it all—so the company limits its serving sizes appropriately.
6 One Serving Will Fire You Up: Paqui Tortilla Chip
It might seem extra to buy a single tortilla chip, but you probably won’t want a second serving of Paqui’s Carolina Reaper Madness Chip. The supposedly delectable (and intense) tortilla chip is packed with Carolina Reaper pepper and a dusting of both ghost pepper powder and chipotle seasoning. The in-demand chips frequently sell out on Paqui’s website, but that may also be because the company got smart with its promotion of the snack. They ran a challenge where foodies could record themselves trying the chip to enter a giveaway for a GoPro and a year’s supply of chips… Hopefully the winner’s taste buds grew back to the point they could enjoy the free chips!
5 Vertigo Candy: Eat At Your Own Risk
According to the writer who tested out the Vertigo Cube candy, each bite-sized piece has the same heat rating as a can of mace. Jeremy Glass also wrote for Thrillist that he had done plenty of crazy stuff before—but nothing as intimidating as consuming a candy that’s made with seven of the spiciest peppers in existence. Jeremy wrote of the experience that he felt like he was on fire and about to vomit at the same time. He also made the mistake of chewing the candy up to get it to go down faster—the wrong decision, according to the Bhut Pepper company’s founder, who says that enhances the burn.
4 A Not-So-Cold Treat
Finally, with all the toasty and spicy foods on this list, we’ve finally reached some cool refreshment! Only, not really. Because ghost pepper ice cream may look cool and sweet, but it’s the opposite. In fact, the restaurant that serves it requires that customers sign a waiver before dishing up the treat. But by all appearances, the vanilla ice cream with strawberry-flavored ribbons blends in with the shop’s other ice cream flavors. The truth, though, is that the strawberry is infused with hot sauce, and there’s ghost pepper hidden in the vanilla ice cream blend—though the cream and sugar help cut the heat a bit.
3 Scorpion Salsa: Just Head To New Mexico
Although as Live Science explained, the jury’s out on whether scarfing down an entire Trinidad Scorpion pepper is worse than actually eating an actual scorpion, it stands to reason that Scorpion salsa will be just as intense. But a restaurant in New Mexico called El Pinto created a salsa that features Trinidad Scorpion peppers front and center. While we can’t imagine they would serve it in the restaurant, unless they have patrons sign a waiver first, you can always order this blistering salsa online to test out at home. El Pinto wasn’t the only place to develop a recipe, and if you can get your hands on a Trinidad Scorpion, you can even DIY—but you may want to wear protective gear while in the kitchen.
2 Jerk Chicken Takes The Spice
A traditional dish from Jamaica called Jerk Chicken uses scotch bonnet or habanero peppers plus spices like cloves, allspice, cinnamon, garlic, and more for a spicy but flavorful dish. But depending on how many peppers are added to the mix, the chicken can become more flame-throwing as opposed to finger-licking. So while it’s not on the standard menu at many restaurants, plenty of people prefer this dish spicier than average and add tons of scotch bonnet peppers to taste. And although the Scoville heat rating is lower for scotch bonnets, they provide plenty of burn for those seeking a scorching plate of chicken.
1 Thai Pepper Steak Surprises
The Thai dish Neua Pad Prik—or Thai Pepper Steak—is simple but uses tons of bird’s-eye chilis. The Bird’s Eye Chili is pretty toasty as far as peppers go—it ranks at upwards of 50,000 on the Scoville heat index. For most of us, eating a raw pepper at that rating would make us cry, but in many places in Asia, people typically enjoy them raw. And you can expect that Neua Pad Prik in traditional restaurants will have plenty of bite, even though the dish is relatively straightforward: it’s a stir fry with beef, chilis, herbs, bamboo shoots, green onions, mint and basil, and fish or soy sauce.