We’ve all been there: taking a huge bite of fantastic hot sauce-slathered food, only to have that tell-tale mouth scorch build almost immediately to wildfire proportions. You’re crying, your tongue’s barking, throat’s tight, nose is running, and you’re cold-sweating.
As fellow chili heads, we like to think of this as character-building. But, hey, nobody here is going to call you a wimp if you’d rather put a raging fire out.
Lots of pepper lovers will tell you to reach for milk to douse the fuego. That’s one solution, but it doesn’t work for a lot of folks. So, we wanted to share our favorite go-to chili pepper pain relievers.
First, why is my mouth on fire?
Capsaicin is the culprit. It’s the chemical that gives chili peppers their delicious burn. It doesn’t really increase the heat inside your mouth, but your brain doesn’t know that. Capsaicin trips your pain sensors big-time into thinking your mouth is literally on fire. Kind of badass, right?
How long will my mouth be on fire?
It typically takes about 15 minutes or so for the pain to ease, though your mileage may vary. And 15 minutes is a long time to sit among friends at dinner, crying.
Water just makes it worse.
Hot sauce lovers already know gulping down a big glass of water might seem like a good idea. But it’s not. At all. It just swishes all that pain around in your mouth, searing any areas that aren’t already lit.
The trick is to reach instead for stuff that neutralizes capsaicin.
Throw some acid on the fire.
We’ve found that acidic foods like citrus fruit (lemons, limes, oranges), pineapple, and tomatoes can cut the heat fast. So, suck on a slice of lemon or lime. Pop a bite of fresh tomato. Swig a little orange or pineapple juice. Polish off some olives or pickles.
Try the fat attack.
Avocados and nuts are high-fat foods that can help put out the fire. Or hit the cupboard for the peanut butter jar and smack down a heaping spoonful.
While you’re raiding the cupboard, look for some sugar, honey, or chocolate. Turns out sweet stuff helps beat the heat. Which is surely welcome news if your mouth is on fire and you’re happy for any excuse to indulge in sugary snacks.
There’s also lots of sugar in fruit. So, bananas, mangoes, cherries, pineapples, and grapes are all juicy, delicious little fire extinguishers.
Even sugary beverages can do the trick. Thanks to “Important Scientific Research,” we know glugging down Kool-Aid has been scientifically shown to put out the flames, strangely enough.
Carbs can distract you, at least.
Bread, tortillas, and rice are all staples of spicy cuisines, so you may already have these delightful carbs handy at your mouth-burning meal. Starchy foods don’t snuff the chili pepper heat. But their delicious textures can distract your brain from the pain. And that’s reason enough to love them even more than you already do.
Is liquor really quicker?
We’re not talking about beer, which is mostly water and not helpful at all, except to cry into. For pain relief, some folks swear that a shot of hard alcohol or a mixed drink, like a margarita, mojito, or bloody mary (which all have citric acid and plenty of sugar, too) may take the edge off. Or not. But after knocking back a couple, you probably just won’t care.
And, yes. Lots of folks do swear by milk.
We’ve all heard that milk is the go-to tonic for a mouth on fire. But it turns out that different people have different experiences – and for some, milk doesn’t do much at all. If it works for you, go for it. Yogurt, cheese, and sour cream are other fire-stomping dairy noms you can try.
There you go, folks. No one hack works for everybody. So let your mouth be your guide.
And if you decide to grin and bear the pain, we’ll be there with you through the ugly crying. We can’t vouch for your tablemates or first dates, however.