8 spicy ingredients to add heat & flavor to your food

Hot peppers, sauces and powder - Food seasoning and spices

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Spicy food is a hot trend these days

When we were growing up, salt and pepper were the most common spices people used to flavor savory foods. But today, adventurous eaters are turning up the heat on chefs and manufacturers to create foods and beverages with ever-bolder flavors and ranges of heat — from subtle to scorching.

According to food researchers, within the category of hot and spicy flavors and ingredients, there is growth among those that are from emerging ethnic cuisines and ones that were formerly not readily available ingredients, like Sriracha.

Of the growing trend for new flavors and heat, Maeve Webster, Senior Director at Datassential told Food Technology magazine, “It is a great example of something that has experienced exponential and fairly consistent growth over the last few years.”

In the early 2000s, it was rare to find someone outside of ethnic neighborhoods who had ever even heard of things like harissa and shishitos — let alone tasted them.

Now, restaurants feature sriracha sauce as a marinade for meat and vegetables, large grocery store chains carry bottles of it, and even snack food giant Frito-Lay experimented with selling Sriracha Flavored Potato Chips for a limited time.

In Food Technology, published by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), Senior Associate Editor Karen Nachay described several unique spicy ingredients that more and more people are using to turn up the heat.

8 delicious ways to use spicy ingredients to turn up the heat

Szechuan peppercorn

This particular type of peppercorn is actually a member of the citrus family, and is commonly used in Sichuan cuisine from China, as well as other types of cuisine throughout Asia. The tingling sensation has a slow onset, and lingers in the mouth for a long time.

Szechuan peppercorns
Raw organic dry Szechuan peppercorns photo by bhofack2


Popular in Korea, gochujang is a pungent and savory chili paste made from fermented soybeans, red chili peppers, glutinous rice, and salt. It is traditionally used to season Korean entrees like kimchi, and soup.

Gochujang sauce
Organic Red Korean Gochujang Sauce in a Bowl

Aleppo pepper

The Aleppo pepper — besides being fun to day — a spice that comes from Syria and Turkey that’s similar to a chili pepper, but with an added bit of sweetness and fruitiness.

It has a heat level similar to Serrano pepper, and is often dried and used as crushed flakes.

Aleppo pepper
Aleppo pepper (Capsicum annuum)


Also called zatar, this is a blend of sumac, herbs like thyme and oregano, white sesame seeds, and salt.

While this condiment is not exactly hot, it can have a nutty, floral herb, and slightly acidic flavor.

Zatar spice-Za'atar
Zatar spice-Za’atar photo by michelangeloop/Freepik


A hot sauce made from chili peppers, distilled vinegar, garlic, salt and sugar.

Sriracha sauce
Sriracha photo by AlonsoOrellana via Twenty20

Hatch chili peppers

These are a species of cultivated chili peppers that grow in and around Hatch, New Mexico. They have a mild-to-medium heat level — meaning they’re not as hot as jalapenos. Roasting hatch chilis brings out sweet and smoky flavors.

Hatch chile peppers

Shishito peppers

The Shishito is an extremely mild pepper from Japan that can be eaten whole.

Shishito peppers
Shishito peppers (Capsicum annuum fruits) photo by maxsol7


Harissa is the name of a paste typically made from various dried red chili peppers, cumin, coriander, caraway seeds and garlic.

Harissa hummus
Harissa hummus photo by emmadalessandrophoto via Twenty20
Nancy J Price & Betsy Bailey

Nancy J Price & Betsy Bailey

We're Nancy and Betsy, and we've been adventuring in the digital world since the mid-90s -- truly making us that type of entrepreneurial internet pioneer Gen X is known for! We started Myria.com back in 1998 and later launched SheKnows.com -- among various other online and print projects. Our partnership has spanned decades and crossed state lines (multiple times!). Nancy currently resides Arizona, and Betsy's newest home base is Minnesota. It's been an incredible journey of collaboration and innovation. You can read more about our story here!

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