I just don’t get people who don’t like spicy food. To them I ask, “How’s that plain tofu and white rice working out for you?” Alright, so no one ever said that non-spicy couldn’t be flavorful (and my favorite Soyaki Tofu Stir Fry isn’t spicy), but as someone who constantly asks waiters for hot sauce, it’s strange to me that you wouldn’t pour those things on everything (except for, say, ice cream).
The key for the spice-averse is to find a hot sauce or dry spice that doesn’t have a weird after taste (Tabasco, I’m looking at you) and add a little bit to start (no sane person wants their taste buds singed). Here are my favorite ways to kick it up a notch in the kitchen:
1. Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
Why I Love It: Sometimes, a hot sauce just doesn’t go well on whatever you’re cooking or ordering. That’s why dry spices like crushed red pepper flakes are the perfect solution. If you use them in your recipes, though, beware not to bite directly down on the seeds (the most spicy part). Chili powder can be an acceptable alternative, but it can start to border on smoky instead of spicy.
What I Put It On: They’re a must for penne arrabiata (or my broke post-college student alternative: spicy marinara sauce). I also love adding them to the top of my pizza along with Parmesan cheese or into refried beans when I’m making taco salads or knock-off Chipotle burrito bowls.
Why I Love It: You can’t talk about hot sauce without talking about Sriracha. My goal in life is to finish a bottle (not in one sitting, though, I’m not that much of a masochist). I’ve just never lived in an apartment long enough to use up a bottle. Anyway, I love this Thai-born hot sauce (and PS: so does The Oatmeal).
What I Put It On: The obvious answer is any Asian-inspired dish: tofu salad, Pho, stri fry, etc. But my favorite way to use Sriracha is mixing it with other condiments and salad dressings. Ketchup or non-fat mayo and Sriracha are the perfect spread for burgers and sandwiches (spicy aioli, yum!) and adding it to ranch or blue cheese dressings is a great way to make an ordinary salad extraordinary.
3. Tapatio or Cholula
Why I Love It: I’m gonna be honest: these two particular hot sauces are where it’s at. Maybe it’s my San Diego/Baja California bias, but these are the best, most versatile hot sauces. And they’re cheap! Last time I bought Tapatio, it was like 89 cents! It’s like the grocery store gods were giving my spice addiction their blessing.
What I Put It On: Umm. What don’t I put it on? I mix it into ketchup to dip my fries and grilled cheese in, put it on any savory brunch food–scrambled eggs, hash browns, omelettes, and quiches–and add it to just about anything else that I deem “too bland.”
Why I Love It: I think jalapeños get overlooked in this hot sauce game. Maybe they’ve been in the game too long (they–and peppers–are the pioneers of dare-you-to-eat-it spice, after all). So while I don’t always use jalapeños in my recipes, when I do, it’s epic.
What I Put It On: Nachos. Pure and simple. Carby, greasy, spicy nachos. Mmmm.
Why I Love It: Alright, I don’t really “love” it, but I’ll settle for it in a pinch. I don’t seek out Tabasco, but it’s the only hot sauce my parents have, so when I’m home in San Diego, I do it out of necessity (and a bit of nostalgia between me and my dad). Come to think of it, he’s probably how I inherited the hot sauce version of a sweet tooth… spicy tongue? Not quite the same ring to it.
What I Put It On: Whatever I’m eating when there’s no other alternative, which is mainly whatever I happen to be eating at my parents house–scrambled eggs, Virginia’s Potatoes (family recipe), macaroni and cheese, quiches, and the like.
No matter which flaming hot route you choose in whatever amount your taste buds will allow, you can’t go wrong with spice. Plus, the increase in spice may also boost your metabolism. And who doesn’t want that?