Love a bit of spice? These recipes - from a mild hit to "oh oh oh my mouth is on fire" - are sure to warm you up.
24 Jul 2020 - 10:51 AM  UPDATED 24 Jul 2020 - 11:50 AM

Whether it's a spicy chutney, a steaming bowl topped with slices of mouth-challenging chillies or a dish with a gentle burn, a hint or hit of chilli can make you feel warm no matter how cold it is outside. (Overdone it? Mouth burning up? Yes, a gulp of milk really does help - here's why).

Here are 32 ways to enjoy a chilli hit. 

Curry: from mild to "oh-oh-oh"


1. Indian spiced fish and potato curry

The fish and potatoes combo make fish and chips a winner, and it does here, too, with a spicy, saucy spin.

2. Pork belly curry (kaeng hang lay)

Fresh chillies and chilli sauce are both used - along with soy sauce, turmeric, ketchup and marsala powder - are used to flavour the pork in this popular Thai dish. 

3. Rich lamb bhuna

"The rich, spicy sauce is thick enough to cling to the meat. We eat it with Indian breads and it is lovely with a little raita on the side," says Anjum Anand. Red chilli powder and whole green chillies are among the rich blend of spices adding flavour here. 

4. Rogani kumbh

Hailing from northern India, this vegetarian mushroom-tomato curry takes its name rogani (meaning red) from the colour of the tomato sauce and kumbh for the mushrooms that give it body. There's just one green chilli here in a dish to serve 4, so it's not packing the heat of some others. 

or how about...
Cauliflower and potato curry

A good cauliflower curry is a work of art. Use this recipe as a starting point to make up your own version.

Goan pork vindaloo with potatoes

A classic from my Ultimate Curry Bible, this dish is such as favourite with the British that I have to include it here. You could think of this recipe as "vindaloo light". It has the garlic, vinegar, black pepper and chillies - in this case chilli powder - that a vindaloo requires, but in gentle quantities. Serve with plain rice.

Food Safari's chicken curry

A classic Sri Lankan chicken curry that’s full of flavour and best made with chicken on the bone. Charmaine Solomon has made this recipe for decades – it’s always a marvellous meal. Serve with stringhoppers if you can (or otherwise rice).

Spicy bowls


8. Spicy pork and miso udon noodle soup

This one's rich and thick but only moderately spicy - although you can easily up the chilli heat. 

9. Spicy braised fish stew (smor ikang)

Chilli is part of the spice paste that gives this warming fish stew its distinctive flavour. 

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Chilli chicken


10. Stir-fried spicy chicken with rice cakes (dak galbi)

Fresh chillies and Korean chilli powder (gochu galu) add a kick to this stir-fry, made with Korean rice cakes (like thick noodles, sold at Korean food shops) - or you can substitute udon noodles. 

11. Chettinad chicken

Spiced with long green chillies, dried red chilli, garlic, ginger, turmeric and curry leaves, this is ready in just 30 minutes.  

12. Cajun fried chicken wings with coriander dressing

Make your own Cajun spice mix to add a touch of spice to these deep-fried chicken wings, and serve with a buttermilk, coriander and chilli dressing. 

more chicken ideas
Ancho chilli chicken tamales

The ancho chilli, a dried poblano chilli from Puebla, is one of the most common varieties of chilli in Mexican cooking. Tamale batter is made from a corn-based dough called masa. It is spread over corn husks, then wrapped with meat and mole. Usually, tamales are made in large quantities for special occasions and sometimes, there’s a tamale-making party called a tamalada.

Chicken salad with cabbage and Vietnamese mint (goi ga)

This fresh salad from Luke Nguyen has all the elements: sweet, sour, salty and spicy. The chicken is cooked in master stock, a poaching and braising liquid commonly used in Vietnamese cuisine. Top your salad with nuoc cham and crispy fried garlic.

On the side

16. Stewed green beans with tomato, chilli and cinnamon

This delicious dish is just as good served cold as it is warm - perfect for a winter dinner side or summer picnic fare. 

17. Sri Lankan devilled potatoes (ala thel dala)

It's a symphony of flavour in this side, with onion, green chilli, mustard seeds, dried chilli flakes, turmeric and tomato all contributing to the I-want-more effect. 

more veg with kick
Cabbage salad with chilli, mint and sesame seeds

I am rather fond of a cabbage salad and also quietly amazed at how far a single head of cabbage can go. On one particular holiday we discovered two heads of cabbage can last a very long time and the variations of salads you can make from it are endless. This version is great as you get a nice chilli flavour that balances well with the freshness and crispness of the cabbage. Because this salad is so simple, the way you cut the cabbage and the seasoning of it becomes very important.

Radishes in chilli oil sauce (qiang luo bo)

This is a beautiful and stunningly simple dish to rouse the appetite at the start of a meal. Small red radishes are not a traditional Chinese vegetable, but a recent import. This recipe is based on one from a book of simple recipes for home cooking, Ji ben jia chang cai (shu cai pian), or basic domestic dishes.

Spicy pickled vegetables (achar awak)

These pickles are the perfect accompaniment to a spicy Malaysian meal, especially meat dishes. In this recipe the vegetables are just scalded in the vinegar mixture so they retain their integrity.

Bites with bite


21. Smoky chilli popcorn with chorizo chips

Get crunch and flavour: smoky paprika popcorn combined with almonds and chorizo baked until crisp. 

22. Nepalese vegetable pakora

Pakora a popular street food in Nepal calls on green chillies for added flavour, which is then served with tomato chutney (adjust the chilli in the chutney to suit your definition of tangy).  

23. Pork and chilli dumplings

Who doesn't love classic dumplings with a crisp pan crust? 

From charry bottoms to soupy insides....

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24. Tomato chilli jam 

You can use this versatile preserve in sandwiches, on grilled meats or as a dipping sauce. 

25. Sweet chilli ginger sauce

The ginger adds a twist to chilli sauce - and this is one where you can go to town if you like things hot, hot, hot. The recipe uses "as few or as many as you like" red bird's-eye chillies. Serve as a dipping sauce for yum cha, drizzle over chargrilled chicken or use it to add pep to any sandwich. 

Sweet chilli ginger sauce

26. Harissa

Use small hot red chillies to make a punchy harissa, or the milder long red chillies for a less fiery result. 

more drizzles and dollops
Sweet chilli and lime sauce
Chimichurri dressing

This version of the traditional Argentinian chimichurri sauce has been thinned down with oil, making it a great lighter dressing for a summer barbecue.

Korean hot pepper paste with vinegar (cho-gochujang)

This Korean condiment adds a spicy kick to dishes. With garlic, ginger, hot pepper paste and toasted sesame seeds, it’s also the ideal dipping sauce for sliced raw fish. Store in the fridge for up to two weeks. 

The sweeter side 


31. Mexican sweet tamarind balls with chilli sugar

Did someone say no-bake treats? You're in luck with these sweet and spicy bite-sized balls, that pop chilli powder and a little kick in your step.

32. Mayan chocolate tart

Chilli and chocolate take their friendship to the next level in this spiced tart. Don't be afraid to use small red chillies here as the flavours of this decadent dessert are balanced perfectly by the bitter chocolate and the sweetness of the vanilla bean.

Mayan chocolate tart

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