Spicy food is a staple in many cultures, especially Mexican culture. The presence of so many peppers and spices means that heat is second nature – and it isn’t hard to get spice levels up to the point that you’ll sweat from the first bite. The trick, of course, is in balancing heat with flavor; too much spice and the heat will overwhelm the dish and make it impossible to enjoy or even finish, while too little heat might make the dish bland and unpalatable. Follow a recipe if you’re preparing any of these meals yourself, but don’t be afraid to alter the amounts if you prefer a bit more kick. Check out some of these spicy Mexican foods and see what interests you enough to try out at a restaurant or make yourself!
Benefits of Spicy Food
Don’t mistake spicy food for something that only exists because people want to feel the heat in their mouths. There are a lot of health benefits of spicy food. Here are a few:
- Spice increases metabolism, or the rate at which you digest food and burn calories
- Compounds in cumin, ginger, and garlic help reduce inflammation and alleviate certain conditions
- Spices have antioxidants and antimicrobial traits that protect the body against harmful bacteria
Beyond a health benefit, you can eat spicy food to help you cool down on a hot day. Spicy foods cause your internal temperature to match the external temperature, and as you sweat, your body starts to cool itself down. So grab one of these dishes for a health boost and a cool down!
Salsa is the quintessential Mexican dish. It’s extremely versatile and can go well with many pairings. It functions fine as an appetizer with tortilla chips, and it’s a great topping to add to tacos. There are a lot of different kinds of salsa that use different kinds of peppers.
Red salsa usually uses chiles de arbol, which are hot red peppers that have been dried out. Red plump chilis may also be used, and a tomato base is used for that chunky texture.
Yellow salsa is usually very hot when you encounter it at a stand or a restaurant – it uses habanero peppers as the base spice, which are notorious for being some of the hottest peppers around.
Green salsa can include the verde salsa made with green chili peppers and tomatillos, and the creamier avocado version. This salsa may be deceptively hot, especially if other spices are added.
Sometimes, you’ll encounter a translucent red sauce that isn’t salsa, but it will have some sediment. This is chili oil and it doesn’t have any of the extra ingredients the other salsas have – simply put it on one of your plates and start fanning your tongue.
Mole is a sauce with a base of chili peppers. The chef who makes the mole will determine how spicy the sauce is based on how many chili peppers he uses. Some forms of mole are mild and use chocolate or fruits.
Red mole is generally spicy and doesn’t use much chocolate but contains nuts, while green mole has pumpkin seeds, herbs, and tomatillos to give it color and flavor. Black mole contains a lot of chocolate and is very sweet.
Other types of mole include chichilo, made with beef stock; amarillo, which doesn’t use chocolate, fruit, or sweeteners; coloradito, which includes plantains; and manchamantel, made with pineapple, tomatoes, and chorizo.
Chile relleno is a dish that can pack a punch. In simple terms, they’re stuffed poblano peppers, which are thick, sizeable peppers perfect for cutting open and stuffing. The ingredients to stuff the pepper vary, but you’ll often find cheese and meat inside of them. They’re then battered and fried before being served whole. Poblano peppers are usually mild, but on occasion, they can be extremely hot. You can serve the stuffed pepper with some red hot salsa if you want to make sure your tongue is on fire, though.
Birria refers to the stew or soup with a chili pepper base, but it is also the Spanish term for “goat.” Indeed, the stew generally uses goat meat that has been slow cooked in a pot with the peppers and other seasonings. It’s a common dish with tacos, which are usually hard-shell and stuffed, and used for dipping. The dish can have other variants, too, such as with beef or lamb.
Birria can be found at a number of locations, but some restaurants and taco trucks do not make it too spicy. You’ll have to sample a few to find your favorite and your preferred heat level. And of course, if you make this dish at home, be aware that you can add some other hot peppers to increase the heat.
Chilate de Pollo
Essentially, chilate de pollo is chicken soup, but not the kind you’d have on a chilly winter night with bouillon seasoning and celery. Instead, the soup is thickened by corn dough and has a hefty amount of chiles de arbol in it, so the spice level is greatly magnified. It’s a simple dish otherwise and is eaten with fresh tortillas. If you want to switch the meal up, you can use chicken drumsticks or thighs. This lets you scoop the liquid up with the tortillas and still munch on the chicken, onion, and other bits as well.
Spicy Mexican Food at Benny’s Tacos
Benny’s Tacos specializes in Mexican food, and we know our customers love spice. We’ve got a number of items that are sure to make you sweat, and if you want to kick the heat up, just ask. We’ll gladly add a bit more spice to your meal if you can handle it!
Visit any of our locations in Santa Monica, Westchester, or Culver City or place an order online. We even deliver, so if you want to make sure you’re in the comfort of your own home with some resources to quell the heat, we’ve got you covered!