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I love the strong flavor of buffalo wings, Tabasco, etc. Are capsaicinoids integral to this flavor, or can the "heat" be removed. I guess I'm not a fan of my mouth burning for considerable periods after the fact. Besides that, my SO is allergic to them, and I'd love to be able to make tasty tacos that she can safely eat.

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As far as you, it takes experience. As far as her, I think you are screwed. –  Jolenealaska Jun 5 at 7:03
    
    
Is your SO allergic to capsaicin specifically, or to peppers in general? If the former, you can get the flavor of peppers by using, well, peppers, just the kind that've had the capsaicin bred out of them. I would use both paprika and fresh peppers, the tastiest kind you can find — e.g. if you must use bell peppers, make sure they're not green ones. (Plus some vinegar, as one of the answers mentions, since most hot sauces contain it; and garlic and/or onions for some pungency.) –  Marti Jun 5 at 16:04
    
The more I think about this, the more I think it's actually two separate questions. First, is it possible to reduce the perceived heat from capsaicin? That has a couple documented answers as linked in other comments. Second, is it possible to mimic the flavor without any capsaicin at all, to avoid exposure for someone who has an allergy? Which I tried to target in my answer below. I'd suggest revising the question to verify which of these you're most interested in. –  logophobe Jun 5 at 16:51
    
On top of that, it's really confusing whether you're trying to have "imitation heat" or just get the pepper flavor without the heat at all. –  Jefromi Jun 5 at 22:36

3 Answers 3

up vote 5 down vote accepted

The heat provided by capsaicin really is a pretty unique one that seems to have a lot to do with how it binds to pain receptors (see Aaronut's answer from a previous thread). I think this component would be pretty much impossible to replicate with a substitution, unless you want to physically burn yourself on your meal. You could experiment with alternative sources of strong, pungent flavor like garlic, ginger, black pepper, and horseradish, which are similar but certainly distinct. Chinese-style tacos, maybe?

That said, Tabasco and other "pepper sauces" like buffalo sauce often feature vinegar as one of their primary ingredients besides chili peppers. A few dashes cut with a bit of olive oil may help replicate some of that sharpness; think a strong vinaigrette. It won't be quite the same, but it will help recapture at least one of those elements without causing harm to your unfortunate partner.

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Thanks! I'll try some of your recommendations. –  Brent Jun 5 at 18:58

I've had success with reducing the 'burn' of bullhorn chillies by slicing them into 'strips' and placing them facedown in hot olive oil. After frying them, you still get the 'chilli flavour' but there's less of a capsaicin burn. It still burned, but not as much. Plus, it added a nice smokey sort of flavour to it. I was serving it with herb fried mince as a dip for corn chips.

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Capsaicin is oil-based, so anything fatty will neutralise it. So if you have plenty of cream-based dip with your wings, or failing that a milkshake, you should have less of a problem.

Your SO is a different matter, however - there's little you can do for an allergy. You will just have to find another way to make your tacos tasty.

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