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It's well-known that if you eat spicy food, you can neutralize the flavor (and thus stop your mouth from burning like a forest fire) by drinking milk. This is due to casein. Simply drinking water or something cold does not achieve the same effect.

But I'm vegan, so I don't drink milk. So what else can I consume (that's vegan) to quickly neutralize spicy flavors?

This is not a duplicate of How can I wash down spicy food?, as the advice there concentrates on dairy products.

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Hi JesseTG, I know why you thought this might run afoul of the "what to put in my dish" rule. In general, we don't take "what to put in my mouth" questions either, because they are based on taste. But I think this one makes a good exception. Cleaned up the wording; the question is not in danger of being closed. – rumtscho Jan 14 at 13:06
capsein is fat soluble which is the 'real' trick here. Water makes it worse since it dosen't actually bind with the chemicals – Journeyman Geek Jan 16 at 5:25

11 Answers 11

up vote 21 down vote accepted

I have done no testing of this at all but I was surprised to find on this site that they recommend trying a spoon full (or cube of) sugar.

Perhaps the easiest way of calming down a flaming mouth is by sucking on a sugar cube or holding a teaspoon of sugar in your mouth. This helps by absorbing the spicy oil that is coating your mouth, as well as giving you a different, strong taste to concentrate on. A bit of mind-trickery and science combined!

Other things I've eaten in the past include starches, like bread or rice.

Here's a fun infographic and most of the items on it are vegan:

Infographic of foods you can eat to kill spicy flavor from here

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Coconut milk works brilliantly IN food to balance spicyness, and does not have casein (apart from a few brands that add some!), so dairy products aren't just about the casein when it comes to that ability. – rackandboneman Jan 14 at 7:56
Peanut butter is certainly very effective. – PLL Jan 14 at 11:49
Peanut (butter) is another example of something that often goes into food to balance spice (Panang Curry, Anything Ka Salan) ... and there is a common theme with the coconut milk: Easily emulsified, good tasting FAT. – rackandboneman Jan 14 at 13:40
4 how can sugar be not vegan? – Darkhogg Jan 15 at 11:28
@Darkhogg some refined sugar is filtered with bone char to decolorize (ref. this list of vegan sugars) – Erica Jan 15 at 12:27

Avocado would be the classic answer IME (often in the form of guacamole, but not required to be in that form.) AFAIK it's the fat effectively diluting the hot pepper oil in either case, (where it's unaffected by water since it won't mix) rather than any enzyme.

...and then there's not making the food so spicy it's uncomfortable (horribly unfashionable, I know, but I care less and less about fashionable as time passes.)

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Let's not have a discussion about whether spicy food is good here. The question is how to cool down if you overdo it, not why you eat spicy food. – Jefromi Jan 14 at 20:51
1. You might not be the one making the food, thus you are not in control of the exact level of spicyness. 2. Making food slightly uncomfortably spicy is how you get used to spicy food, and as someone who went from completely unable to eat spicy food to loving spicy food, let me tell you, it's definitely worth a few uncomfortably spicy meals to get to that point. – Tobberoth Jan 15 at 12:02
4. You might be making the food, but the recipe or method calls for adding the chili very early in the process (applies to a lot of south-east asian cooking). The chili you use is either fresh produce subject to variation, or you might be using an unfamiliar brand of dried chili, or use it in a matter you are inexperienced with. There are reasons not to taste them straight. And interestingly, it seems the hotter you can eat, the less margin you have for error - 10 of given brand of chili in given dish, its almost on the mild side, 20 of them ... holy hashtag raincloud skull and crossbones! – rackandboneman Jan 16 at 22:10
"Avocado would be the classic answer" Well, it's certainly a classic answer; suggesting that it's the classic answer seems rather Mexican-centric. – David Richerby Jan 16 at 22:53

There's a great answer to this from Vietnam, where super-spicy food is popular and dairy generally isn't. It combines many of the other suggestions into something wonderfully smooth and soothing:

Avocado and coconut milk smoothie

Here's one example recipe and pic. Note that in Vietnam, they love (non-vegan) condensed milk and tend to add it to everything - just skip the condensed milk, and in its place add more coconut milk and a little more sugar.

enter image description here

It has everything you'd want to cool chillies: creamyness, crushed ice, liquid, fats, sugars, along with a very mild non-clashing flavour and lots of nutritional value.

I've seen various variants on this which are even more cooling and soothing by adding aloe vera or blended cucumber - or give it a slight kick with some lemon juice.

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I want one of these regardless of whether I've eaten spicy food :O – Alex A. Jan 16 at 1:21

Try a nut milk (almond comes to mind), soy milk or coconut milk. Here's a highly rated recipe for vegan "Sour Cream".

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I'd recommend coconut milk -- the reason that cow's milk works is a combination of fat (capsaicin is fat soluble) and sugar (which soothes your taste buds) -- and if I recall correctly, coconut milk is the fattiest of the bunch. (and most nut milks are watered down, anyway) – Joe Jan 14 at 2:37
Soy/coconut yoghurt might be a good choice too. – rackandboneman Jan 14 at 7:57
As a slight variation on nut milk: horchata is very good for this (at least the Spanish kind, horchata de chufas; I’m not sure about the Latin American variants, which are quite different in composition but I’m told fairly comparable in taste). – PLL Jan 14 at 11:51
Almond milk! I think it tastes better than dairy milk anyway. – Will Jan 17 at 2:17

I've always liked the bread solution more than the dairy solution. It somehow feels to me that bread "mops up" the spicy stuff from my mucosa, while dairy dissolves it, but also spreads it around in my mouth. Maybe it's just a matter of personal preference, but when you can't have dairy, and even when you can, bread is worth to try. Just a piece of fresh white wheat bread without anything on it, no butter etc. Fluffier is better.

I generally eat yeast bread, but if your dietary restrictions don't permit it, I think chemically leavened bread should work sufficiently well.

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Im surprised not to see raw cucumber here - I thought it was a standard go-to. Sliced, or just munch on one raw, depending on how much of your mouth is on fire :-)

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Obvious answer is strong alcohol like vodka. It doesn't contain any animal products so I suppose vegan can use it.

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"Why are you drunk, it's 9 in the morning!" "Well, I had this really spicy burrito for breakfast..." Could work really well as a sort of mouthwash, though. – Erica Jan 14 at 12:35
Alcohol can do the opposite, depending on circumstances - dissolve all the capsaicin around and deliver it straight to your mouth membranes. Vodka that had a bunch of Thai chilies in it is hard to drink. And unlike oil, alcohols are usually thin liquids that fasten rather than slow absorption... BTW, milk filtered vodka is not vegan :) – rackandboneman Jan 14 at 13:46

You could also eat spicy food more often, that way you'll get used to it and won't need to wash away the spice.

Your tolerance will get higher pretty quickly.

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This works long-term, but not for the current mouthful. Also, even once you've built up a tolerance, there will be dishes that exceed your current level of comfort. – Erica Jan 14 at 22:50
@Erica though for some of us, that's the point ;) – Wayne Werner Jan 15 at 14:24
This is a totally legitimate thing to do, but it's not what I was asking for. – JesseTG Jan 15 at 19:05

One possibility is to take a small amount of coconut oil in your mouth and let it melt, then swish it around and swallow. It should absorb the capsaicin oil and take it along out of your mouth.

Trader Joe's organic virgin coconut oil would be my particular recommendation; it has a well-rounded, sweet coconut flavor and good texture. It's not explicitly marked as vegan as far as I can tell, but I'd think it would be fine.

TJ Organic Virgin Coconut Oil

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If you are preparing the spicy food yourself, the easiest way to mitigate the Capsaicin "burn" is the well tried Szechuan method of adding some sugar to the cooking.

If you are dining out, the way I have mitigated the "burn" after more than a decade living in South East Asia and Sri Lanka, is to eat a spoonful of plain steamed rice. Rather than drinking anything which will just wash the Capsaicin further down your digestive tract, the rice will quickly absorb the enzyme in your mouth, thus reducing any further ill effects.

Both these methods will work for vegans and non-vegans.

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You don't have to drink it for it to work; it just has to be in your mouth. Is that against the rules? I'm not vegan nor am I lactose intolerant, I also don't drink milk but I'll ask for a glass if this needs doing (and then spit it out).

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It depends on the vegan; however, many will also not wear leather or use animal-based body products (e.g. goat's milk soap or lotion with lanolin), so using a mouthful of dairy milk in such a way that it can't be drunk by somebody else can also count as "consuming" it. – Erica Jan 15 at 12:24
You're missing the point of veganism (at least as I see it). If I were to buy dairy milk to do so in the first place, I'm giving a large corporation money to torture cows. – JesseTG Jan 15 at 19:04
@Erica - Right, consume or use - I should've looked it up first. I thought it was they just don't eat X. – Mazura Jan 15 at 20:58
Vegans can be vegan for all sorts of reasons. Some because of animal rights, some because of health reasons. Still, even a vegan who was so for health reasons is unlikely to have dairy milk around the house, no? – Joe M Jan 15 at 22:01

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