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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, 2016 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 Jan 16, 2016 at 5:25
  • Why do you feel you need to do anything? Just enjoy the wonderful taste of the spice.
    – Neil Meyer
    Nov 23, 2016 at 16:22
  • 1
    In asian countries (Thai) they use coconut flakes or salty peanuts to avoid the hot spicy flavour.
    – roetnig
    Sep 6, 2017 at 7:56

14 Answers 14

27

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. Jan 14, 2016 at 7:56
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    Peanut butter is certainly very effective.
    – PLL
    Jan 14, 2016 at 11:49
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    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. Jan 14, 2016 at 13:40
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    FWIW, in my country is is not at all well known that drinking milk reduces heat from spicy foods. But it is well known, and perhaps has always been well known, that eating sugar helps a lot. Unlike milk, there is no scientific explanation for sugar. Just hundreds of years of experience passed down from grandmothers to their grandchildren. This is why a lot of south-east-asian savoury food contain sugar. Take for example the peanut sauce. Nobody here thinks that the peanut reduces the heat, instead everyone believes it's the sugar added to the sauce.
    – slebetman
    Jan 16, 2016 at 10:14
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    @Darkhogg this is localized by the way... in some countries sugar is considered vegan by most by default unless there is reason to assume it is imported, in some it isn't ... has to do with what processes the local sugar industry is known to use. Jan 16, 2016 at 22:03
15

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.
    – Cascabel
    Jan 14, 2016 at 20:51
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    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, 2016 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! Jan 16, 2016 at 22:10
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    "Avocado would be the classic answer" Well, it's certainly a classic answer; suggesting that it's the classic answer seems rather Mexican-centric. Jan 16, 2016 at 22:53
11

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, 2016 at 1:21
9

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, 2016 at 2:37
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    Soy/coconut yoghurt might be a good choice too. Jan 14, 2016 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, 2016 at 11:51
  • Almond milk! I think it tastes better than dairy milk anyway.
    – Will
    Jan 17, 2016 at 2:17
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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, 2016 at 12:35
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    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 :) Jan 14, 2016 at 13:46
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I am an omnivore but even better than milk I HIGHLY recommend a starch to correct a mouth burn from capacasain. The ideal being Wonderbread type of bread.

If at a restaurant you should be able to be able to order 1 of these depending if its Asian (rice, add coconut), Latin American (flour tortillas, sweet potatoes, add avacado) African (injera), Euro or euro-american (pasta, bread, potato) or middle eastern, (couscous, lemon).

At home most people in English language countries have either bread or cooked rice.

Soft white sliced commercial bread (i.e. Wonderbread etc.) is ideal but even pita bread can work. Tear off crust, pop in mouth, can use additional slices to rub on lips etc if it's a child or very sensitive adult. Make sure child washes hands with lathery soap!

When I was 6 I opened a butter tub but it was being used as Tupperware and filled with jalapeno liquid w the peppers. I didn't eat it, but it got on my hands and I only washed it off with water. of course my hands got in my mouth eventually. I thought I was dying as I had only been exposed to Irish-American cooking, (mostly boiled veggies, meats, only spices like salt, peppercorn or paprika). The wonder bread helped immensely.

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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, 2016 at 22:50
  • @Erica though for some of us, that's the point ;) Jan 15, 2016 at 14:24
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    This is a totally legitimate thing to do, but it's not what I was asking for.
    – JesseTG
    Jan 15, 2016 at 19:05
1

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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Tofu works amazingly well, especially fresh and cold from the fridge. I just tried it for the worst mouth on fire, and it worked immediately!

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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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My Family are usually Water Drinkers at a restaurant since soft drinks are pricy. However, one time my Dad was eating out as part of a Business Luncheon and out of the blue he decided to order Cranberry Juice. A little while into the meal he had something spicy and when he took a drink of his Cranberry Juice, the spiciness seemed to leave. I think he tried it again by eating the spicy food & then drinking Cranberry Juice right afterwards.

I think you could try having Cranberry Juice and luckily it's a popular enough drink that you won't have trouble finding it in your Grocery Store! :) I've also seen online that sucking on a citrus fruit could help with this!

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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, 2016 at 12:24
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    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, 2016 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, 2016 at 20:58
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    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, 2016 at 22:01

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