I recently found out that I'm allergic to capsaicin, so that means no spicy Mexican food, which I love. Are there any substitutions that I can use? I can have black pepper, but too much black pepper and that's all you taste.

  • 1
    Very related: cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/33534/… (Not a duplicate though, because capsaicin is not contained in bell peppers so the asker of that question is apparently allergic to those too, so must be something different contained in all capsicum.) Feb 20 '19 at 21:18
  • also related : cooking.stackexchange.com/q/64382/67
    – Joe
    Feb 21 '19 at 3:29
  • @leftaroundabout Just to cite what Judith White wanted to reply with (but couldn't for the lack of 50 rep): "To tell someone with an allergy to Capsacin that there is none in bell peppers... you would be dead wrong. As it was I did end up in emergency. There is some. But almost none is not none. Things that I have been playing with instead: wasabi, basil, black pepper, garlic and oregano as well as the recommended Cumin." Jun 18 at 23:20
  • @AnastasiaZendaya some allergy cases are extreme, but as the OP just “recently found out” they're allergic to capsaicin – but loves Mexican food – this does not seem to apply here. Anyway, my remark was not to suggest that bell peppers are a safe thing to try for someone with known capsaicin allergy, but to point out that the other question is probably not about capsaicin allergy but about something different (unfortunately not clear from the way it was asked). Jun 19 at 11:02

You could try other piperine containing types of peppers (Piper genus), these include P. longum (long pepper) and P. retrofractum, as well as white pepper P. nigrum, though any member of the Piper genus should contain some piperine, but amounts and hence spiciness will vary.

You could also try ginger (Zingiber genus), as well as mustard seeds and shoots/leaves (Sinapsis genus and Brassica juncea), all of which are objectively "hot", though also with different (and strong) flavours and heat levels.

Wikipedia also has a list of peppers under their Template:Herbs and Spices, which includes such things as Alligator pepper (Aframomum), Schinus genus, Sichuan pepper (Zanthoxylum), and a couple of others.

  • You can also get 95% piperine concentrate, extracted from black pepper, which could give you the heat of black pepper without the full flavour. Not sure exactly what it tastes like though as it's sold as a supplement rather than an ingredient.
    – Richard
    Feb 22 '19 at 9:20

You could ramp up the heat by adding more cumin rather than more black pepper. It's commonly used in both Indian, and in Mexican cuisine, so the flavour shouldn't be too strange. It can make spicy dishes feel much more fiery.

Other possibilities are to use other warm spices, such as cloves, cinnamon, ginger, Szechuan pepper corn, mustard seeds, etc . . . but then again, these might affect the flavour in ways that make the dish taste more Asian, rather than Mexican.


If you're looking for something to mimic the flavor profile of chili peppers, to give you familiar-ish tastes in your food, the best I've found is sweet or smoked sweet paprika.

Sweet paprika is made from bell peppers would contain no capsaicin, since bell peppers do not. Hot paprika, on the other hand, is made from capsaicin bearing peppers and would not be safe - and some paprikas are made from mixed batches of peppers, so it may take some label-reading and deciphering to make sure you get a pure-bell-pepper paprika. I've only seen smoked sweet paprika in my area, though it seems that smoked hot paprika is available elsewhere.

I'm pretty strongly intolerant of capsiacin, and this works for me to get the flavors in food balanced well when working with recipes that call for chili peppers. It will of course still be different, but it can be flavorsome and very good. I would suggest caution, though, when trying paprika at first as tolerance levels can vary a lot - mine is severe enough that I consider sweet paprika safe enough for me as safe to recommend, but there's always the possibility of individual differences.

If what you're missing is not flavor-profile-stuff but the actual spiciness, bob1's answer on foods and flavorings with other spicy compounds may work well.

Or you could maybe just try eating your food while really boiling hot, to replicate the scorching of one's mouth :)

  • 2
    If you're suggesting smoked paprika I assume you mean sweet smoked paprika. The hot (picante) kind definitely includes capsaicin (I have both, for different things)
    – Chris H
    Feb 21 '19 at 8:19
  • 2
    As it is the answer is wrong. And since OP is dealing with allergy, a lower limit is difficult to be established and even sweet paprika might contain capsaicin as for capsaicin absence relies on perfect removal of seeds and perhaps other parts of the fruit. I support the above comment.
    – Alchimista
    Feb 21 '19 at 9:34
  • 1
    @ChrisH - I've only ever seen the smoked paprika that's made from sweet paprika in our area, I didn't realize it was available elsewhere - thanks for the heads up!
    – Megha
    Feb 22 '19 at 1:38
  • @Alchimista - Paprika made from red bell pepper would be safer (bell peppers have no capsaicin), that's sweet paprika. Hot paprika does contain capsaicin - and I will edit in a warning about smoked hot paprika, I just hadn't run across it before. As for relative tolerance, bell pepper is widely assumed to be safe for capsaicin intolerance or allergy (see leftaroundabout's unchallenged comment above, not to mention a score of other sources I found when researching), and I know it is edible even with my own very severe intolerance - though I will edit in some additional warnings for that, too
    – Megha
    Feb 22 '19 at 2:02
  • 2
    I see that bell pepper do not contain capsaicin. By other sources I was convinced that there is some capsaicin in all capsicum. As it is your answer is better, especially more clear. I didn't down vote even before, by the way.
    – Alchimista
    Feb 22 '19 at 8:20

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.