Jalapeño Love – A Food Story


The Scoville Chart shows jalapeño peppers on the cooler end of the heat spectrum.

Jalapeño peppers are on the cooler end of the Scoville heat spectrum.

Some might say my craving for hot spicy food is indicative of a warped personality or a self-destructive tendency, including my wife. However, I do not eat things so damn hot that I must run to the fridge for a dousing of milk, yogurt or ice cream. (Note – water and beer just spread the heat. Dairy products help put out the fire.) I am not seeking a stomach bomb with 3 million Scoville units. No, I am talking about flavor. The special tang of hot salsa on a taco or burrito that makes every bite a burst of flavor. The sensual crunch of juicy jalapeño peppers on nachos that fills my mouth with flavor. Such is my love of jalapeño peppers.

My love of food is inescapably linked to my love of spice. For example, when I go to a Thai restaurant, I look for the dishes with the most little chilies next to the item. Then I ask the waiter if the heat ratings for these dishes are “Americanized.” Would four chilies on the menu be only three if we were in Thailand? I do not want wimpy hot food. Part of the joy of eating spicy food is sweat breaking out across the bridge of my nose.

Jalapeños are your friends!Jose Jalapeño on a Stick - Jeff Dunham Productions

Jalapeños are your friends!
Jose Jalapeño on a Stick – Jeff Dunham Productions

I am not alone in my quest for spicy heat. Many shops specialize in selling great varieties of hot sauces, some with adjectives like ‘kick-ass’ in the brand name. Also, most supermarkets now have a wide variety of spicy sauces. They are usually divided between the sauce aisle and the Hispanic foods aisle. These sauces are okay to quickly liven up a bowl of chicken noodle soup or a side of baked beans. However, they are quite boring compared to the textures and flavors of a good homemade salsa or stirring a couple tablespoons of diced jalapeños into a steaming bowl of chili.

Stop avoiding hot, spicy food like it is a bee ready to sting you. Try adding a tiny bit of jalapeño pepper on your next nacho chip. Your body builds a natural tolerance to capsaicin, the chemical in peppers that makes them hot. That is why some people, like me, can eat a jalapeño like a pickle and just smile while first-timers seem wimpy as they run to put the fire out. Remember, start slow with jalapeños, and perhaps one day you will also relish the crunchy texture and flavor of a jalapeño to spice up next Mexican-style meal.

The jalapeño bean dip was a hit with all the women at the party.

The jalapeño bean dip was a hit with all the women at the party.

We recently hosted a birthday/going-away party for our Canadian friends, and I served my jalapeño bean dip with my wife’s homemade totopos (tortilla chips). Even my wife, a self-admitted spice wimp, loves this dip, and it was a hit with everyone. Try this simple recipe. You may be surprised by how big a hit it will be at your next party. Who knows? You might love it yourself.

Jalapeño Bean Dip
Refried beans – 16 oz. serves 4
Grated mild cheese, i.e. – cheddar, jack or a mixture. Approx. 1 cup, not packed
Chopped jalapeños – appox. ¼ cup from a jar or can. Add more to suit your taste.

Heat the refried beans in a sauce pan. Add a little water if they are dry. Gradually stir in the grated cheese until it is completely melted and blended in. Add chopped jalapeños. Simmer for a few minutes. Scoop into a bowl. Sprinkle grated cheese on top if desired and serve with tortilla chips.


38 comments on “Jalapeño Love – A Food Story

  1. I don’t get why people like spicy food. I’m not saying I like bland food. I like it when my meal is well seasoned, just not hot to the point that my tongue is burning. I don’t know how many times I’ve gone out to eat with friends at Thai restaurants and after a few bites my face starts to sweat and people start asking me, “Is everything okay?” It’s embarrassing and uncomfortable! Why do people like feeling that way? Not judging you Mike – I just don’t get it.

    • See, that’s what I mean about people who think I am crazy. Like many tastes, it is an acquired one, and I know it is not for everyone. For example, children do not like spicy hot food. Their sensitive palates are not equipped to handle it.
      One thing I recommend is ordering Thai iced tea with your meal. They put milk or cream in the tea and it readily soothes the burning sensation if you inadvertently bite into a hot pepper. Also, not all Thai food is hot and spicy. My wife (affectionately known as ‘the wimp’) loves Thai food. Their vegies are the best!
      I appreciate your comments, Celeste. Thank you.

      • I do love Thai food! I’m usually careful about what I order, however. I only have problems when I’m out with spicy food loving friends and we order a lot and share everything. And I used to love Thai iced tea, but alas – it’s not vegan!

  2. I think I’m still a five year old in terms of my spice preferences! I have noticed that as time goes on I can handle more heat though. There is a whole flavor profile out there to explore!

  3. As much as I love your posts, I can not agree with this… I could no more develop a tolerance to hot, than grow wings. I can NOT eat hot food… and I have tried. Total reaction, total avoidance now. But if heat is what YOU seek, India is your country! When I go there, I lose about 10 lb average, for 2 wks away… and not because I’m sick. But, because all that heat and I just can’t be together. So I eat peanuts and yogurt, literally, walk a lot and lose weight… jalepeños and I will never be friends— even if you do manage to make it all look pretty good here! 🙂

    • I know the hot stuff is not for everybody. Even those who love hot food that now suffer stomach problems just cannot take it. My days may also be numbered for tolerating the hot stuff, so I am enjoying it while I can. I think I am compensating for months in South America where most people seem to prefer little or no spice. Most restaurants do not include black pepper on the table.
      If I make to India one day, I hope I can still eat the spicy stuff.

  4. Douglas E says:

    Having lived in New Mexico for a number of years, I will stick up for the jalepeño. And I would probably slightly alter your recipe to suggest fresh jalepeños rather than the can/jar ones – I have become a real fan of the fresh ones, as deliciously shown in the picture 🙂

    • I always envied my friends from New Mexico who had those roasted New Mexico chilies so conveniently available.
      I did not add my recipe for fresh roasted jalapeños. I think the fresh ones might be a bit too hot for the uninitiated in the bean dip recipe unless they were allowed to simmer for another 20-30 minutes.
      Thank you for adding your comments, Douglas.

      • Douglas E says:

        Yes, the NM fresh roasted [or straight out of the garden] are hard to beat, and I find them a bit more flavorful than the can/jar jalapeños. We have a great recipe for pickled anaheims, but it is in Colorado and we are in Germany – I will dig it out sometime upon our return to CO.

  5. samuelceo says:

    I agree with what you have written. I love spicy food as well! Once I went to a restaurant to do a one day trial as a waiter. There they tested me not only to see if I can do the job but also if I can stand hot spicy food. The chef told me to try a green jalapeño. He expected me to blush and go on fire but I just smiled and asked for more!!

  6. Sara says:

    This totally speaks to me; I’m a spicy food nut. Tell me something has Harissa or habaneros in it and I’ll definitely try it. Our house is never without a can of chipotles in adobo. Looking forward to trying this recipe!

  7. reocochran says:

    I like spicy food more and more as I get older. I think my taste buds adjust more or maybe they are more weakened and need the extra flavor! I like this post and will enjoy trying the recipe! The people look very nice in the picture of your gathering!

    • The lovely young ladies are the grandchildren of our Canadian friends who are returning to their home in Montreal. Their mother is on the left. They all speak in English and Spanish with charming French accents. They are all delightful, and we will miss them. Such is the life of travelers.
      Thank you for sharing your comments.

      • reocochran says:

        I am heading out to watch the OSU football game at a sports bar and will eat some mild chicken wings dipped in blue cheese dressing and carrots along with celery to take some of the ‘bite’ out of the wings. I am not even able to eat the medium so am not sure if I could be considered equal to your level, Mike! Smiles, Robin

      • reocochran says:

        Thank you for letting me know who the people in this photograph were, Mike. I appreciated your response and enjoyed how informative you were in your travel posts.
        My oldest daughter this weekend made a hot popper dip with cheese and butter in it, so yummy on tortilla chips or crackers! 🙂

  8. I think spicy is about flavor, not about how much heat a person can tolerate. I currently live in Mexico, and most of the food here is not particularly picante, but it is definitely flavorful!

    • You make an excellent point. I like to think of jalapeños as flavorful in spite of their heat. I do not enjoy pure heat, like biting into a habanero pepper. However, when a little is chopped and added to a stew pot, it enhances the flavor a lot. That I love.
      Thank you for commenting, Marilyn! 🙂

  9. Cathy Laws says:

    I love spicy foods for my sinuses. Mexican hot chocolate was a personal favorite for the winter time, as it warms you up with both the temp of the drink plus the flavor.

    • I overlooked the benefit of clearing sinuses. I am glad you added that. And Mexican hot chocolate is the real thing! Not like powdered drink mix. We got that in Buenos Aires, and there is simply no comparison. In Mexico they like to add a touch of vanilla, which is indeed quite flavorful.

  10. tanyamurchie says:

    Love, love, love spice!!! How can one live or visit Mexico and not enjoy the numerous varieties of “chilies”, jalapeño, poblano etc. Fresh and dried, mixed into beans or cooked with cheese, stuffed poblano chilies, yum! Enjoy, life is too short for no spice.

    • Exactly! It does not have to burn to be good. I just happen to enjoy the extra pleasure of a hot pepper. I am told the hot spice releases endorphins. Maybe that is what I am getting off on! 🙂

  11. jhornmex says:

    Hi Mike A great post, but you left out the scientific reason you love hot chilies. Endorphins. The chilies release this wonderful substance that gives you a feeling of well-being, not quite as good as an orgasm but second best. Too bad the large ones don’t work as dildos since the pain is too much to counteract the endorphins. Here’s a brief snippet from Wikipedia: Endorphins (“endogenous morphine”) are endogenous opioid peptides that function as neurotransmitters.[1] They are produced by the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus in vertebrates during exercise,[2] excitement, pain, consumption of spicy food, love and orgasm,[3][4] and they resemble the opiates in their abilities to produce analgesia and a feeling of well-being.
    Republicans don’t believe in science so they can’t enjoy. Cheers Jim

  12. Sarah says:

    I’m with you on this one – chillies make a great addition to so many dishes. It’s not just the heat, but the flavour too… I wouldn’t be without them in the kitchen!

    • Yes, even my wife, who is not fond of hot spice, loves the bean dip. I think the cheese offsets the heat, which is there but is not overwhelming. Thank you for commenting.

  13. mkesling63 says:

    Food is just a vessel for good salsa for me! I nominated you for the dragons loyality award. PLease see my post on it.

  14. AmyS says:

    I’m not a spicy food eater, I think some people can handle it and others cannot. I cannot.

  15. reocochran says:

    I like banana peppers on my pizza, while at Subway I ask for all peppers except the green pepper, which is different apparently than the red and yellow ones. I am allergic to green peppers, but not the spicy ones or the mild colored ones. Huh, not sure why? But this was once ‘tested’ by an ex, where I ended up in the emergency with welts on my arms and other parts of body!
    I liked this post and am glad you like spicy food, since it will help you live longer! Smiles, Robin

    • Mike Lince says:

      Robin, I am glad you commented on this story again. Do you remember your comment from March, 2013? (see above)

      I still love chopped jalapeños in soups and with beans and rice. This traditional food (‘gallopinto’ in Nicaragua) was a taste I acquired during our travels in Latin America, although not all Latinos like it ‘picante’ – extra spicy the way I like it.

      I hope one day we enjoy each other’s company over a spicy dish. 🙂 – Mike

  16. Stephanie Kountouros says:

    Man, “Americanized” spice ratings are the worst, eh? I’ve learned which restaurants in my area do this…and, after a bunch of time asking for extra heat, they’ve learned to make it hot enough for me! Good thing to clarify.

    Just tried to make vegan jalapeno fried won-tons for NYE. They were awesome!

    • Mike Lince says:

      I am pleased you found this story from a couple years ago, Stephanie. Interestingly, of the 150 stories I posted, this one got more views than all the others.

      I may need to contact you about the B’ham restaurants you recommend for spicy food in that I am still a newbie in town.

      Thank you for sharing your comments. And BTW – vegan jalapeño won tons sound delicious! – Mike

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