Hot peppers are, as the name says, hot. But that heat can affect you both externally and internally. It is important to handle hot peppers with gloves while cooking so you don’t burn your hands. When adding hot peppers to food, use the peppers sparingly as a little goes a long way. Sometimes though, precautions aren’t enough. You may need to take some extra steps to neutralize any hot pepper burn you are suffering from.
Try to wash your hands in dish soap and warm water. If this doesn’t work, submerge your hands in milk for three minutes. Coat your hands with baking soda and dish soap, and then wash your hands thoroughly. Dairy can neutralize the burn, while the baking soda combined with the soap makes sure the pepper is washed away.
Peppers are capsicums and they contain capsaicin, a compound that makes them hot; the key is to neutralize this alkaline. When your mouth is on fire from a hot pepper burn, acidic drinks can help. Try drinking cold orange juice or lemonade to ease the pain. Tomato juice also has a high acidity. In a pinch, try sucking on a lemon or lime wedge. It won’t fully neutralize the pain, but it will ease it.
Carbohydrates are another option that can help neutralize hot pepper burn. You can stave off the burn by pairing the peppers with rice, bread or tortillas when serving them to block the capsaicin so there isn’t so much burning your mouth. Eating more carbohydrates can also help with hot pepper burn because the sugar in the carbohydrates slows down the rate at which the heat of the pepper moves through your mouth.
Dairy products are also acidic, which alleviates the burning sensation. Casein, a protein in milk, breaks up the capsaicin, while the fat in dairy further dissolves it. In fact, dairy products, such as sour cream and ice cream, are your best bet to get rid of hot pepper burn as the fat, acidity and proteins are triple-teaming against the capsaicin. While skim milk and low fat dairy products will still help, you should turn to full fat options for the quickest relief.
- “The Chile Pepper Encyclopedia: Everything You'll Ever Need to Know About Hot Peppers, With More Than 100 Recipes”; Dave Dewitt; 1999
- “The Complete Chile Pepper Book: A Gardener's Guide to Choosing, Growing, Preserving, and Cooking”; Dave DeWitt and Paul W. Bosland; 2009
- “Peppers: The Domesticated Capsicums, New Edition”; Jean Andrews; 1995
Melissa Hamilton began writing professionally in 2007. She has enjoyed cooking creatively in the kitchen from a young age. In addition to writing cooking articles for various publications, she currently works in the restaurant industry as a food and beverage trainer.