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What's the Best Food for Extinguishing the Burn of a Hot Chile?

Photo: Randy Mayor

A new study by New Mexico State University's Chile Pepper Institute (yes, that's a real thing) has found the best way to cool down after biting into a hot pepper, and it's probably in your fridge right now.

Most of us have been there... You're at a restaurant, and someone challenges you to eat a spicy pepper off the menu. I've made that mistake, too. It involved some beers beforehand (as you do) and then a shot of habanero purée. I thought I was ingesting something mild, a la jalapeño, but after 30 seconds it became apparent I'd swallowed hot lava. Have mercy! 

The good news is that researchers at New Mexico State University's Chile Pepper Institute—yes, that's a place—have concluded that milk is the go-to when quelling the fire that arises from what we'll call a "hot pepper hangover."

Ancho Chicken Tacos with Cilantro Slaw and Avocado Cream

The secret is a protein in milk that actively replaces capsaicin, the chemical compound that gives peppers their heat. So chugging a glass of moo juice post pepper party replaces the capsaicin on your tongue's receptors and alleviates the burning sensation. In layman's terms, milk is to Harry Potter as hot peppers are to Voldemort. Crucio​ that, you evil peppers!

This study also found that carbohydrates will take the place of capsaicin, too, though they aren't quite on the same level of effectiveness as milk. Bread and sugars do work, but it's best to stick with milk if you're looking for quick relief.

So the next time you chug a ramekin of habanero purée at trivia night, make sure and wash it down with a nice, tall glass of leche. And some ice cream. 

P.S. Can we now agree that scientists believe ice cream has secret healing powers? Ice cream for everyone!