Find Your Zest for Life in These 19 Countries With the Spiciest Food

Find Your Zest for Life in These 19 Countries With the Spiciest Food

When you ask people who’ve left the U.S. what they miss most, they invariably say Mexican food. While they probably mean Tex-Mex, the fact remains that many countries in the world have a real scarcity of spicy food, especially those in Northern and Western Europe.

If you’ve never noticed it before, it’s true that many (but not all) countries with hot temperatures also serve fiery foods. Conventional wisdom says that’s because spices have antimicrobial properties, making the food safer to eat in conditions where bacteria flourish.

As BigThink.com points out, a 2021 study challenges that notion, and says there’s no reliable connection between the two. Regardless, if you’ll be heartbroken without access to zesty food, here are a few top countries to consider.

India

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Just like in the U.S., different parts of India have different cuisines. You’ll find the spiciest foods in these states: Kerala, Telangana, Nagaland, Karnataka, Goa, and especially Andhra Pradesh. Pakistani food is similar, but often uses butter and cream in place of ghee and includes more meat and fewer vegetables.

Ghana

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Ghana is known for delicious spicy food using condiments like shito made of dried fish, tomatoes, and garlic with lots of peppers and spice. Ghana continues to welcome Black expats with their “Year of Return” program.

Learn more about moving to Ghana

Sri Lanka

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Sri Lankan food uses many of the same spices as Indian food, but you can enjoy it on a beautiful island.

South Korea

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South Korean food is spicy and flavorful, especially if you enjoy it with components like kimchi and gochujang. That said, there are also lots of mild options, and many dishes are quite sweet.

Learn more about moving to South Korea

Mexico

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Mexican food is inherently flavorful, with robust ingredients like lime, cilantro, and red onions. The spice level comes from the liberal use of peppers, including jalapeño, serrano, poblano, habanero, and their dried forms: chipotle, chile seco serrano, ancho, and chile seco habanero.

Learn more about moving to Mexico

Ethopia

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According to the study, Ethiopia uses the most spices by far. The spiciest components are often meat or vegetable stews, which you enjoy with their spongy flatbread, called injera.

Thailand

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Just like in the U.S. or India, the further south you go in Thailand, the spicier the food will be. Thai cuisine has been influenced over time by people from Chinese, Malaysian, Dutch, French, and Arabian cultures traveling through the country. Many people would vote that Thai food is the spiciest in the world.

Learn more about moving to Thailand

Jamaica

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You can thank Scotch bonnet peppers for the heat in Jamaican jerk dishes and stews. The cuisine is the result of a massive melting pot of spices and techniques, including indigenous Taino, African, English, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Indian, Chinese, and Middle Eastern.

Indonesia

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Indonesian food is rich, complex, and savory. While popular dishes like tumpeng or satay may not be spicy, there’s always the option to add sambel oelek, a spicy chile paste made with mortar and pestle.

Learn more about moving to Indonesia

Malaysia

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Like in Indonesia, Malay food also incorporates spicy sambal. The food is also influenced by Indian cuisine and countries that colonized the nation, including Portugal, the Netherlands, and Britain.

Tunisia

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Tunisian food is unique in northern Africa for its significant spiciness. Harissa paste made from chilis, garlic, and caraway seeds lends flavor to the food.

Singapore

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Singaporean noodles, seafood, and meat dishes are renowned for their flavor and spice. Your rent may be pricy in Singapore, but you can save by enjoying the delicious, spicy street food served at hawker centers.

Learn more about moving to Singapore

Kenya

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In addition to traditional foods like ugali, the cornmeal dish you scoop with your fingers, there are also spicy Indian foods that arrived during a migration boom in the 19th century. There’s also nyama choma, the delicious grilled meat that’s spiced with cayenne pepper.

China

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The spice levels in foods naturally vary in a massive nation like China. Two provinces that battle it out for spiciest food are Szechuan and Hunan. Other piquant provinces include Jiangxi, Yunnan, Guizhou, Guangxi, and Hubei.

South Africa

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South African cuisine is known for spicy food, but none sounds cuter than Bunny Chow, a street food of curry in a bread bowl.

Learn more about moving to South Africa

Nigeria

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Nigerian food is flavored with Scotch bonnet and cayenne peppers, known here as rodo and shombo. No dish is more popular than suya, spicy meat skewers traditionally prepared by men.

Peru

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While most Peruvian foods are mild (barring a few dishes like papa a la huancaína, pictured), you can ramp up the heat factor with peppers like ají rocoto.

Learn more about moving to Peru

Bolivia

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Like in Peru, some Bolivian dishes use the spicy ají rocoto to add fire, with the most popular being picante de pollo.

Learn more about moving to Bolivia

United States

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If you aren’t ready or can’t move abroad, you can always head south for our zestiest cuisines. In addition to Tex-Mex, Cajun and Creole specialties offer peppery appeal in Louisiana. And of course, you can find Buffalo wings in any corner of the country.

The Best Country for Your MBTI Type

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Have you ever wondered which country would be the best fit for your Myers-Briggs type? Many people are interested in finding a place to live that aligns with their personality and values.

Your MBTI type can tell you a lot about your preferences, including your communication style, decision-making process, and overall approach to life. By understanding your MBTI type, you can start to narrow down your options and find a country that’s the perfect fit for you.

The Best Country for Your MBTI Type

The High Cost of Living in the US: You Won’t Believe How Much Cheaper it is Abroad

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If you’re an Americans who wants to move abroad, you might have have an exaggerated view of how much it costs to live in cities around the world. Countries like Monaco, Switzerland, Australia, and Singapore can be extremely pricy, but you’ll find that the cost of living anywhere you go is less than you’ll pay in an average U.S. city.

The High Cost of Living in the US: You Won’t Believe How Much Cheaper it is Abroad

The 10 Worst Reasons to Move Abroad

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There are plenty of excellent reasons to move abroad, if you’re not happy with developments in the U.S. There are also terrible reasons to move. These fall mostly into two categories: trying to solve your problems without working on yourself, and taking advantage of locals. The first category just flatly doesn’t work, and the second is unethical. If you want to be unethical, stay home.

The 10 Worst Reasons to Move Abroad

Jen Barnett Expatsi
Co-founder at Expatsi | Website | + posts

Jen is the co-founder of Expatsi, a company that helps Americans move abroad. She created the Expatsi Test, an assessment that recommends countries for aspiring emigrants based on lifestyle data. Jen has an MBA from Emory University with concentrations in marketing and innovation. She's written for BusinessWeek, Health, Cooking Light, and Southern Living. Prior to Expatsi, she created Freshfully and Bottle & Bone—two businesses in the local food space—and spoke at TEDx on being brave. She's moving to Mexico in 2024, along with her husband and co-founder Brett, pitbull mix Squiggy, and three rotten cats. How can she help you move abroad?

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Jen Barnett Expatsi
Co-founder at Expatsi | Website | + posts

Jen is the co-founder of Expatsi, a company that helps Americans move abroad. She created the Expatsi Test, an assessment that recommends countries for aspiring emigrants based on lifestyle data. Jen has an MBA from Emory University with concentrations in marketing and innovation. She's written for BusinessWeek, Health, Cooking Light, and Southern Living. Prior to Expatsi, she created Freshfully and Bottle & Bone—two businesses in the local food space—and spoke at TEDx on being brave. She's moving to Mexico in 2024, along with her husband and co-founder Brett, pitbull mix Squiggy, and three rotten cats. How can she help you move abroad?