Capsaicin Cocoa

Spicy Hot Chocolate

The burning sensation of hot peppers comes from capsaicin, a compound that binds to the heat receptors in your mouth. While it does not cause physical damage, the sensation is strong enough to make it a key ingredient in pepper spray. Additionally, the pain caused by the capsaicin also causes your body to release endorphins, which is why it is sometimes used in pain-killers.

In this drink, the capsaicin in the red pepper adds a subtle kick to your cocoa. 

Spicy Hot Chocolate


1 cup milk (any kind)
2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
4 teaspoons semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
Dash each of ground nutmeg, ground cinnamon, ground red (cayenne) pepper (or more, to taste)
1 cinnamon stick, for garnish
Mini-marshmallows and/or whipped cream, if desired


1. Combine milk, cocoa powder, chocolate, and brown sugar. Stir well.
2. Heat until chocolate melts and sugar dissolves (about 5 minutes in a saucepan on a stove over low heat OR 2 minutes in a microwave-safe mug in a microwave).
3. Add vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon, and red pepper, stir well. Garnish with cinnamon stick, mini marshmallows, and/or whipped cream, if desired.

Feeling extravagant? Exchange the ground cinnamon and vanilla extract for 1 cinnamon stick and ¼ vanilla bean. Add all of the ingredients to a saucepan. Gently heat mixture to just below boiling for about 10 minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick and vanilla bean before serving.

Keeping it simple? Add vanilla and spices to your favorite cocoa mix. 

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