Chilli and Chocolate: A Match Made in HeavenNatasha Jebens
Our opinion over here at African Dream Foods? Chilli is the blazing yin to chocolate’s decadent yang.
With Easter around the corner you probably have chocolate on the brain, anyway. This year try spicing it up with a little dash of chilli.
At the very least, don’t knock it ‘till you’ve tried it.
An Unlikely Love Story
If you’re new to the chilli-chocolate combo you might be thinking the duo sounds like some new-age foodie stunt manufactured purely for shock value. The real surprise? Cocoa and chilli have been soulmates since day one.
We have the ancient Maya of Mesoamerica to thank for discovering the cacao bean, but their rendition of the food was far from the decadent chocolate bunnies and Hershey’s Kisses we love today.
Instead, the Maya ground their cacao beans into a hot liquid froth that was later dubbed xocolatl by the Aztecs. Sound familiar? The drink may have been hot chocolate’s ancestral predecessor, but it wasn’t sweet; it was bitter and often mixed with—you guessed it—chilli.
After landing on South American soil in the 16th century, explorer Hernán Cortés fell in love with the piquant concoction. Not long after, he began shipping cacao beans home to Spain where they quickly became one of Europe’s hottest commodities.
Decades later, the cacao products of yesteryear have evolved into the chocolate treats we indulge in today—sometimes with a little dash of chilli. The rest, as they say, is history.
Why Chilli and Chocolate Works
The only thing that makes chilli and chocolate seem an unlikely pair is our own modern conceptions of how the two are usually used. At the end of the day, it should come as no surprise that chocolate’s natural sweetness brings out a chilli’s zing in a way no other food can.
Think about it: cake recipes often recommend tossing in a dash of allspice and Southerners in America are well-known for adding a dash of salt to watermelon before chowing down. Mixing contrasted flavors is a sure-fire way to bring out dynamic flavor—it’s the same with chilli and chocolate.
Our Suggestion? Just Try It!
If you’re new to the idea, trying the chocolate-chilli combo is likely a few steps out of your culinary comfort zone. Trust us, though, it’s worth the leap.
Keep in mind you’ll need to approach the combo with a bit of nuance. What we’re trying to say? You’re not going to get anywhere worth being by dipping a piece of Dollar Store baking chocolate in Tabasco sauce. In fact, for the sake of your tastebuds we’re pretty much begging you not to even try.
Like any food worth having, the chocolate-chilli combo might require a little artistry to really achieve peak enjoyment. In general, darker chocolates with higher cocoa contents pair better than sweeter variations.
The easiest way to try the combo is probably to score something like Lindt’s dark chilli bars. Alternatively, you could go a little more gourmet with chocolate-dipped chilli peppers, a classic chili con carne or a spicy hot chocolate.