The Big Chili Seed Myth

You’ve probably seen it time and again. Recipes that call for fresh chilies usually direct you to remove the seeds.

Why?

For some reason, a lot of people are under the impression that a chili’s heat derives from its seeds. It’s hogwash. But, there seem to be a lot of these individuals. Many of them are chefs (or, at least, their cookbook recipe writers). This level of deception continues to mislead the home cook.

It’s time to set the record straight about the big chili seed myth.

All Chilies Contain Capsaicin, but It’s Not in the Seeds

Here’s the deal. Chili peppers contain capsaicin. This stuff is the business; it’s the stuff that burns so good. Capsaicin is a compound that’s found in the flesh of the chili pepper. You’ll often find it’s concentrated in the creamy white flesh that holds the seeds in place.

But, it’s not found in the seeds themselves. We’ll repeat it again if we have to, but really, you should just keep reading it until that information sinks in.

If you were to remove the seeds from the inside of chili pepper and wash them of any oily residue, you would soon find that they don’t carry any heat at all. That’s right (we are saying it again, aren’t we?); the seeds of chili peppers don’t carry any capsaicin.

If you plan to test this theory at home, we suggest getting a ridiculously hot pepper so you can get a real sense of the disparity between the chili flesh and its seeds. We would also recommend getting a pepper with really large seeds because washing chili pepper seeds is unlikely to be a pleasant job. And really, if you’re playing around with chili pepper flesh, don’t be a fool. Pull-on a pair of gloves first.

Those gloves are essential whenever you handle chili peppers. That’s because capsaicin isn’t something you taste. It doesn’t actually sear your flesh. But, it will interact with certain pain receptors underneath the skin. When it does, your brain will assume that part of your body is on fire.

So, Should You Remove Those Seeds, Or What?

Back to those seeds and the direction to cut them out of your chilies before cooking with them. It’s not altogether the worst idea when you’re cooking for someone that can’t handle the heat the way you can. Even though they have no heat themselves, those seeds have been bathing in capsaicin oil for as long as they’ve been around. So, there is plenty of heat clinging to the outside of the chili pepper seeds. And since you’re unlikely to spend time removing them and washing off the capsaicin.

Better still, have your guests try a little bit of heat.

Capsaicin is truly good for you. And it burns so well, with or without the seeds.


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