11 of the Most Intense Spicy Food Challenges From Around the World

Bartosz Luczak/iStock via Getty Images
Bartosz Luczak/iStock via Getty Images / Bartosz Luczak/iStock via Getty Images

While some people avoid excessively spicy food, others seek it out. For heat fanatics looking to prove themselves, there are plenty of food challenges around the world designed for the sole purpose of testing diners’ pain thresholds. From dive bars to food festivals, here are 11 spicy food challenges that make competitors feel the heat.

1. Chili Pepper Festival’s Chili-Eating Contest // Hunan, China

At this annual festival in China, guests have the chance to take part in a serious chili-eating contest. To participate, competitors must binge a plate of Tabasco chilies—which come in at between 30,000 to 50,000 Scoville heat units (SHU)—while wading in a pool of floating peppers. At the 2018 competition, which was held in China's Hunan province, Tang Shuaihui won a 24-karat gold coin for consuming 50 peppers in roughly a minute. The previous year's winner had eaten just 15 chili peppers.

2. Jitlada’s Spicy Dynamite Challenge // Los Angeles, California

Jitlada in Los Angeles, California, is famous for its mouth-scorching Thai food, but if the regular menu isn’t hot enough for customers, they can accept the restaurant’s Spicy Dynamite Challenge. This stir-fry dish consists of a protein with bell peppers, green beans, and Thai basil with a special mixture of fresh and dried Thai chilies to bring the heat. The challenge is only available to diners 18 and older, and the description on the menu warns participants to eat at their own risk. To complete the challenge, diners have to clean their plate, down to the tiniest pepper scrap.

3. Heatwave Hot Sauce Expo’s Extreme Jerky Eating Competition // Ontario, Canada

In 2019 and 2020, Ontario was home to Canada’s Heatwave Hot Sauce Expo, which held a hot wing-eating contest, a pepper-eating contest, and a chili cook-off. But the most unique challenge at the event may have been the extreme jerky-eating competition, where the contestant who could stomach the most super-spicy dried beef was crowned the festival’s “jerky barbarian.”

4. Brick Lane House’s P'hall Challenge // New York City, New York

Brick Lane House in New York City claims to serve some of the hottest curry on Earth. Their British-Indian p’haal curry is made from 10 to 12 ground chili peppers, including the infamous Carolina Reaper, which measures in at over 2 million SHU. It’s so spicy that the chef needs to wear a gas mask to prepare it. Guests who successfully finish the dish receive a certificate of completion, a free beer, and a picture in the P’haal of Fame.

5. Smokin’ Ed’s Pepper-Eating Challenge // Fort Mill, South Carolina

In 2019, heat-seekers headed to Fort Mill, South Carolina, to take part in a Giant Carolina Reaper-eating contest organized by the Puckerbutt Pepper Company, which is owned by the pepper’s inventor, “Smokin’ Ed” Currie. This Reaper variant measures in at 2.6 million SHU, and the winner and the runner-up of the inaugural competition each took a home check for $1000 for downing them. The excruciating event was featured in the 2020 Netflix series We Are the Champions.

6. Bushido’s Seppuku Challenge // Charleston, South Carolina

The spicy tuna hand rolls at this Japanese restaurant in Charleston, South Carolina, are not for the faint of heart. To complete Bushido’s Seppuku Challenge, customers must eat 10 spicy tuna rolls in ascending order from least spicy to spiciest. Winners will receive a Bushido headband, which they can wear to receive a free appetizer any time they visit the restaurant.

7. Chunky’s 4 Horsemen Challenge // San Antonio, Texas

The four horsemen of this spicy burger challenge are four peppers of varying heat levels. Guests who accept the challenge will be served a patty topped with jalapeños, serranos, habanero sauce, and ghost peppers. After consuming the whole burger within 25 minutes (and enduring a five-minute waiting period afterward), champions get their picture added to the Wall of Flame.

8. Philippine Chili Festival’s Labuyo 100 Rites // Manila, Philippines

To join the exclusive Labuyo 100 club, guests at the Philippine Chili Festival must devour 100 pieces of the labuyo chili pepper, an important ingredient in Philippine cuisine that packs 80,000 to 100,000 SHU. Following that initiation, members are expected to maintain their heat tolerance by taking part in the annual Labuyo 100 Rites each year along with the new inductees in order to renew their membership.

9. Salvador Molly’s Great Balls of Fire // Portland, Oregon

The Great Balls of Fire at Salvador Molly’s are even hotter than they look. The cheesy fritters are packers with habanero peppers and served with a special “Sunshine & Pain” hot sauce. If diners can finish a plate of five in one sitting, their picture will be shared on Facebook and added to the restaurant’s Wall of Flame.

10. Bath Chili Festival’s Pepper-Eating Contest // Bath, UK

The Clifton Chili Club organized this pepper-eating contest at the annual Bath Chili Festival in Southwest England in 2015, which started with a mild jalapeño and got progressively hotter from there. Peppers featured in the challenge included the Naga king chili, the yellow 7 Pot habanero, and the Carolina Reaper. In the past, contestants who made it past level 17 have won a cash prize and various chili pepper products (but they're probably happiest about the free milk afterward). The Clifton Chili Club holds similar competitions at festivals across the UK every year.

11. Jake Melnick’s Corner Tap’s XXX Wings // Chicago, Illinois

Coated in a sauce made from Trinidad scorpion peppers, the XXX Wings at Jake Melnick’s Corner Tap may be the hottest wings in Chicago. They’re served with a fireman’s helmet and a waiver, and you can even request a cooling plate of milk and ice cream if you need some quick relief. Diners who conquer an order get their pictures displayed on Jake’s Wall of Flame.