Watermelon agua fresca with a spicy rim of Tajín seasoning. Or, switch out the salt on your Margarita. Here’s the recipe (photos #1, #2 and #3 © Tajín Seasoning).
 Fresh fruit perks up with a sprinkle of Tajín seasoning.
 On ice cream or sorbet: cool with sweet heat.
 A sprinkle of Tajín is a must on paletas—Mexican ice pops. Here’s the recipe for these mango-lime paletas sfrom Christy Wilson Nutrition.
 Tajín: Buy a bottle of mix your own (see the ingredients below; photo © PicClick).
 Mix it into condiments, from ketchup to honey (photo of cheese board courtesy Martha Stewart Living).
Mankind has been combining sweet and spicy flavors since ancient times…and up to just yesterday (2016), when Doritos Spicy Sweet Chili tortilla chips appeared on store shelves.
The combination of sweet heat has been part of global cuisines from Asia to Mexico. If you’ve never sprinkled a mango or lime paleta—a Mexican ice pop—with spicy heat, you’ve been missing out!
Cultures around the world variously use black pepper, chiles, horseradish, mustard, wasabi, and white pepper for heat.
Whatever the combination with whatever sweet element (agave, honey, sugar, fruit), after an initial bite of sweet, the heat builds into a kick: a combination that appeals to many.
For Cinco de Mayo, we’re focusing on the famous heat of Latin America: hot chiles (all about chiles).
At the restaurant level, the sweet-and-spicy combination has been showcased in casual fare (burgers, chicken wings, pizza), chocolate (bars, bonbons, desserts, and spicy hot chocolate).
Ketchup and other sweet condiments are good candidates to combine sweetness and heat.
Small manufacturers have long been featuring sweet and spicy, from jerky flavors to rice chips, tortilla chips, and crackers.
Even chocolate bars, a standard-bearer for sweet, have been combined with spicy for at least 20 years. Today, you’ll find this combination in everything from savory Mexican mole sauce to desserts.
In fact, the first chocolate consumed—an Aztec beverage for the elite—ground roasting cacao beans, with and vanilla—plus chiles, allspice and spicy petals from a local tree (Cymbopetalum penduliflorum, a member of the custard apple family known in English as sacred earflower.
While honey only arrived with the Conquistadors in 1519, the local agave sap was not used as a sweetener.
Be sure to check out the sensory characteristics of spices, at the end of the article.
SWEET & HEAT PAIRINGS
Some of our favorites:
Cocktails: start with fruity (mango, pineapple) and look online for tons of ideas
Fresh fruit slices (including cucumber) and fruit salad (sprinkled)
Fruit sauces for proteins (chicken, duck, pork, turkey)
Fruit sauces for desserts (mango, orange, pineapple)
Ketchup and other sweet condiments (barbecue sauce, chutney, honey, glaze, hot pepper jelly, fruit preserves, maple syrup, marinade, teriyaki sauce)
Mexican hot chocolate
Red salsa with chopped berries, mango, stone fruits (e.g. peaches), pineapple
Spicy cheese (pepper jack, cheddar with habanero, horseradish or jalapeño) or fresh-to-aged cheese with spicy honey.
Why sweet heat? Why now?
More and more Americans are enjoying spicier foods, due to the growth in popularity of International cuisines (not just Mexican, but Indian, Thai and numerous others).
They ported the sweet-heat combinations found in ethnic dishes to provide a more complex depth of flavor to traditional, European-based foods.
When sweet is added to spice, the heat is mitigated, allowing the taste of the spice to be better captured and appreciated without burning one’s taste buds.
When spice is added to sweet, it gives food an unexpected kick.
Mexican hot chocolate, anyone?
If you’re ready for some sweet heat, start with a spice mix. You can play with hot sauce and sliced or pureed jalapeños later.
Mix your own hot spice blend (more about that below), or buy a bottle of Tajín seasoning.
WHAT IS TAJÍN SEASONING?
Made by Tajín Products, a Mexican company, this mildly spicy seasoning combines chili, lime and salt. It is delicious on fruits: citrus, cucumber, melon, and tropical fruit (mango, papaya, pineapple, etc.); and in cooked fruit recipes.
It’s a versatile seasoning. In addition to its popularity as a glass rimmer for cocktails or juice drinks, try it on:
Ice pops and sorbet
Vegetables and grains
Wherever you want a kick of heat
A Mexican staple, you can find Tajín seasoning in the Mexican foods aisle in supermarkets, in Latin American food stores, and online.
If you want to make your own, mix lime zest with cayenne, chile flakes, chile powder, jalapeño—or go beyond Mexico to layer on international heat: black pepper (India), horseradish (Mediterranean), hot paprika (Spanish Basque region), mustard powder (China) or wasabi (Japan).
You can add yet another layer your spice mix—perhaps some cumin or curry powder.
THE SENSORY CHARACTERISTICS OF SPICES
What Are Spices?
Spices don’t have a single flavor profile: They have several. Thanks to Spices Inc. for this analysis of the 15 most commonly used sensory characteristics when describing the flavor and aroma profiles of spices.
Both spices and herbs are obtained from plants.
Spices are seeds, fruits, roots, barks, or other plant substances, primarily used for flavoring, coloring, or preserving food.
Herbs are the leaves, flowers, or stems of plants, used for flavoring or as a garnish.
Salt is neither an herb nor a spice. It is a mineral, mined underground (from ancient, dry lake beds) or evaporated from seawater (i.e., sea salt). It is thus not included with these taste characteristics, as its flavor in foods doesn’t come from spices or herbs. (Pepper, however, is a spice—peppercorns are the dried fruits of a vine.)
Bitter: ajwain, bay leaf, celery, clove, cumin, epazote, fenugreek seeds, horseradish, juniper, lavender, mace, marjoram, oregano, savory, Sichuan peppercorns, star anise, turmeric, thyme.
Cooling: anise, fennel, sweet basil.
Earthy: achiote, cumin, saffron, turmeric.
Floral: coriander, lemongrass, rose petals, saffron, sweet basil thyme.
Fruity: anise, fennel, nigella, savory, star anise, tamarind.
Herbaceous: dill weed, lavender, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, savory, tarragon and thyme
Hot: black pepper, chiles, horseradish, mustard, wasabi, white pepper.
Nutty: ajwain, black cardamom, coriander seed, cumin seed, fenugreek seeds, mustard seed,poppy seed, sesame seed.
Piney: bay leaf, rosemary thyme.
Pungent: allspice, epazote, garlic, ginger, grains of paradise, horseradish, marjoram, mustard, onion, paprika, spearmint, star anise, wasabi.
Sour: amchur, pomegranate, sumac, tamarind.
Spicy: bay leaf, cassia cinnamon, clove, coriander, cumin, curry leaf, ginger, marjoram, nutmeg.
Sulfury: asafoetida, chives, garlic, onion.
Sweet: allspice, anise, caraway, cassia cinnamon, chervil, clove, dill seed, fennel, green cardamom, nutmeg, poppy seed, sesame seed, star anise.
Although our focus is on the culinary uses of spices for flavor, spices have secondary functions as well, for coloring and as a preservative, antioxidant, or medicine.
The Flavors Of Spices
CHECK OUT WHAT’S HAPPENING ON OUR HOME PAGE, THENIBBLE.COM.
Woody: cardamom, Ceylon cinnamon, clove, juniper, lavender, rosemary, Sichuan peppercorns.