Spices have the power to transform even the most simple of dishes into divine works of culinary perfection.
As the world’s largest consumer of chilis, India uses hundreds of varieties of chili to balance the complex flavors and heat of just about every single dish. From the foothills of the Himalayas to the beautiful backwaters of Kerala, you’ll find spicy regional delicacies that masterfully combine chili, cardamon, garlic, and hot peppers to create some of the world’s most loved (and feared) dishes.
In this blog post, we highlight India’s spiciest dishes that are sure to make you break out into a sweat. From sizzling curries that need to be prepared while wearing a gas mask to chili peppers that can also be used as weapons of war, here are ten fiery Indian dishes that are sure to appease even the most adventurous of foodies.
WARNING: We recommend reading the rest of this blog post with a glass of water nearby.
One can’t start a conversation about India’s culinary history without discussing one of it’s most famed cultural fusions, Pork Vindaloo. Initially introduced by Portuguese sailors in Goa, carne de vinha d’alhos (which means “meat in garlic wine”) was a dish that consisted of garlic and pork marinated in wooden barrels of red wine. As time went on, Goan locals adapted the Portuguese recipe to suit the local palate by substituting palm vinegar for red wine and seasoning it with another import brought over by the Portuguese sailors, dried red chili peppers. This mouth-numbing curry is guaranteed to make you sweat, so make sure you properly prepare for this delectable assault on the senses.
To experience some of South India’s best dishes, including the renowned pork vindaloo, join this 3-day South India food adventure that is sure to satisfy your culinary curiosity!
Where to eat the best Vindaloo in Goa:
- Britto’s: No 7/171, Calangute, Baga Rd, Beach Beach, Goa, India
- Venite Bar & Restaurant: 31 St, January Rd, Altinho, Panaji, Goa, India
Nadan Kozhi Curry
Prepared using a lethal combination of fresh green chili peppers and dried ground chili peppers, Kozhi Curry is known as Kerala’s spiciest dish. Believed to have been introduced to India by early Jewish settlers, this hot chicken curry blends coconut oil, coconut milk and a variety of aromatic spices to create its intense red gravy.
Pro Tip: Make sure to accompany your Kozhi Curry with a side of rice, kerala neychoru, parothas, appam or chapathi to cut down the spice level.
Where to eat the best Nadan Kozhi Curry in Thiruvananthapuram:
- Azad Restaurant: CV Raman Pillai Rd, Opposite Bharat Petrol Pump, Bakery, Vazhuthacaud, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India
- Curry Chatty: Mettukada Erakkam Rd, Housing Board, Thycaud, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India
Originally from Tamil Nadu, “Chicken 65” is a robust dish made up of golden fried chicken chunks, ginger, garlic and TONS of red chilis. The origin stories of this dish are subject to many myths, with one story claiming that Chicken 65 was the 65th item on the menu of a South Indian military canteen, while others claim that it was created for Indian soldiers in 1965. Different accounts call for the recipe to contain 65 chili peppers, with others claiming that the meat must come from 65-day old chickens. Regardless of which theory you believe, one thing is certain, that just one serving of Chicken 65 will leave your tongue tingling for hours!
If you’re interested in learning more about Indian spices and how they are used in traditional cooking, then this Introduction to Indian Spices Experience is just for you!
Where to eat the best Chicken 65 in Chennai:
- Buhari: Mount Road, No. 83, Anna Salai, Padupakkam, Triplicane, Chennai, Tamil Nadu 600002, India
- Yaa Mohideen Biryani: No: 4/15B, Church Road, Opp to Uzhavar Sandhai, C.Pallavaram, Pallavaram, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
Maharashtraian cuisine has a rich culinary tradition, with fragrant homemade spices and face-numbing curries lining the local menus. If spice is what you’re after, make sure to order Kolhapur’s famous local delicacy, the Kolhapuri Chicken. With its deadly combination of cloves, black pepper powder, cinnamon, garlic, green chilis, dry red chilis, and coconut oil, this dish is not for the faint-hearted.
Where to eat the best Kolhapuri Chicken in Kolhapur:
- Hotel Parakh: No.266, E Ward, Patoli Ward, Near SM Ghatage Automobiles, Kolhapur, Maharashtra, India
- Dehaati: B-504, Old Pune-Bangalore Hwy, Nimbalkar Colony, Ruikar Colony, Kolhapur, Maharashtra, India
Originating from the heavenly land of Kashmir, Rista is a fiery meatball curry usually made from lamb, which is then simmered in a rich tomato gravy seasoned with garlic, ginger, fennel, saffron, red chili powder and a variety of other local spices. This Kashmiri delicacy acquires its distinct red color from ratan jot, which is a root traditionally used to add color to Indian food. To taste Rista in its most traditional form, order a Kashmiri Wazwan, which is a 36-course meal that is the culinary pride of Kashmiri culture. The Wazwan includes other traditional Kashmiri delicacies such as kabab (minced meat roasted on skewers), tabak maaz (lamb rims simmered in yogurt), aab gosh (lamb cooked in coconut curry), rogan josh (lamb cooked in Kashmiri spices), and gushtaba (meatballs in white yogurt gravy).
Just make sure to arrive with an empty stomach!
Where to eat the best Rista in Srinagar:
- Ahdoos Hotel: Residency Road, Regal Chowk, Raj Bagh, Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir
- Shamyana Lodge & Restaurant: Ghat No. 2, Boulevard, Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir
Have you ever considered substituting your morning coffee for Misal?
In Maharashtra, locals opt for this authentic roadside delicacy as a breakfast option, which is made by combining the spiciest of dried red chilis, green chilis, and black pepper powder. Misal means “mixture” in Marathi and is made from an usal of matki (moth bean), watane (dried peas), farsan and curry. You can normally find Misal accompanied with pav, which is a type of Indian bread roll toasted with butter and buttermilk or curd and papadum. The ingredients and spice level of this dish vary from city to city, so if you’re looking to taste some of the most authentic Misal that Maharashtra has to offer – we recommend ordering it at street food stalls in Kolhapur, Pune, and Mumbai.
If breakfast is your favorite meal of the day, then let Anubhav guide you on this epic breakfast food tour of India!
Where to eat the best Misal in Maharashtra:
- Phadtare Misal Centre: 1243, 4th Lane, E Ward, Udyamnagar, Kolhapur, Maharashtra, India
- Bedekar Tea Stall & Missal: 418, Munjabacha Bole Rd, Narayan Peth, Pune, Maharashtra, India
- Shree Datta Snacks Spot: Shop No. 3/4, Road Number 2, Sonal Cooperative Housing Society, Jay Prakash Nagar Rd No-3, Jay Prakash Nagar, Goregaon, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
Tamil Nadu is recognized for having one of India’s spiciest and most aromatic cuisines. But if you’re looking to find some of the state’s most renowned local fare, look no further than Chettinad, which is famous for its wide selection of fragrant spices and fresh ground masalas. One local dish that best symbolizes Chettinad Cuisine is the Chicken Chettinad, which combines a fiery blend of dried red chili, coriander, cumin seeds, poppy seeds, fennel seeds, black peppercorns, and fresh coconut to create one of India’s most sought after chicken delicacies.
Where to eat the best Chicken Chettinad in Chennai:
- Ponnusamy Hotel: Royal Building, 23 Little Mount, Saidapet, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
- Madurai Kumar Mess: No. 165 & 167 Jawaharlal Nehru Road, Vadapalani, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
Laal Maas is a famous Rajasthani delicacy, which derives its signature heat from a special Rajasthani red chili known as the Mathania. Traditionally, this dish was prepared with wild game meat and used the intensity of the Mathania chilies to mask the odor of the meat. Laal Maas, which literally means “Red Mutton”, combines a collection of spices, yogurt, garlic, whole red chilis, and local mustard oil to create the flavor for this legendary curry. We recommend pairing Laal Maas with chapatis during the summer or barja (which is a millet grown in Rajasthan) during the colder months.
If you’re interested in learning how to cook Laal Maas, Payal will teach you everything that you need to know at her Jaipur Cooking Class. For those travellers that are less skilled in the kitchen, our knowledge local food guide, Monty, will share with you Rajasthan’s best local dishes on his Jaipur street food tour!
Where to eat the best Laal Maas in Jaipur:
- Handi Restaurant: Opposite GPO, MI Road, Jaipur, Rajasthan, India
- Spice Court: Achrol House, Jacob Rd, Civil Lines, Jaipur, Rajasthan, India
Andhra Chili Chicken
Andhra Pradesh’s cuisine is notorious for having some of the spiciest dishes in India, which is no surprise, as the state is India’s largest producer of green chili. With a seemingly endless supply of chilis, Andhra Pradesh is a spice lovers paradise. One dish we love that pays culinary homage to the region is the Andhra Green Chili Chicken, which is made of lightly stir-fried pieces of chicken marinated overnight in green chili paste, then simmered the next day in EVEN MORE GREEN CHILI PASTE!
Do you think you can handle it?
Where to eat the best Andhra Chili Chicken in Andhra Pradesh:
- Krishnapatnam: 3rd Floor 1217/A Shreshta Aura, Rd Number 36, Jubilee Hills, Hyderabad, Telangana, India
Last but certainly not least, is the hottest Indian curry served outside of India – Phaal Curry. Recognized as the world’s spiciest curry, Phaal Curry was conceived in the Indian restaurants of Birmingham, UK – more than 7,500 kilometers away from India! But don’t let distance fool you, as this scorching hot British-Indian import packs a familiar punch, combining tomatoes, ginger, fennel seed, chili powder and India’s famed Bhut Naga Jolokia (which once held the title of being the world’s hottest chili) to create a curry so hot, that chefs have to wear gas masks to prepare it!
Consider yourself warned.
Where to eat the best Phaal Curry in the United Kingdom:
- Indioz: 107 Alcester Rd, Birmingham, UK
- Akram’s Kashmiri Restaurant: 1526 Pershore Rd, Birmingham, UK