Sweet heat: Blast your tastebuds with the latest chocolate flavour - red hot chilli

Fed up with prissy truffles and sickly pralines? Blast your tastebuds with the hot new chocolate flavour - red hot chilli

Pieces of chocolate with red chillies

The combination of chilli and chocolate initially seems incongruous. On the one hand, you have the heat – from mild to searing – of the glorious fruit, used in everything from curries and salads to stews and pasta sauce.

And on the other, an ingredient best known for puddings and sweet indulgence.

The thought of Dairy Milk doused in Tabasco is about as appealing as halitosis pie, a frightening mixture of the fiercely sharp and creamily smooth.

Yet cocoa bean and chilli have been happily married in Mexican culture for many hundreds of years.

Both are indigenous to the region, and both beloved of the Maya and the Aztecs.

In the latter civilisation, a chilli-chocolate drink was supped almost exclusively by the upper classes and top ranks of military and clergy. The normal citizen might have the chance of a sip or two on special occasions (providing he was male), but on the whole it was a rare treat.

The court of Montezuma, the fifth Aztec emperor, who ruled in the 15th century, got through around 50 jugs of chilli-laced chocolate every day, and warriors were said to gulp the stuff before battle to calm their nerves.

However, the relaxing brew was far removed from the milky indulgence we know today, being a slightly bitter mix of ground cocoa beans, water, wine and peppers. A little honey or vanilla might have been added, but there would have been no sign of milk or sugar.

Nowadays, unsweetened Mexican chocolate is used in a vast range of moles (basically, things cooked in sauce).

This ancient dish dates back centuries. The chocolate adds richness and incredible depth, smoothing out the chillies, spices and numerous other ingredients.

Yet over the past few years a rash of sweet chocolate bars laced with chillies has emerged.

At first they seemed like gimmicks, the sort of thing you would force on an unsuspecting friend in order to watch him or her collapse into fits of chokes and splutters.

But recently some serious chocolate manufacturers have moved in, so I wanted to find out whether this ancient combination really was a match fit for the gods.

Of course, the quality of the chocolate is everything. I bend to no one in my love of Dairy Milk, but you do need a high percentage of cocoa solids to balance the heat.

Familiar favourites, such as Yorkie and Galaxy, would be far too sweet, as good acidity is necessary, and you need decent chillies, too.

Proper dark chocolate is preferable to milk as its added depth and complexity better equips it to deal with the soft burn.

The key is the chilli and chocolate working together in blissful harmony, lovers rather than fighters. And the aim is a perfect marriage of equals – not an assault on the taste buds.


chilli pepper company
south devon chilli farm chilli chocolate

Chilli Pepper Company Flaming Chocolate Fireballs (above left)

£3 for 100g, chileseeds.co.uk

More about fire than flavour, these are milk chocolate pralines made with the Bhut Jolokia chilli, said by Guinness World Records to be the hottest in the world. The notes and nuances in the chocolate are soon blasted away by a fierce chilli burn. Strictly for hot-heads. 3/5

South Devon Chilli Farm Chilli Chocolate (above right)

£3 for 100g, sdcf.co.uk

The dark chocolate is dense and on the sweet side. But the chilli is well judged, strolling across the back of the throat with a wonderful, slow-building warmth. Won’t blow your head off, though. 3/5

Chilli Pepper Company Dark Chilli Chocolate (above left)

£1 for 40g, chileseeds.co.uk

Made with 72 per cent cocoa solids, this is decent dark chocolate with depth and a long, smooth finish, although it’s not especially complex. The cayenne pepper is well judged, too, only emerging towards the end of the mouthful and giving a well-mannered warmth that works harmoniously with the rich chocolate. 4/5

Hotel Chocolat, The Purist With Chilli and Pink Peppercorns (above right)

£4.50 for 75g, hotelchocolat.co.uk

A heady, fragrant and floral chocolate, this is made with 72 per cent cocoa solids from the organic Ecuadorean Nacional Arriba bean. The hit of pink peppercorn comes first, then a grand old whack of serious chocolate depth, followed by the merest hint of piri-piri chilli. One for the flamboyant chocolate lover. 4/5