Prepared Foods Exclusive: Spices: Chili

by Ann Kraus, Sr. Project Manager, Product Development Services,
and Barb Dillingham, Sr. Project Manager, FFNHP Sector Specialist,

This is the second in a series of technical featurettes by the Guelph Food Technology Centre (GFTC) on ingredient-oriented food product development topics. Different functional or nutraceutical ingredients in demand by consumers and current food trends will be the focus of the series.

Spices: Chili
Increased popularity of ethnic cuisines has greatly influenced the types and amount of spices used in processed foods. Spices are used for health and preservation benefits, but also used in food to improve taste and spark consumer interest. More and more people are using a diverse range of chili peppers as an essential part of their cuisine, skillfully layering flavor and heat by adjusting the types of peppers and preparation methods used.  

Nutrition and Function
Nutritionally, red chili peppers are a very good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, and dietary fiber, as well as a good source of iron and potassium (WHFoods, 2009). Chilis of multiple varieties are considered to have health benefits when applied topically or consumed orally. The main component in chili associated with health benefits is called capsaicin.

Capsaicin from hot chili peppers is known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties (Suhr, 2006). Red chili peppers, such as cayenne, consumed regularly are reported to improve multiple risk factors for heart disease (WHFoods, 2009). Related to type 2 diabetes risk reduction, preliminary research done in Australian concluded that regular consumption of chili may decrease high insulin levels after a meal in non-diabetics (Ahuja et al., 2006). Early research also suggests a potential role for capsinoids (i.e. capcaisin) on weight maintenance and improved body fat composition (Snitker et al., 2009). Beyond these health benefits, some evidence supports that chili aids in the following: clearing congestion, boosting immunity and assisting to prevent stomach ulcers (WHFoods, 2009).

Food Development and Sensory
* Identify the Issues
The food formulator uses chili peppers to craft complex relationships of aromatics, flavours and varying levels and types of heat. Formulating strategies include carefully adjusting the level of each ingredient contributing to the flavor profile, blending the flavors and choosing a complementary base and flavor system.

* Form and Variety
Formulators have several choices when determining the form of chili that would be best for the application. Forms include fresh, frozen, roasted, dried, ground, pastes, oleoresins and flavors. Other considerations are the variety of the chili and their natural variation, solubility, particle size and the health contributions desired.  

* Balance Flavor Profile
The sweet and heat components of the flavor system is often the key to balancing flavor in products with a lot of spice.  One spice may enhance another spice: for example, mixing a milder, sweeter-type chili at low levels with other spices such as cinnamon to provide an even hotter flavour profile.  

Current Food and NHP Uses
Whole, chopped, pureed or otherwise processed chilli can be added to stir fries, baking, dips and sauces, salads, and to oils and condiments (WHFoods, 2009). Considered a Natural Health Product (NHP) format in Canada, capsaicin applied topically can be used as an alternative pain reliever in inflammatory conditions such as osteoarthritis (Schnitzer, 1998), and for muscle, joint, skin, tendon and ligament pain (NHPD, 2008). Similarly, a chili (cayenne) product consumed orally in amounts ranging from 15-650mg of the dried fruit form daily has been approved by the Natural Health Product Directorate to be an aid to digestion and a support to peripheral circulation, based on traditional therapeutic usage (NHPD, 2008).

Product Development Case Study using Chili
The Product Development Group at the Guelph Food Technology Centre has recently developed a chili-spiced product to share with clients and demonstrate the Centre’s capabilities and to stimulate product development ideas. * GFTC’s Twisted Brownie
GFTC’s twisted chocolate brownie contains mangosteen and ancho chili peppers. The form of the pepper is a fine dried powder that can be easily blended with other dry ingredients. Several pepper varieties were screened for an appropriate flavour profile that would complement the chocolate and mangosteen flavours more. Peppers such as chipotle and cayenne delivered a smoke flavor or high heat that peak near the beginning of the flavor profile and surmounted the chocolate and mangosteen flavors. The ancho chili pepper however, delivered a deep, rich flavor that peaked toward the end of the flavor profile, allowing a balance of the chocolate and manogsteen toward the front of the flavor profile.  

About GFTC
GFTC is Canada's only independent food technology center.  GFTC offers the food industry scientific assistance; 50,000 sq.ft. of pilot plant and laboratory facilities; product development aid; technical training; consulting and auditing services; and is a resource in functional foods, agriculture, natural health products and global technologies.

Ahuja KD, Robertson IK, Geraghty DP, Ball MJ. 2006. "Effects of chili consumption on postprandial glucose, insulin, and energy metabolism." Am J Clin Nutr; 84:63-9.
Ellis CN, Berberian B, et al. 1993. "A double-blind evaluation of topical capsaicin in pruritic psoriasis." J Amer Acad Dermatol; 29:438-42.
NHPD [Natural Health Products Directorate].  2008.  "Monograph – Cayenne." Accessed on:  September 14, 2009.  Available at:
Snitker, S., Fujishima, Y., Shen, H., Ott, S., Pi-Sunyer, X., Furuhata, Y., Sato, H., and Takahashi, M.  2009. "Effects of novel capsinoid treatment on fatness and energy metabolism in humans: possible pharmacogenetic implications." The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition; 89:45-50.
Schnitzer TJ. 1998. "Non-NSAID pharmacologic treatment options for the management of chronic pain." Am J Med;105:45S-52S.
Surh ,YJ. 2002. "Anti-tumor promoting potential of selected spice ingredients with antioxidative and anti-inflammatory activities: a short review." Food Chem Toxicol; 40:1091-7.
WHFoods. Chili. 2009.  Accessed on July 9, 2009.  Available at:

From the September 28, 2009, Prepared Foods E-dition