Feel the burn at these Toronto restaurants that are popular with spicy food lovers.
Heat things up as the temperatures drop! Push the limits of your heat index as you chase a capsaicin high at these cool restaurants in Toronto known for their globally inspired spicy-spicier-spiciest fare.
MICHELIN-recognized Northern Thai at Som Tum Jinda
With a Bib Gourmand recognition from MICHELIN Guide Thailand, Som Tum Jinda’s Toronto outpost on Gerrard Street East serves up Northern Thai dishes, including a stellar grilled pork jowl dish and bamboo salad with fermented fish sauce. With spice levels rated from one to ten, don’t overestimate your tolerance—even a five has spice lovers reaching for water!
Caribbean heat at Miss Likklemore’s
Although most of the Caribbean-inspired menu at Miss Likklemore’s—from its juicy jerk chicken to its tempura okra—is moderate in heat, you can ratchet it up with a side of their Debbie’s pepper sauce, Chef Lonie Murdock’s sister-in-law’s recipe, which highlights scotch bonnet and Guyanese wiri wiri peppers.
Fiery Mexican at Fonda Lola
Although there are plenty of moderately spicy dishes flavoured with guajillo peppers and poblano, the dish to order at Mexican restaurant Fonda Lola if you want to fire up your tastebuds is the Camarones Diabla—think tiger shrimp simmered in a delectable sauce made of tomato and morita peppers (which are rich, flavourful smoked red-ripe jalapeno peppers).
Malaysian fire at Soos
If it’s heat you’re after at Soos, order any (or all!) of their Malay dishes. Their Red Chili Cauliflower & Broccoli, Sarawak Pepper Prawns and Assam Cold Noods, in particular, always hit the mark. Always add a side of Sambal Chili. This smoky, spicy and umami-rich sauce is house-made in a wok using two types of chilli, belacan (a Malaysian dried shrimp paste), sundried ebi, shallots and garlic. Tip: Buy a jar to take home with you as a fiery foodie souvenir.
Vietnamese spice at Pho Thien Thanh
Dig into Vietnamese hot pot for that incomparable sweet/sour/spicy/salty taste at Ossington Avenue darling Pho Thien Thanh. Although best known for pho, this casual neighbourhood joint also serves up a mean bun bo hue, the spicy beef noodle soup loaded with beef brisket, ham, pork knuckle and cubes of pork blood.
Plant-based Indian at Banjara
Having trouble finding spicy enough vegetarian dishes? Head to Banjara in the Bloorcourt neighbourhood. This Indian resto is beloved for its biryanis and daal—as evidenced by the crowd you’ll find waiting for a table here. Their deeply flavourful dishes are prepared to your desired spice level, and the menu boasts many plant-based options. Cool your palate between bites with a side of raita for the table.
Classic Sichuan at Hot Spicy Spicy
Take it from Toronto foodies who flock to North York for Hot Spicy Spicy to satisfy their cravings for Sichuan cuisine. Order the classic Sichuan dish mapo tofu, cubed soft tofu in a fermented black bean, chilli paste and minced meat sauce that is garnished with a sprinkle of ground Sichuan peppercorn. Its heat will have you reaching for your tea.
Peak-heat Chinese at Hunan Restaurant
Get to know Hunan cuisine—known as the spiciest of Chinese cuisines—at spots like Hunan Restaurant in downtown Chinatown (order the preserved pork with bamboo shoots and braised preserved egg with chilli).
Or, for a fine dining experience, book a table at MIMI Chinese in tony Yorkville. Order the Hunan Chili Sea Bass; head chef Braden Chong salts and ferments chillies to enhance the complexity of the sauce, then cooks them with even more fresh chilli peppers, aromatics and Chinese rice wine.
Sri Lankan street food at Cucina Xpress
Just north of the Toronto Eaton Centre, feast on Sri Lankan cuisine at Cucini Xpress. The Toronto outpost of the popular Whitby restaurant serves up Sri Lankan and fusion dishes. Their kothu roti has a reputation for being an authentic take on the chopped roti, meat curry, scrambled egg, onions and chilis dish, while the jaffna fries (fries topped with sour cream, onions and Thai chilis) also pack significant heat.
Super-spiced Korean at Buk Chang Dong Soon Tofu
Try to be patient while waiting for that piping hot, bubbling bowl of sundubu-jjigae to cool down enough for your first bite. The gochujang-spiced tofu and veggies stew is always worth the wait. In-the-know locals know that Koreatown’s casual (read: no frills) Buk Chang Dong Soon Tofu is where to get your flavourful fix of this Korean stew.
Also see: 6 Must-Try Dishes in Toronto’s Koreatown
Burning hot Japanese noodles at Ikkousha Ramen
Craving a bowl of burning hot noods? Pop into Ikkousha Ramen on eclectic Queen Street West for a bowl of their God Fire ramen. It starts with a base of rich tonkotsu broth, which is then taken up several notches with secret Spicy Fire seasonings (don’t fret: you choose the spice level from one to four).
Hot Hungarian at Budapest Restaurant
Hungarian paprika is known for being rich and flavourful with a range of heat levels (compared to Spanish paprika, which tends to be sweeter). Get to know this spice better at Budapest Restaurant in the Upper Beaches; their pork or chicken paprikash stew or the lecso (pepper stew with Hungarian sausage) are delicious—and filling!—ways to taste test this spice.
Southern-style hot chicken at Toronto hotspots
Treat your mouth to some Texas heat. Get fired up on Nashville hot chicken at Queen Street West’s Chen Chen’s Nashville Hot Chicken, where the poultry is certified halal and available in five heat levels).
Or head west for Chica’s Chicken (where the bird is dry-brined in a house blend of spices, including Carolina reapers and ghost peppers) or Frankie’s Nashville Hot Chicken (if you’re daring enough to try their “Hot AF” heat level).
Searing hot wings across town
Conduct your own Hot Ones taste test with the city’s hottest hot wings. South American restaurant Marked serves up grilled spicy chicken wings that are rubbed with Tempero Baiano (a Brazilian spice mix of turmeric, cumin, coriander, parsley, cayenne, ancho, black pepper and kosher salt), then slow-cooked and basted with a malagueta hot sauce.
Head to AllStar Wings & Ribs for the Armageddon Spicy Wing Challenge, which you must sign a waiver for.
Finally, at Crown & Dragon, a pile of Ghost Pepper Habanero wings will likely make you break out in a sweat. Or dial down the heat index a touch with their award-winning Dragon’s Breath wings.
Sweet & spicy hot chocolate at SOMA Chocolatemaker
If you like sweet with your spicy, the Mayan spicy drinking chocolate at SOMA Chocolatemaker is a must-sip. Visit the chocolatier’s Distillery District outpost for a cup of aromatic dark chocolate elixir flavoured with chilli peppers, orange peel, ginger and spices. It’s the perfect sip to warm up with on a chilly day. Be sure to head home with no regrets by grabbing a bag of mix to take back with you.