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Blending Sweet & Spicy

October 2021 | Marketing & Insights

Consumers are turning up the heat, bringing new forms of spice into their kitchens. While peppers and hot sauces are delicious add-ins on their own, many home cooks are also looking to flavor combinations such as sweet-and-spicy for unique flavor profiles.

Top of the sweet-and-spicy list? Hot honey. It’s the best of both worlds, bringing the classic sweetness of honey and a kick from chile spices. This delectable trend has skyrocketed in recent years as consumers explore new flavor sensations and look to bring their favorite tastes together. According to Yelp, review mentions of hot honey went up by 48% in 2020, so it’s no question: there’s a lot of love for hot honey that isn’t slowing down anytime soon.

Why This Trend Will Stick


Flavor innovation featuring unique combinations such as sour-spicy, spicy-sweet is said to accelerate demand in snacking.

– Food Business News

Pinterest saw a 155% increase in searches year over year for hot honey recipe.

– Pintrest 

The Hottest Peppers in Town

While jalapenos are one of the most popular spicy peppers, they’re only mildly hot compared to some of their spicier counterparts. Jalapenos range anywhere from 2,500 to 8,000 on the Scoville heat scale, which is nothing compared to the ghost pepper (over 1M Scoville heat units) or the Carolina Reaper (2.2M Scoville heat units). These potent peppers pack a lot of flavor, with a degree of spice far surpassing jalapenos, habaneros, and serranos.


Bringing the heat of ghost peppers is Bear Hug Honey’s Ghost Pepper Honey from Athens, Georgia. The honey’s natural sweetness helps to balance out the power of the ghost pepper, creating the perfect topping for chicken, salmon, stir fry, or even ice cream.

For the Carolina Reaper fans, there’s Fuego’s Hot Hive Honey. This honey begins with the classic sugary flavor consumers might expect, then ends with a strong kick from one of the hottest peppers on Earth. For those obsessed with spicy foods, this honey is the ultimate addition to any dish, including fried chicken, pizza, and biscuits. As with the ghost pepper honey, dessert is certainly not off the table -- this honey is more than sweet enough to complement any dessert, bringing its unique mix of delectable sweetness and hotter-than-hot spiciness.

Making a Sweet & Spicy Meal

Hot honey is more than a great topping. It can also be the foundation for a delicious meal, infusing its sweet and spicy flavors into meats, veggies, and more.

Mike’s Hot Honey is a popular, less spicy option made with chili peppers and 100% pure honey. While its creator, Mike Kurtz, originally drizzled it on pizza, their website boasts a long list of recipes incorporating this sweet-spicy ingredient. This includes a hot honey glazed ham, hot honey brussel sprouts, numerous hot honey drinks, and more.


Meanwhile, the New York Times is also hopping on the hot honey trend with its Skillet Hot Honey Chicken recipe. Instead of using premade hot honey, this recipe combines small hot chiles such as jalapenos or serranos with honey and apple cider vinegar for the same flavor experience. Once the chicken thighs have cooked in the hot honey sauce, the fat from the chicken can be mixed into the remaining sauce and drizzled over a green salad. This adds new complexity to the sweet-spicy profile of the hot honey itself, with robust umami flavors from the chicken fat. When added to the salad, the richness is balanced out by the simple greens, making for a remarkably elegant dish from such basic ingredients.


  • Sweetness is a great way to temper the high heat of some of the world’s spiciest peppers, adding new flavor profiles to these ingredients.
  • Sweet-and-spicy sauces aren’t just a great fit for plain dishes; those with complex flavors and ingredients can also benefit from this delicious combination.
  • While we see this trend emerging with honey, consider other formats that can be updated with “sweet heat” to bring more complexity and nuance to the eating experience.


Partner with us to create your next sweet and spicy innovation. Contact your McCormick Account Manager or contact us here today.