Food & Drink

These Are the World's Hottest Chili Pepper-Eating Challenges

If you like eating ultra-spicy food on the reg, there's a special name for you: "pyro-gourmaniac." "Pyro" indicates "fire," and "gourmaniac" means "person who loves to inflict pain on himself, via food," more or less. These people of questionable sanity have been known to participate in eating contests around the world that challenge both their will power, and their stomach lining. You might want to read this with a glass of milk at the ready.

Clifton Chilli Club chilli-eating contest

Bath, England
In this Southwest England town, adrenaline junkies compete at the Clifton Chilli Club Chilli-Eating Contest, a 17-round challenge that features ghost peppers and the Carolina reaper, the world’s hottest pepper by many accounts. Participants eat their way through increasingly spicy rounds of chili peppers, starting with the tame jalapeño, and moving up to the Scotch bonnet, the Naga king chili, and the 7 Pot habanero. Whoever makes it to the 17th round competes for the final trophy by consuming two of the selection’s hottest peppers as quickly as they can. At this year’s showing, the winner took home a £50 cash prize, “chili goodies,” and a lifetime preference for “mild” salsa.

Naga king chili-eating competition

Nagaland, India
Every winter, locals and the rare foreign traveler gather to partake in the annual Naga King Chili-Eating Competition. Grown at the contest’s host site, Naga chili is up to 1.5 million Scoville heat units (SHU), which is almost incomparable to jalapeño’s mere 4,000 SHU.

Competitors have 20 seconds to eat as many of these chilies as they can, chewing each at least three times to ensure the capsaicin -- the part of the chili that causes the spicy sensation -- is actually released. Although anybody is free to compete, the queue was a dozen people short in 2013. One man swallowed five chilies before collapsing, while the winner made it to 14. The prize is $600, so unless you’re a serial chilihead, the trek abroad (and loss of intestinal functions) might not be worth it.

The Curry Contest

Edinburgh, Scotland
This charity event requires participants to sign a legal waiver before touching the featured Kismot Killer curry. In 2011, even with two members of the British Red Cross at the ready, ambulance services had to be called to escort two individuals to the hospital. And half of the 20-count pool of eager eaters dropped out after witnessing their peers retching and panting. As for the winner? She lasted a whole nine spoonfuls before -- surely -- giving up Indian food for good. This past spring, the Killer Restaurant was established to properly accommodate the contest, and benign masochism.

Bhut jolokia "ghost chili" challenge

Ban Karon, Thailand
Competitive eaters at Phuket’s oldest Indian restaurant are presented with a ghost chili curry that's hundreds of times hotter than your regular drop of Tabasco sauce. To win, contestants must finish a bowl of bhut jolokia chicken or lamb vindaloo, and upon completion, endure three minutes without water. The entrance price is just a couple of bucks, and grants you a shot at the grand prize of a two-night stay at Karon Sea Sands Resort & Spa.

Hatch Valley Chile Festival chile-eating contest

Hatch, New Mexico
You can’t be the Chile Capital of the World and not play host to a chile-eating contest. At Hatch Valley’s two-day chile festival held at the Hatch Municipal Airport, the unstately venue matches the undignified vibe at the second-day pepper-eating challenge, where participants compete to eat the most chilies in an allotted time. But you really have to have a thing for the local fruit because winning simply gets you a 40lb bag of chilies.

Peperoncino Festival chilli-eating marathon

Diamante, Italy
If you’re more into endurance eating, come to Calabria -- the Italian capital of pepper -- for the annual Peperoncino Festival chilli-eating marathon. To win, competitors consume as many 50g platefuls of the mild, locally grown peperoncino, assuaging their burning with nothing but olive oil and bread. Unlike most pepper-eating contests, the event here tests more your ability to withstand heat for as long as possible, than your tolerance for high spice. Contestants in recent years have yet to beat the record held by one Francesco Vecchio, who consumed 800g of peperoncini in a single sitting.

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Michelle No is a production assistant for Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter at @michelle_no and on Instagram at @michellenope.