Sales of hot sauce, chilis, and spices—like cayenne pepper and hot paprika—are rising, as more of us look to turn up the heat in our cooking. But when you sit down to a spicy curry, adobo, or a Sichuan stir-fry, what do you pair it with? Some choose simple water, others opt for wine, and many of us opt for beer. If you’re a fan of the latter, you might be interested in learning which beer goes best with which dish. And you’ve come to the right place. Here, we’ve listed eight of our favorite spicy vegan recipes, alongside the best beer pairings. Bottoms up, and let’s tuck in. 

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Does beer go well with spicy food?

Pairing beer and spice can be a divisive topic. Some maintain that because chili is an irritant (its active component is capsaicin, which triggers a sense of heat or pain in the mouth), alcohol is not the best partner for spicy foods. This is because alcoholic beverages, including beer, can make this irritant feeling more intense, as it increases the blood flow to the mouth and the throat.

But not everyone feels the same. Some people actually like the sensation of kicking up the heat, and others maintain that the right beer can be a refreshing palate cleanser due to the carbonation in the beverage, as well as the cold temperature at which it is usually served. The truth is, it all depends on individual preference. But in general, as you’ll see below, the best styles of beer to pair with spice include pale ales and light lagers. They tend to be the most refreshing options and help to provide a satisfying contrast to the heat of the spice in your food. 

You can also use vegan beer during the cooking process, too, just like this recipe for Beer Battered Banana Blossom Fish Filets from Zacchary Bird demonstrates. You can also find out more about cooking with beer here.

Where to find vegan beer

Before you start cooking, eating, and sipping, it’s important to note that not all beer is vegan. Below you’ll find recommendations for lagers, pale ales, and pilsner, all of which can be made animal-free—but it’s not guaranteed. They may be made with ingredients like honey or isinglass (which is derived from fish bladder and can be used as a fining agent), so it’s important to check the label before you buy.

To find out more about which beers are vegan, check out our guide here, which includes an extensive list of vegan-friendly brands.

RELATED: The VegNews Guide to Vegan Beer

How to pair beer with spicy food: 8 vegan dishes and beer recommendations

VegNews.AirFryerTofuDanielle Keith

1 Spicy Vegan Air-Fried Buffalo Tofu Poppers

The dish: Fiery vegan tofu poppers, best served with plenty of cooling dairy-free ranch. It’s just like spicy chicken, but without, well, the chicken.
Pair with: American pale ale (APA) or an Indian pale ale (IPA). Both have bitter and citrusy notes, which help to complement the heat of the buffalo sauce while still providing a refreshing contrast.
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VegNews.CauliNachosHannah Sunderani

2 Loaded Vegan Spicy Cauliflower Nachos

The dish: A unique, plant-forward take on spicy nachos, which opts for cauliflower florets over chips. It’s vegetable-centric, but just as delicious.
Pair with: Mexican lager. It’s crisp, clean, light, and refreshing, and can help cool down the heat while providing a complementary flavor profile.
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VegNews.BuffaloChickpeaTacos.RichaHingleRicha Hingle

3 Spicy Vegan Buffalo Chickpea Tacos

The dish: Chickpeas smothered in delicious spicy buffalo sauce and served in a tortilla with plenty of ranch, baby spinach, roasted bell peppers, and celery.
Pair with: APA, IPA, or an amber ale. The latter offers a balanced maltiness with a touch of sweetness that will help enhance the flavor of buffalo sauce.
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VegNews.FilipinoStyleChick'nAdobo Ashley Hankins

4 Filipinx-Inspired Spicy Vegan Chicken Adobo

The dish: Tender, juicy vegan chicken adobo, combined with jalapeños, whole peppercorns, and rich coconut milk.
Pair with: Vienna lager. With its malt-forward profile and balanced bitterness, this lager can help to complement the richness of adobo.
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5 Vegan Spicy Spinach Chili Pālak Tofu

The dish: Hearty, garlicky, spinach Indian gravy, which packs in a bit of heat thanks to the green chili, served with turmeric tofu.
Pair with: Pilsner. It’s another crisp, clean, and refreshing choice, and can serve as a palate cleanser between bites of palak.
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VegNews.SichuanEggplantMaggie Zhu

6 Vegan Sichuan Eggplant Stir-Fry With Sweet and Spicy Sauce

The dish: Satisfyingly crispy eggplant, which is covered in a sticky, sweet, and slightly spicy Sichuan sauce.
Pair with: Saison. These ales have fruity and spicy notes, which will help to complement the complex flavors in this stir-fry.
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7 Vegan Spicy Thai Vegetable Chowder

The dish: Aromatic Thai flavors from ginger, lemongrass, chilis, and cilantro infuse a creamy and pleasantly spicy soup.
Pair with: Thai lager. This lager has been brewed to complement Thai cuisine, and its light and crisp profile will allow the flavors of the chowder to shine.
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8 Vegan Northern Indian Gujarati Dal With Pickle Masala

The dish: A sweet, tangy split pea dal with a fiery kick from chiles and Northern India-style pickle masala.
Pair with: Indian pale lager. This refreshing, flavorful hybrid style combines the crispness of a lager with the hoppy character of an IPA.
Get the recipe

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