I never know how to order food correctly but succinctly the first time. :(

Basically: I can't eat hot stuff (i.e. most pepper, similar spices, ...).

On the one hand, I don't want to say "Please don't make it spicy", because I really don't mind spice (heck, a lot of them are great!) -- I just don't want it to be hot spice.

On the other hand "Please don't make it hot" would seem to imply I'd like my food cold!

Possibilities I've considered:

  • "Please don't add hot spice" just sounds weird

  • "Please don't add pepper" is the best I've thought of so far, but I'm pretty sure I've come across foods without pepper (or apparently so) which nevertheless tasted pretty hot.
    And not just that, but it would also exclude bell peppers, etc. which I don't mind much.

Any ideas for how to communicate this clearly? The fewer words the better, haha.

  • 5
    See related question: english.stackexchange.com/q/50080/18655
    – JLG
    Commented Jun 13, 2012 at 19:56
  • 1
    “Por favor, (que) no me lo haga muy picante.” might work if you’re in a Mexican restaurant. They at least understand the difference between picante/piquant/hot-to-taste vs caliente/hot-to-touch vs con muchas especias/with many spices/“spicy”. That (probably!) won’t do you much good a Thai restaurant, though. :)
    – tchrist
    Commented Jun 13, 2012 at 23:45
  • use 'not too spicy'. In AmE 'spicy' means hot spicy, not made with lots of spices/well-seasoned.
    – Mitch
    Commented Jun 14, 2012 at 0:34

8 Answers 8


Personally, I've had no problems with being understood, when I've said "spicy hot". If you want to be perfectly clear and straight to the point, saying spicy hot is fine.

  • Yes I agree. The two words in combination will solve the ambiguity problem, with the tiny possibility of it being unfamiliar to a non native English speaker, who might still take it the wrong way. Commented Apr 2, 2014 at 12:21

I can't speak for other nationalities, but if you are speaking to an American English speaker, they will very likely understand "hot" to mean "spicy", and "spicy" to mean "with hot spice".

I have never actually considered "spicy" to mean anything other than "with hot spice". If you are talking about something that everyone knows has hot spice on it, they will assume that you want it to not have hot spice 999 times out of 1000 if you say:

  • "I don't want it too hot" - or - "not too hot"
  • "not too spicy"

They will probably get it if you are ordering food that comes with hot spice.

  • 1
    Yeah I meant American too... interesting... because when I ask "is <blah> spicy?" they sometimes say "yes" even though it's not hot (but has spice). Or we sometimes see menu items that have a "spicy" sign even though they're not. Maybe I've just been unlucky haha, thanks for mentioning this. +1
    – user541686
    Commented Jun 13, 2012 at 20:25
  • 3
    I would echo what brainmurphy1 said for British usage too. "Spice" does not necessarily mean "hot spice", but describing a dish as "spicy" does.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Jun 13, 2012 at 23:00
  • Good time to start educating them. :)
    – tchrist
    Commented Jun 13, 2012 at 23:49
  • Sichuan peppers are very spicy but do not cause a sensation of heat, rather they cause a numbing sensation. Still a lot of people that don't like "spicy" food also don't like Sichuan pepper. Commented Apr 2, 2014 at 12:22
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    I think what Mehrdad may be encountering is different standards of what "spicy" is. In the US there's a lot of people who have very low tolerance for spicy food, and so frequently immigrant restaurants that label their food "spicy" when it really is not hot at all by their native standards. To correct for this problem you will sometimes encounter terms like "Thai/Indian/Mexican/etc. hot" to indicate you're speaking on that spiciness scale, and not the blander US-based one. Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 22:49

If you don't mind venturing into foreign tongues, you might find that French piquant fits the bill.

  • lol, didn't see that one coming. Yes, I know an equivalent in another language too, but the person spoken to probably wouldn't understand haha. +1 anyway, for expanding mon français. :)
    – user541686
    Commented Jun 13, 2012 at 20:24
  • 3
    (As I know you know, Barrie,) English technically has piquant, too, although the only people I know who use it in that sense also know French or Spanish. I like to use it this way, but unless you’re with geeks, they might miss the meaning of it.
    – tchrist
    Commented Jun 13, 2012 at 23:48
  • "Piquant" in English doesn't mean spicy: Merriam-Webster defines it as "agreeably stimulating to the taste"; it's often more like full of flavour than specifically hot.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Aug 19, 2021 at 8:43

Rather than trying to negate one of two terms which are both unfortunate homonyms, you might be better off using a positive term to describe what you do want rather than what you don't.

In other words, simply order it mild.


You are worried about mixing 2 forms of hot:

  • spicy hot
  • temperature hot

If you are using English in America, saying don't make it too spicy will be understood as don't make it too "spicy hot" if the food is generally hot due to the spices that are in the food.

However, if it is a food with many spices (not just hot ones), you may want to say "don't make it too spicy hot" for extra clarity.

I would agree that you should avoid saying "don't make it too hot" to avoid mixing the two forms of hot I mentioned above.

Hope that helps!


If you want to be pedantic you could say:

I am intolerant of capsaicinoids.

Anyone who frequently works with hot peppers should understand, though may think you a bit odd.

  • LOL hahaha learning something new every day... +1
    – user541686
    Commented Jun 13, 2012 at 23:35
  • 3
    But then you might get a dish with tons of Szechuan pepper, which is very spicy-hot even though it has no capsaicinoids in it. (Of course, if you can eat Szechuan pepper but not capsaicin, this is what you want.) Commented Jun 13, 2012 at 23:38
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    @Peter I'm not familiar with Szechuan pepper. I only know "Szechuan" from the Chinese-American dishes that bear the name but at least in my area they are never really "hot". I would not categorize black pepper or other "spicy" foods with capsaicin heat: they are not (IME) as pungent, and they affect people differently. By that I mean that someone with a high capsaicin tolerance may not tolerate wasabi, or someone who cannot tolerate capsaicin may be fine with black pepper. If one cannot handle any of these foods then the generic "I can't eat spicy food" seems appropriate.
    – Mr.Wizard
    Commented Jun 14, 2012 at 0:52
  • +1 for geekiness if not practicality (-: Commented Apr 2, 2014 at 12:24
  • 3
    @PeterShor: You might be surprised to learn that Sichuan pepper is not hot at all, rather it imparts a numbing sensation. In China it's normally used in combination with chili though. 麻辣 (mala) means this combination. Now it does seem to be true that people who dislike spicy hot (chili) also tend to dislike numby hot (sichuan pepper). Commented Apr 2, 2014 at 12:27

The Spanish word, piqua for hot as in spicy hot sounds great to me. When referring to hot as in the temperature we could just use hot. Piqua sounds better to me than the French piquant in a poetical sense. It is more expressive of and describes a literal experience of cayenne or chili better. I am going to popularize the word piqua in English to mean spicy hot.

  • 1
    Indians indeed use piquant for spicy hot. But I don't know how well this would work in non-Indian restaurants. Commented Aug 19, 2021 at 12:36

There are 2 uses for the word HOT when it comes to food.

Hot could mean

1.) Its Spicy as in the taste of chili in the mouth. 2.) The food temperature is hot and just above boiling point.

One good way to differentiate the 2 meaning, is to try to replace the word with an antonym. You may use this example if you wish.

Blistering - for the hot temperature food. ie " Remember the baked meat must be blistering before you take it out of the oven "

Red-Hot - For spicy tasting food. ie " Warning! This Malaysian Sambal Sauce will leave a red-hot taste in the mouth "

  • 1
    The distinction of temperature hot vs. spicy has been made in the OP and other answers. Are you suggesting antonyms or synonyms? Please see the tour for help. And...food temps above boiling point?
    – livresque
    Commented Aug 18, 2021 at 23:28

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