Editor’s note: This is the second part of a story about adding spicy flavors to popular dairy applications. Part one may be viewed by clicking here.

CHICAGO — Hot and spicy flavors in combination with some sweetness, like chipotle raspberry and lemongrass wasabi, are trending across all food and beverage categories. There is poblano chicken, habanero ketchup and cayenne kombucha. The more exotic, the more inviting the sweet-heat combination.

Food Business News spoke with more than a dozen ingredient suppliers regarding sweet-heat flavor innovation in dairy foods. They provided some fiery new product concepts.

One such innovation is spreadable spicy cinnamon butter.

“This is sweet butter with brown sugar, cinnamon and guajillo pepper,” said Jill Houk, corporate research and development chef at Olam International, Fresno, Calif. “The guajillo is a lightly spiced chili that accentuates the flavor of the cinnamon without overwhelming it. The fruity nature of guajillo pairs nicely with fruit bread like pumpkin or apple bread.”

Ms. Houk also suggested sweet jerk-spiced butter with scotch bonnet peppers for use on sweet potatoes or to finish barbequed chicken or pork. It is a butter with allspice, brown sugar, cinnamon, clove, garlic, ginger, nutmeg, onions and scotch bonnet or habanero peppers.

“The high heat brings together the flavor of the baking spices in the jerk blend, while the brown sugar and the fat from the butter make any dish delicious and easy-to-eat, despite the heat,” she said.

Chipotle yogurt parfait
Photo: Shutterstock

Some sweet-heat butter concepts from Kristie Hung, marketing specialist, Sensient Natural Ingredients, Turlock, Calif., include combining green hatch chili with lime for a crisp, bright savory flavor with strong front-end heat.


“Red hatch chili, on the other hand, has a distinct savory flavor with sweet, floral notes and lingering back-end heat,” Ms. Hung said. “When added into honey cinnamon whipped butter, the floral flavors accentuate the sweet notes, making it a perfectly balanced spread for toasts, bagels, pancakes and other baked goods.”

The fat content of cheese functions similar to butter by helping mellow the sensation of heat. This is true in everything from fresh curds to aged hard styles. 

“Combining the sweet and heat flavor profiles has been a popular trend in dairy — particularly with cottage and various blocks of cheese — and we expect it to continue growing through 2019, with even more unusual pepper varietals, such as Goat Horn pepper, Trinidad Scorpion pepper and Thai Burapa pepper, making an appearance,” said Philip Caputo, marketing and consumer insights manager, Virginia Dare, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Cream cheese is an easy application for processors to get creative with flavors. The base product doesn’t change and it functions as a creamy canvas for the layering of sweet-heat flavor combinations.

“Raspberry chipotle is a popular flavor combination that delivers the sweetness of raspberries and a hint of heat and smokiness from smoke-dried jalapeño peppers, also known as chipotle,” Ms. Hung said. “The smoky flavor adds depth and layers to this sweet-heat combination.

Mexican hot chocolate
Photo: Synergy Flavors

“Mexican hot chocolate cream cheese taps into Mexico’s Mayan culture where most ‘sweets’ are actually savory and spicy. For cottage cheese, peach goes well with guajillo peppers, which provide both front and back-end heat. Its berry flavor notes also enhance the sweetness and fruitiness of peach flavor.”

A number of yogurt manufacturers have dabbled in sweet heat over the years. Some new ideas include peach and ancho yogurt, as peach naturally has an affinity with spicy peppers, said Ms. Houk.

“Its round sweetness, balanced by a bit of tartness, comes into balance with a touch of a low-heat pepper like ancho,” she said. “Yogurt’s tang further enhances this combination.

“And what about green apple, ginger and candied jalapeño yogurt. Tart flavors such as green apple go hand-in-hand with slightly sour yogurt. Raising the sweetness level with a candied jalapeño brings the tartness back into balance, while the ginger adds a bracing lemony flavor that cools the heat of the jalapeño.”

 A seasonal concept from Jenna Schowalter, sweet applications manager, Bell Flavors and Fragrances Inc., Northbrook, Ill., is pumpkin turmeric yogurt with apple ginger fruit prep.

Jamie Wilson, director business development-marketing, culinary and research and development, Parker Products, Fort Worth, Texas, said habanero-glazed chopped nuts add unexpected spice to a creamy peach yogurt.

“Serrano-glazed granola serves as a tangy topper for mango yogurt or to top a blueberry parfait with chipotle-dusted almonds,” Ms. Wilson said.

Ms. Hung’s yogurt ideas include mango habanero, blueberry guajillo and pineapple jalapeño.

Curry yogurt
Photo: Synergy Flavors

“You can really never go wrong with mango and habanero as a pair,” Ms. Hung said. “The juicy, fragrant, sweet flavors of mango, when paired with the floral flavors of habanero, produce fruity apricot, pear and apple notes. Guajillo delivers a sweet heat that encompasses green tea and earth flavor notes that gets balanced by blueberries while the juicy, tropical taste of pineapple is refreshing and mixes well with the heat of jalapeño.”

Kayla Blanding, applications technologist, Synergy Flavors, Wauconda, Ill., said the acidity of yogurt enhances fruit flavor, which is why pairing a spicy pepper with fruit helps balance the heat and make it less intense. Examples include grapefruit jalapeño lime, cayenne lemon and spicy melon.

In beverages, what about blueberry cayenne kefir? The sweet-tart flavor of blueberries pops when a spike of cayenne is added to the antioxidant-rich smoothie. Another concept: spiced mango lassi.

“Mango lassi is an Indian classic beverage that can put out the heat when eating heavily spiced foods,” Ms. Houk said. “The addition of Kashmiri chili peppers add a slight spike of heat to this blend, which diminishes quickly when the sweetness and tartness of the yogurt take over.”

A Mexican hot chocolate beverage is a good example of emphasizing sweet creamy chocolate mixed with the warm spices of cinnamon and cayenne that are then tasted and felt at the end of the experience, said Steve Haverkos, research scientist, Edlong, Elk Grove Village, Ill.

Golden milk
Photo: Olam

Golden milk, also known as turmeric milk, is a hot Indian drink made with milk and various spices, including the heat of black pepper, cinnamon and ginger, which melds well with the other ingredients, like the sweetness of coconut sugar, green cardamom and vanilla.

“Made with bright yellow turmeric, golden milk is widely embraced by the health community as an anti-inflammatory beverage,” Ms. Houk said. “The complex spicing, accented by the heat of the black pepper, makes for an intriguing flavor for milk, but also for ice cream, smoothies and kefirs.”

Creamers have long been used as a means to “spice up” coffee and tea beverages. Peggy Iler, senior manager and lead scientist, Kalsec, Kalamazoo, Mich., suggests sweet-heat combinations like cardamom citrus, white pepper vanilla and chocolate ancho orange.

Ice cream is uniquely poised to get peppered, as not only does the high milkfat content mellow the heat, there’s also a frozen cooling sensation.

Spicy mango raspberry fiesta from Balchem Ingredient Solutions, St. Louis, was awarded the most innovative prototype flavor at the International Dairy Foods Association 2018 Innovative Ice Cream Flavor Competition. It is mango and red pepper ice cream with a sweet swirl of raspberry.

“With a few tweaks, this sweet-heat flavor combination works in yogurt and milk, too,” said Caitlin Glaser, food scientist at Balchem. “Some other fun combinations for ice cream are pink pepper panna cotta, chocolate chipotle, honey wasabi and tangerine sriracha.”

Patrick McKinney, culinary council member, LifeSpice, Chicago, said, “How about Mayan chocolate ice cream? The sweet chocolate ice cream hits your tongue first to give you that familiar chocolate ice cream flavor and then as the cream starts to uncoat your tongue, you get this surprise hit of heat from the chilies.”

Sweet-heat ice cream inclusion ideas from Mr. McKinney include deep fried eggnog beignets with hot cinnamon glaze, blueberry sour cream waffles with hot honey drizzle, peaches and cream dumplings with spiced rum drizzle, waffle crusted hot maple bacon and French toast with fire ball glaze.

Infusing fruit pieces or spicing up fruit preps ensures that the sweet and heat are tasted at the same time, said Anni Li, product developer, Tree Top Inc., Selah, Wash. For ice cream she suggests spiced cherry with cinnamon and nutmeg, pineapple with black pepper and peach with ginger.

Carpigiani Gelato University ice cream bars
Photo: Carpigiani Gelato University

Kami Smith, director of culinary showcasing, Pecan Deluxe Candy Co., Dallas, explained how pralined nuts function as a vehicle for delivering heat to dairy foods.

“We add value by pralining almond pieces, for example,” Ms. Smith said. “Toward the end of the cooking process, we add spices, seeds and powders that stick to the almond, creating a more unique bite. We use chipotle and chili spices, garlic, salt and pepper.”

Such flavorful nuts are a great addition to yogurt, ice cream and soft serve.

“The sky’s the limit on sweet-heat experiences in dairy applications, Ms. Glaser said. “Jalapeños, habaneros, chipotles, black pepper, red pepper, they all supply heat that can be added to chocolate, caramel, cinnamon and fruits.

“If ice cream manufacturers don’t want an extra wash step between mixes, then get creative with variegates and inclusions. Inclusions are a great way to add spice through liquid chips, low-melt flakes or coated bakery and nuts.”