Is Ginger Spicy? A Look Into Gingers’ Heat Spectrum

Ginger is an increasingly popular ingredient in various cuisines globally thanks to its distinctive taste and unique properties. It has earned a place in both the kitchen and medicine cabinet due to its versatility and health benefits

Although the actual origins of ginger are uncertain, it is believed to have originated in Maritime Southeast Asia. The Chinese and Indians produced ginger as a tonic root for over 5000 years to treat various ailments. It was formerly used as a flavoring agent and was exported from India to the Roman empire over 2000 years ago.

Today, ginger is used in countless forms, including pickled, ground or powdered, dried, and fresh. 

But is ginger spicy, and what makes it so spicy? 

What is ginger?

Ginger is a rhizome that grows and develops under the ground. It emits a strong aroma like lemongrass and citrus when harvested and peeled. It belongs to the Zingiberacea family and is a close relative of turmeric.

Fresh ginger has a spicy and peppery taste, making it an excellent ingredient for soups. Also, it’s used in teas and stir-fries due to its sharp flavor and pungent aroma.

Is ginger spicy?

Yes, ginger is spicy. Ginger’s spiciness comes from gingerol, a phenol related to capsaicin, which creates a hot and savory flavor. However, the heat level of ginger depends on its state—dry, fresh, or cooked.

It is important to note that older ginger tends to be spicier than young, fresh ginger.

Different forms of ginger

Ginger is available in multiple forms. They include;

  • Dried ginger: This is a dried or dehydrated ginger in a finger shape or slice or in the shape of a fibrous root. This versatile spice adds depth and flavor to a wide range of dishes. It is common in Asian and Indian cooking, particularly marinades and stir-fries. When we talk about dried ginger, we don’t mean the powdered form. You can easily make dried ginger at home to add an extra kick to your dishes. 
  • Fresh ginger: Fresh ginger can be young or mature. The latter is spicier. Young ginger, on the other hand, has thinner skin, paler than old ginger. It is also called green or spring ginger. This ginger form has a tender, mild and pleasant flavor. Moreover, you can eat fresh raw ginger. Fresh ginger, whole and unpeeled, can be used to add flavor to stews and soups.
  • Powdered ginger: This ginger form is made from dried ginger root and has a warm, spicy, and slightly sweet flavor, similar to fresh ginger but more concentrated. It’s commonly used in cookies, gingerbread, marinades, and spice blends.
  • Pickled ginger: This form of ginger is usually pink or red and has a milder flavor. It is also called gari and is pickled in sweet vinegar. Pickled ginger often goes with sushi but is common in Indian and Japanese dishes.
  • Candied ginger: This has a savory flavor with a sweet, spicy punch. You can make it at home by cooking sugar syrup until soft and sugar-covered. Candied ginger is known to relieve hot flashes.

Which form of ginger is the spiciest and why?

There are various forms of ginger, each with different heat levels. However, dried ginger is the spiciest of all variations.

But why is dried ginger very spicy?

When you dry out the ginger root, the gingerol turns into shogaol—which is twice as hot as gingerol. This gives dried ginger a similar heat to hot peppers.

Can you make ginger spicier or less spicy?

Yes, you can.

You can adjust the spiciness of ginger to suit your needs and preferences. This involves drying or cooking ginger to alter its chemical composition. Here’s how to make ginger less spicy or spicier.

How to make ginger spicier

Have a high tolerance for spiciness? You can increase ginger’s heat level to your tolerance. Here’s how;

  • Dry out the ginger: Gingerol and shogaol contribute to ginger’s spicy flavor. Gingerol is the primary pungent compound in fresh ginger, and shogaol is present in cooked or dried ginger. However, shogaol has a distinct molecular structure, allowing it to bind more strongly to the receptors in your mouth. The compound is believed to be two times hotter than gingerol, creating a more intense sensation of heat. So you might want to dry out or cook your ginger for a hotter flavor.
  • Use the right amounts: You can include more ginger in your recipe to increase the spiciness of your dishes. However, be cautious, as too much ginger may overpower other flavors in your dish.
  • Add other spices: Of course, ginger isn’t the hottest (and only spice) in the world. Therefore, if it’s not spicy enough to activate your taste buds, add other spicy ingredients, such as black pepper or chili peppers. The spices will complement the ginger and add to the overall spiciness of your dish.

How to make ginger less spicy?

If you’re starting out on spicy foods or just prefer less heat, you can lower the spiciness of ginger to your desired needs. Here are some tips to help you make ginger less spicy.

  • Cook the ginger:Cooking ginger minimizes its heat level. When you heat ginger, the gingerol changes into zingerone, giving the ginger a sweeter and more aromatic flavor.
  • Combine with other ingredients: You can balance out the heat in ginger by pairing it with other less savory spices. Try creamy or sweet ingredients like yogurt, honey, or coconut milk.
  • Use less ginger: The amount of ginger you use in your recipe will influence the spiciness of the dish. So generally, if you can’t take up more heat, simply use less ginger in your recipes.

Explore ginger’s spiciness today

Ginger is a common spice used in many cuisines worldwide. It comes in various forms, including pickled, fresh, dried, and powder, each with a unique flavor and heat level.

Generally, ginger is spicy. However, its spiciness varies depending on the form, how much you use in your recipe, and the pairing with other ingredients.

Try ginger in your recipe to explore its spiciness.


Is ginger hot or sweet?

Ginger has a peppery, slightly sweet flavor and an intense spicy aroma. This explains why it’s a popular ingredient in Indian and Asian dishes. However, the spiciness of ginger depends on many factors, including the form it’s consumed in, the age of the ginger, and individual taste preferences. Moreover, there are multiple ways to make ginger spicier or less spicy.

Does ginger get spicier with age?

Yes. Old ginger is spicier than young ginger, which has a sweeter, lighter flavor. As the ginger dries out and matures, its pungent compounds, such as shogaol and gingerol, become more concentrated.

Is ginger tea supposed to be spicy?

Ginger tea should have a warming, slightly spicy taste. It infuses fresh or dried ginger in hot water, allowing ginger oils to permeate the water before drinking.