a piece of sushi next to a ruffled blob of wasabi

How spicy is wasabi? What is its Scoville score?

The spiciest wasabi I’ve ever eaten was a single-serving condiment packet that I had in a hotel buffet in China. Anyone who has had HOT wasabi will tell you, it’s extremely spicy, and might even be compared to the spiciest of peppers. But how spicy actually is it?

Where does wasabi fall on the Scoville scale?

It may surprise you, but wasabi rates a 0 SHU on the Scoville scale. That’s because the Scoville scale measures only the concentration of capsaicin in foods, which is only one compound that creates a spicy effect. Wasabi doesn’t contain any capsaicin, so it does not have a Scoville score.

What makes wasabi spicy?

Allyl isothiocyanate is the compound found in wasabi that makes it spicy. It’s the same substance that makes other types of horseradish and mustard spicy.

How does the spiciness of wasabi compare to that of chili peppers?

There is no easy 1:1 comparison of the spiciness level of wasabi vs. chili peppers because there isn’t a unified scale that both can be measured against.

How the heat hits

Hot peppers, which are made spicy by capsaicin, tend to cause a burning feeling in the tongue, lips, and mouth and have a long-lasting effect. You might eat a hot chili pepper and still feel the spice on your tongue after half an hour or longer.

Wasabi, on the other hand, targets the sinuses more and is shorter-lasting. It typically will hit on the exhale when you take a bite of wasabi and light up your throat and nasal cavity. If you’ve ever had extremely hot wasabi, it may also impact your vision and leave you hearing static.

It can feel like being punched in the nose, causing your nasal cavity to burn intensely and your eyes to burn. However, the spiciness of wasabi tends to pass very quickly, usually in 20 seconds or so.

Ultimately, only you can judge hot spicy wasabi is for yourself. For me, super-hot wasabi creates a much more intense burst of pain than most chili peppers, but 20 seconds of pain might be much more bearable to you than the long-lasting burn of a hot chili pepper.

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