Art for Life Recipes
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Zazzy Habanero Maple Glaze

habanero plate with glove

If you like it hot, but not too hot, this sweet and spicy glaze could be the meeting of the minds!

Habanero maple glaze.  But you don’t like hot stuff, right?  Well, let’s start by saying IT’S NOT HOT.  Its ZAZZY.

We can use a little old-world science to help create a wonderful glaze that’s both sweet and a little spicy.  This is a great glaze for your pork steaks, chicken, or even tofu.  So here we go – and you’ll need to watch closely or the magic will slip right by!

What we have here is a little science for your kitchen.  No, we’re not going to freeze slivers of food with liquid nitrogen or laser chop your veggies into perfect circles.  Don’t be obscene.  It’s food, kids!

The trick is in the prep of the habaneros.  You’re going to quarter them, and then scrape away the insides.  Please, please, please, use a pair of gloves and some safety glasses for this.  You will kick up a little spray when you scrape the insides, but what you’re trying to do is pop the little blisters on the inside of the pepper and remove all the pith.  You do not want to inhale the spray, either – as it can be a respiratory irritant. And the capsaicin, the hot part, is in the pith.  And its why getting some in your eyes is nasty – it won’t immediately dissolve.  So be careful.  Make all that pith go away and then chop the peppers a bit more.

Just to make sure it’s all gone, pop these peppers into a tall glass and cover with either tequila or vodka – basically any clear alcohol will do, but vodka is probably easiest.  This is the magic that really brings down the heat while leaving behind the great flavors a habanero brings to the table.  The capsaicin will be drawn out by the alcohol.

Now a little patience.  This needs time to pull the remaining capsaicin out of the peppers, and it takes some time.  At 30 minutes is still hot.  Around 60 minutes is better.  But by 90 minutes – you’re down to the heat of a bell pepper, so don’t go too far.  Drain in a strainer and press out the liquid with the back of a spoon. 

You can save this booze for a friend, but no joking, it will be hot and you really shouldn’t play a joke on someone with this.  It’s just a bit dangerous as even a small amount can really mess them up.  If you’d like to try some, add ¼ shot of hot vodka to 1 shot not-hot vodka, and sip.  No downing shots, and it’s not a viral challenge – it’s just stupid hot. 

Before you create the glaze, you can sauté your choice of meat in a skillet with an onion.  Season with a little salt and pepper.  Cook it until it’s basically done, then remove to a bowl.  We want to use that pan of good scrapings to start our glaze.

Now that you have tasty not-hot peppers, follow the recipe to create your habanero maple glaze.  It’s a great finish to some boring chicken or pork steaks.  It’s zazzy!

Good luck!

One precautionary statement: 
The active ingredient in spicy peppers, Capsaicin, can be extremely irritating on the skin, in the eyes, to the stomach and gastrointestinal tract. Capsaicin can also cause respiratory distress if inhaled. As with any new thing you try, do so in moderation, and take reasonable precautions to stay safe and healthy.

Safety equipment for handling habaneros
Gloves and eye protection should be used when handling habanero chilis.
Diced Habanero in Vodka
Diced habanero chilies soak in 80 proof alcohol to reduce the bite of capsaisin and allow the flavor of the pepper shine through.

Zazzy Habanero Maple Glaze

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: advanced
  • Rating: ★★★★★
  • Print

If you like it hot, but not too hot, this sweet and spicy glaze could be the meeting of the minds!

Credit: Adapted and inspired by Bon Appetit


  • 6 – 8 habanero peppers
  • 3/4 c. 80 proof alcohol (Vodka or Tequila)
  • 1 orange, zested and juiced
  • 2 T. extra virgin olive oil (plus 2 T. for cooking your choice of meat)
  • 3/4 t. ground cinnamon
  • 2 T. thyme
  • 1 large red onion (chopped and divided)
  • 4 cloves finely chopped garlic
  • 1 c. pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 c. white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1 lb. pork, chicken, or tofu (trimmed to 1″ cubes)


  1. Before preparing this dish, you need to prep the habanero chilis.
  2. Using gloves and safety glasses to protect skin and eyes from the unforgiving effects of capsaicin oil, begin first by chopping the habaneros in quarters. Carefully remove the seeds and pith by scraping with a spoon. Dice. Soak diced chilis in 3/4 c. of 80 proof alcohol (Vodka or tequila) for between 30 to 60 minutes to dull their heat.
  3. When the habaneros have been soaked to their desired heat intensity, start by sauteing the meat of your choice in 2 T. olive oil and 1/2 of the chopped onion.
  4. Cook the meat fully and set to the side in a bowl.
  5. Use the same pan to start the glaze.
  6. Saute remainder of onions in 2 T. olive oil until translucent.
  7. Strain chilies. Press out remaining alcohol with the back of a spoon.
  8. Add habaneros, garlic, orange zest, cinnamon and thyme and continue to cook until chilis are tender.
  9. Add syrup, orange juice, vinegar and salt and continue cooking on high an additional 6 – 8 minutes until mixture thickens.
  10. Add meat back to pan and simmer 2 – 3 minutes, basting constantly.
  11. Enjoy!

Prepping the Habanero chilies helps control the heat, while maintaining the unique flavor!

Capsaicin is the chemical in peppers that makes them hot. This naturally occurring chemical is polarizing:  It has numerous reported health benefits and is used as a dietary supplement for helping digestive issues, encouraging weight loss. It is used in creams for pain relief, arthritis and helps with skin issues such as psoriasis.  It is being studied for its potential in fighting certain types of cancers.  With these health benefits in mind, I felt it was worth exploring.

Conversely, however, it is used in “natural” insecticides, bear and dog repellents and pepper spray. It can cause blistering on skin, has been thought to cause gastric cancers and can cause severe gastro-intestinal and respiratory distress. 

It is difficult to say who may have sensitivities, and to what degree.  So:

As with any new thing you try, do so in moderation, and take reasonable precautions to stay safe and healthy.

Am I afraid?
No, just prepared – for FLAVOR!


  1. Good to see you, Rose! This looks positively lethal! I worked up a heat sweat, just from your instructions. Give my best to Mr. Bill.

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