Oleoresin capsicum sounds spicy right? Capsicum is pretty similar to Capsaicin so they must be related? If you were thinking either of those questions you’d be right.
So what is Oleoresin Capsicum?
Oleoresin Capsicum (OC) is an oily extract that comes from pepper plants. The plants are finely ground and OC is formed using an organic ethanol extraction process. Oleoresin Capsicum is used in both cooking applications and as an ingredient in pepper spray.
How I Discovered Oleoresin Capsicum
Let’s paint the scene, it’s Christmas 2021, the family is opening gifts around the tree with the yule log on the TV. I reach into my big red stocking and what do I see? A jar of a super spicy salsa called “Death by Salsa” by Pepper Palace. I thank Santa and can’t wait to try it!
Now at home, I open a bag of nachos and dip one in the jar Death by Salsa. WOWZERS! That bite was insanely hot, there was no way I was sitting down to eat a bowl of that stuff. There were some real peppers in there but for the most part, the heat tasted unnatural.
I checked the label on the jar to read the ingredient list.
Tomatoes (Tomatoes, Tomato Juice, Salt, Calcium Chloride, Citric Acid), Apple Cider Vinegar, Oleoresin Capsicum, Habaneros, Onions, Jalapenos, Garlic, Salt, Spices, Xantham Gum
I recognized most of the ingredients but one was a mystery to me. What the heck is Oleoresin Capsicum?
Let me tell you I was a little shocked when I found out what it was…
What Is Oleoresin Capsicum
As mentioned already, Oleoresin Capsicum is an oily extract that comes from plants in the capsicum genus of plants. You can also find it in a powder form.
It is essentially highly concentrated capsaicin extracted from peppers.
An Oleoresin is a blend of resin and oils, either naturally occuring or man-made. Capsicum references the capsaicinoids that are present in this particular blend. For example, you can find Anise Oleoresin, Oleoresin Garlic, or Oleoresin Fennel.
You can find Oleoresins that range in spice level and they usually range from 1500 SHU to 1,000,000 SHU.
When in oil form, the substance will have a dark red colour. The oil is viscous and tends to cling to the surface of the conainter it is in. In some cases the resin wil stain the container a red colour.
When in powder form Oleoresin Capsicum looks much like Cayenne powder. You wouldn’t want to confuse the two, that’s for sure.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t get my hands on some Oleoresin Capsicum but here is what it looks like in liquid or powder form.
Suprisingly, Oleoresin Capsicum is an ingredient commonly found in pepper spray. Yup, pepper spray…
Is Oleoresin Capsicum Edible?
Yes, Oleoresin Capsicum is edible and you can find it in many really spicy sauces or condiments. Sometimes even candy.
However, you need to dilute pure Oleoresin Capsicum before ingesting. It is far too concentrated to ingest on its own.
It is often used in hot sauces to ensure spice level consistency in a batch. For me, I find it tastes a little artificial when using an extract.
We learned above that Oleoresin Capsicum is also found as an irritant in pepper spray. Whatever you do, don’t cook with pepper spray. Pepper spray usually contains other chemicals like dyes or solvents which can be harmful when used in a food application.
Don’t cook with pepper spray.
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What Are The Effects Of Oleoresin Capsicum?
Naturally, Oleoresin Capsicum will produce a burn much like eating a hot pepper would, only much more concentrated. I find that since the capsaicin is in a resin form it tends to linger around the tongue much longer as it is more difficult to wash away.
I also found that whenever I eat something that uses oleoresin capsicum by head will feel a little wierd. That is part of the unnatural feeling I get. It feels like my body is telling me that ingesting that stuff probably isn’t a good idea.
There are capsaicing creams that use oleoresin capsicum as an active ingredient for pain releif. In this case, the application is topical only and will come in gel, cream, or lotion form.
Oleoresin capsicum creams are used to treat minor aches and pains. The capsaicin helps remove natural compounds called Substance P that transmit pain to the brain. Therefore, lowering your pain levels.
Believe it or not, Oleoresin Capsicum is an active ingredient in pepper spray. When sprayed in an aerosol the capsaicin enters the eyes, mouth, nose and skin. It can be extremely irritating to be on the receiving end of a pepper spray stream.
You know the feeling you get after cutting a whole bunch of peppers without gloves on? And then touching your eyes and picking your nose? That is essentially how it feels to be sprayed with pepper spray. Except since it is made with a highly concentrated oleoresin capsicum, the pain is much much worse.
How To Make Oleoresin Capsicum
Extracting capsaicin from your hot peppers is pretty easy and relatively safe.
Capsaicin is soluble in alcohol so to extract it you will need a high proof alcohol. In Ontario it is hard to get our hands on a 95% food grade alcohol so instead we could use Bacardi 151. If you are lucky enough to have access to Everclear you should use that.
Your peppers can be either fresh or dehydrated. I’ve heard dehydrated peppers will yield more capsaicin than fresh peppers will.
Oleoresin Capsicum Instructions
You will need a large mason jar, crock pot, towel, glass/pyrex baking pan, and a food processor or blender.
Follow the steps below to make your own Oleoresin Capsicum.
- In a blender or food processor, mix the peppers (fresh or dried) with your alcohol solvent
- Blend until well mixed
- Transfer the mixture to a large mason jar and seal the lid
- Let the alcohol and pepper mixture sit for a few days
- After a few days, strain the mixture and put the liquid back into a sealed mason jar
- Let the liquid sit for a few days until the rest of the particulate has fallen
- Using a pump remove the liquid only and leave the sediment behind in the mason jar
- Transfer the alcohol/capsaicin solution to a shallow baking pan over a crock pot with the towel in between
- Add some water to the crock pot and turn it on so it steams the water, this will help the alcohol evapourate.
- Once the alcohol is evapourated, scrape the resin from the baking pan and put in a mason jar
When you are done you should have a ruby red oil/resin you can add to hot sauces, food, whatever you want. Be careful though, it will be hot!
You can find more ways to make this capsaicin extract here.
Remember that super spicy salsa from before? Well, since it was too hot to enjoy as a salsa, I put it in the blender with some water and vinegar and turned it into Pepper Spray Sauce.
It smells like a chemical.
So beware when buying spicy items advertised as “the hottest thing ever”. Many of them use oleoresin capsicum to help make them unbearably spicy.
Mike is a hot sauce lover. He has never, and will never say no to hot wings. Mike loves a balance of flavour and heat; he prefers his food on the spicy side but also likes some sweetness too.