When I was a toddler, anytime I didn't want to eat something, I claimed it was "too spicy.” My mom reminds me (often!) that I once declared steamed broccoli seasoned with just butter and pepper too hot to handle. I've come a long way since age 2, but I still sympathize with people who can't take the burn.

Now, it's fair to say not all "spicy" dishes are created equal. Some come in hot and heavy, eliciting tears and numb tongues. Others build a slow, steady heat that doesn't require a glass of milk nearby. But the difference really depends on the person who's cooking (and eating!). While some might love the burn of harissa, a serrano pepper, others with more delicate palates might balk at basic black pepper. Here, we've gathered 11 dishes with a little or a lot of heat. The key is to taste as you go, learning what level of spice is too overwhelming or just right.

1. Red chilaquiles with fried eggs

(Bobbi Lin/Courtesy of Food52)

2. Spicy Thai basil noodle cake

(James Ransom/Courtesy Food52)

3. Slow-cooked rib eye topped with spicy Harissa carrots

(Bobbi Lin/Courtesy Food52)

4. Spicy, garlicky broccoli sandwich

(James Ransom/Courtesy Food52)

5. Barbecue pulled jackfruit

(Julia Gartland/Courtesy Food52)

6. Caroline Choe's kimchi mac & cheese

(James Ransom/Courtesy Food52)

7. Short rib and pumpkin chili

(Bobbi Lin/Courtesy Food52)

8. Vegetable manchurian

(Linda Xiao/Courtesy Food52)

9. Tinga chicken

(James Ransom/Courtesy Food52)

10. Sichuan dan-dan noodles

(James Ransom/Courtesy Food52)

11. Hot chicken and jalapeño bacon cheddar waffle

(Mark Weinberg/Courtesy Food52)

This story was originally published on Food52.com: 11 hot dishes to bring some spice to your weeknight.