How to Fix a Dish That’s Too Spicy

Chili peppers
Photo by Elina Sazonova/Pexels

Cooking is much more than just a way to satisfy our nutritional needs; it’s also both a science and an art, and, as such, requires a certain degree of knowledge and skill. A good dish will include some combination of salt, fat, acid, and heat, but even experienced cooks may occasionally struggle to strike the balance just right. While it’s usually not possible to remove an ingredient once it’s incorporated, there are a few ways to counteract certain flavors and rescue a dish when you’ve added too much. Read on to learn more about how to fix a dish that’s too spicy. 

Dilute With Neutral Ingredients

The easiest way to tone down spiciness is to dilute it with neutral ingredients. Start by adding more of your base ingredients such as vegetables, protein, or broth, incorporating a little at a time so as not to throw off the consistency of your dish. For example, if you’ve overdone it with the chili in your chili con carne, add more beans, tomatoes, and ground meat to balance the flavors. You can also try adding a few spoons of yogurt or coconut cream, as the fats in these products can help to break down capsaicin—the chemical that makes food taste spicy. 

Sweeten the Heat

Adding a bit of sweetener is another effective option to neutralize spice and bring your dish back into balance, especially when it comes to recipes like curry or sauces that have relatively complex flavor profiles. Try stirring a teaspoon of sugar, honey, or maple syrup into your dish, making sure to incorporate evenly before tasting again. If it’s still too spicy, add another teaspoon, but be careful not to overdo it.

Balance With Acid

Acidic ingredients like vinegar and citrus are great for cutting through heat in a way that also complements the rest of your ingredients. To counteract spice and add some freshness to dips such as salsa and guac, try adding about a tablespoon of lime juice. For soups, stews, sauces, and chili, a splash of apple cider vinegar is your new best friend. Start with a small amount and taste as you go to avoid making your dish overly tangy.