How to Make Food Less Spicy

Many foodies enjoy a bit of heat in a dish, which brings out flavors and awakens the senses. But what happens if you prepare a meal and find that it’s too spicy? How do you make something less spicy? If your hot sauce ended up with more kick than expected or you were too heavy-handed with the chili peppers in your chili, try the tips below to cool things down before serving your customers.

How to Make Something Less Spicy

It can happen to even the best chef. A dish can end up with more heat than desired, leading to an uncomfortable experience for the customer. We’ve collected the top tips to tone down spicy food when you need it.

Use the following video to learn five different ways to make food less spicy:

1. Add Dairy to Spicy Food

corn tortilla tacos with sour cream and jalapenos

One way to get rid of spicy heat is to cool it down with dairy. The reason why your dish may be spicy is because of the capsaicin in the pepper. Capsaicin is the chemical compound that causes the burning sensation associated with peppers. The stronger the capsaicin, the higher a pepper would rank on the Scoville scale. Dairy products neutralize some of the capsaicin chemical reaction, cooling down foods that may be overly spicy.

If your dish is too hot, try adding some of the following dairy products:

  • Milk
  • Sour Cream
  • Plain Yogurt
  • Greek Yogurt
  • Creme Fraiche
  • Shredded Cheese (best suited for tomato-based recipes)

Use full-fat dairy for the best results.

If you need non-dairy milk alternatives to cool down your spicy dish, use some of the options below:

  • Coconut Milk
  • Oat Milk
  • Almond Milk

It is important to note that some non-dairy alternatives may have a distinct flavor that may alter the taste of your spicy dish. Coconut milk is the preferred dairy alternative because it complements many Asian dishes while adding a creaminess.

2. Bulk up the Recipe to Dilute the Spice

Similar to how you would fix oversalted foods, you can try to tone down the spiciness of a dish by adding more of your base ingredients. Counteract the heat by increasing the ratio of the other unseasoned items in your recipe, such as protein, starches, vegetables, or broth.

  • Protein can help thin out the spicy ingredients as long as they haven’t been preseasoned with the same heat-building ingredients.
  • Starches like potatoes, rice, pasta, and bread work to soak up and diffuse spiciness without adding distinct flavors that may alter the recipe.
  • Vegetables with a high water content can help dilute some of the heat in your dish. Try adding options like corn, carrots, squash, avocados, peas, and beans to dial back the spice.
  • Broth is also a good option if your dish is liquid based. Adding more broth or stock to your recipe can level out the spiciness ratio and make the dish more manageable for customers to enjoy.

3. Sweeten Out the Spice

pouring honey into a drink

For some recipes, a touch of honey can help neutralize the intensity of spiciness. Sugar works to counteract the heat caused by capsaicin in peppers so adding a touch of honey or sugar can tone down a spicy dish. The downside is that the sweetness may alter the flavor of your dish so it is best to add a little at a time and taste test it to make sure you maintain a balance between savory and sweet. Sweet ketchup or tomato sauce mixed with a bit of sugar can be a good way to add sweetness with acidity to control the spice levels in tomato-based dishes.

4. Neutralize Spice with Acidity

The reason why most Thai dishes are served with a lemon or lime wedge is because acidity is a great tool to make food less spicy. Acid counteracts the burning caused by chili peppers while adding a tanginess to your dish.

Try adding a splash of these acidic ingredients to cool down the spiciness in your dishes:

5. Use Nut Butter to Reduce the Heat

jar of creamy peanut butter with a blue napkin underneath

Depending on the dish, a touch of nut butter can be great to reduce the heat of spiciness. Many Asian dishes, like pad Thai or stir-fries, pair well with nutty flavors. Nut butters can also give your spicy dish a delightfully creamy texture as the fats in them neutralize the burn. This trick works well if you want to cool down chili or stew that has been overly spiced. Be sure to notify your guests and customers if nut butters are present in your dish to protect patrons with nut allergies.

Here are some of the most common nut butters you can use to get rid of spicy heat:

  • Peanut Butter
  • Almond Butter
  • Cashew Butter
  • Tahini

If you want to avoid nuts due to an allergy, you can try serving your dish with avocados or guacamole. The fats in avocados work in the same way as the fat in nuts to help soothe the intensity of spicy food.

How to Keep Food from Getting Too Spicy

Avoid the mishap of overly spicy dishes by taking some precautionary measures during the cooking process. The key to a well-balanced dish is to add your heat-building ingredients bit by bit and taste-test it regularly. Fresh peppers can be spicer than more mature peppers, so add them in a few at a time. It is always easier to add more heat than it is to take spicy out of food.

As food cooks, the liquid in it evaporates and any spiciness becomes more concentrated. Taste-testing your dish early and often will help you from over-seasoning it too soon. Once the dish is close to complete, you can add a bit more heat for the perfect finishing touch if you feel it needs a little more kick.

Fixing Spicy Food FAQs

Learn the answers to some of the most common questions when it comes to making something less spicy:

How to Fix Chili That Is Too Spicy

bowl of chili with sour cream and cheese in a white bowl

What should you do if you made your chili too spicy? You can start by diluting the recipe with more of the main ingredients, like ground beef or chicken, beans, corn, and tomatoes. Tomato sauce and tomato chunks work as a multi-purpose remedy because the acid in the tomatoes works to actively neutralize some of the spicy sting. You can also add a dollop of sour cream or a good helping of grated cheese to cool down the intensity of the heat. A pinch of sugar or a touch of honey may also be just what your chili dish needs to take the bite out of the heat.

How to Fix Soup That Is Too Spicy

If your batch of soup is too spicy for your guests, try adding more broth or cream, depending on the base of the soup, to dilute the heat. A squirt of lemon or lime juice may also be a solution, as the acidity can help reduce the spiciness. When in doubt, increase the recipe without the heat-bringing the ingredients to achieve a more balanced dish.

What Affects a Food’s Spiciness?

There are a few factors that can make food spicier than expected. Capsaicin is most prevalent in the seeds and ribs of a pepper. To control the intensity of your dish, so you’ll want to remove all of the seeds and as much of the white ribbing as possible. Just be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after handling peppers to avoid jalapeno hands. Fresher peppers have a higher level of capsaicin than more mature peppers, so they will be spicier when first picked.

As food sits, the capsaicin is slightly absorbed by the other ingredients, diluting its intensity over time. If you’re able, prepare a fresh and less spicy batch of your recipe and store the spicy batch in cold storage to serve the following day. The heat in the dish should be more manageable at that time, but you’ll still want to taste-test it before serving.

Never subject your customers to a mouth-scalding dish again with the help of these cool-down techniques. Whether your serving your spicy dishes with a lemon wedge or a glass of milk, your patrons will appreciate some heat-neutralizing options next time they order your signature multi-pepper meals.

Posted in: Kitchen & Cooking Tips|By Janine Jones
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