Food Too Spicy? Try These 6 Simple HacksArticle posted in: Nutrition
Ouch! Have you encountered an entrée that’s just too spicy for your taste? Your mouth is on fire, your ears feel like they’re shooting out steam like one of those old cartoon skits, and you’re endlessly chugging water to make it go away. But relief can’t come fast enough.
We’ve been there, too! And fortunately, we have some excellent tips to share for toning down those flavors and salvaging too-spicy foods—so you can eat (and enjoy!) all types of cuisines.
So, before you trash it (or feed it to the spicy food-lover in your house) and write it off forever, give one or more of these simple solutions a try. Chances are you have all of these ingredients in your home already and, with our suggestions below, you’ll have a fix for just about every type of meal—from Asian to Tex-Mex and everything in between!
Here are some easy hacks to tone down your dish, if you find your food too spicy:
1. Ladle Some Liquid
Adding more liquid is a great first line of defense against spicy offenders. This method works best with soups, stews and saucy dishes.
Essentially, you’re adding more volume to the dish to decrease the proportion of a spicy ingredient, and if you follow our guidelines, you can do so without losing all the flavor of the dish!
If the entrée already has a lot of flavor (like a chili or hearty stew), you can try adding a little water to tone things down. However, broth is our typical go-to for adding liquid. Since you’re adding in more flavor as you balance out the spiciness, you won’t be left with a bland dinner.
Choose veggie or chicken broth for lighter chicken dishes and a beef broth for richer dishes.
2. Dollop the Dairy
Dairy is a champ at counteracting the spiciness of foods and it has a nice cooling effect, too. You have some great choices here: Milk, sour cream or plain Greek yogurt are some that you probably have in the fridge right now.
We recommend adding milk to creamy, sauce-based meals. Sour cream and Greek yogurt—classic toppers for chili—can be used interchangeably. Full-fat coconut milk is a great non-dairy alternative that plays nicely with the flavor profile of Asian- and Indian-style dishes. Soy milk will work, too, just reach for the plain, unsweetened variety.
If you’re going this route, just be sure to add these after your food has been fully cooked or heated up, as dairy can curdle if cooked over high heat (and we don’t have a fix for that just yet!).
3. Add Some Acid
Simmer down that dish with the addition of acid: White or apple cider vinegar, lemon or lime juice, even ketchup or canned tomatoes (more on that in tip #6!). The acid neutralizes heat and brings it to a more edible level.
We love adding vinegar to tone down foods with a BBQ, chipotle, Tex-Mex or hot sauce base—it’s such a quick and easy fix. Start with a half cap-full and add more if needed. Typically, we reach for apple cider vinegar, but white vinegar will work just as well. Reach for red wine vinegar to neutralize spicy Italian flavors and wine-based sauces.
Use citrus in dishes that could use a little brightening up. Keep this tip in mind for soups too! Many veggie soups with beans, greens and grains taste incredible with a splash of fresh lemon to finish.
4. Veg Out
Another awesome fix—partially because it’s quick and easy, partially because you can sneak in extra servings of veggies this way! Add bulking veggies like mashed or riced cauliflower, grated zucchini or spaghetti squash to add volume and edge out the heat, or cooling veg like bell peppers, cucumber, carrots and avocado to take things down a notch.
The great thing about adding vegetables into the mix is that this trick works for literally every kind of dish—just pick a veg that matches up with the flavors you have going on and you’re golden!
A bed of mashed cauliflower or steamed zucchini noodles (affectionately referred to around here as “zoodles”) works great with almost any dish.
5. Go Nuts
Nut butters, that is. The healthy fat content in nut and seed butters can help squelch spice. Try almond, cashew or peanut butter or tahini where appropriate—usually Asian or Thai-style dishes with a curry or tamari base are a safe bet.
Simply stir in your butter of choice after the dish is done cooking or heating up. If you can, mix the nut butter into the sauce first, then fold into the rest of the dish for even distribution.
When mixed with tamari sauce, a dab of peanut butter creates an Asian-style peanut sauce! Cashew butter lends a creaminess that just takes your meal to the next level. Start small and taste as you go!
6. Sauce it Up
For foods with a tomato or red sauce base, your best bet is to add in some diced canned tomatoes, tomato sauce or plain marinara sauce. This tip builds on a couple we mentioned above: #3 acid (the acid in tomatoes is very effective at neutralizing spiciness) and #4 veg (bonus points for adding extra veggie servings into your lunches and dinners!). Try this in dishes with tomato-based sauces that you find too spicy.
While we’ve offered pairing suggestions for each type of tempering ingredient, many of these will easily mix and match (especially broth, vinegar, lemon juice and tomatoes), so feel free to find out which flavors work the best to bring spicy dishes to a more respectable level for your palate.
We’re certain you’ll find a new go-to solution (or two!) for tempering the heat of just about any dish, using these simple hacks!