[Photograph: Tambako the Jaguar]

It happens to the best of us. You get a little too excited about adding cayenne powder to your chili to bump up the heat and uh oh—you've gone too far. What was supposed to be a simple kick of zest has now turned into too much of a mouth-burning fire. The entire dish doesn't need to be bound for the trash.

Here are a few ways to remedy the situation.

  • Depending on what the dish is, use other ingredients to tone down the heat. If it's a soup, add more broth or stock. Stir in more rice into a stir-fry or canned tomatoes/ beans into a chili.
  • Dairy combats heat in your mouth, so also turn to it when trying to bring down the spice of a dish. Whether it's milk, sour cream, or yogurt, incorporate as much of it as you can until the spice has calmed down.
  • Some people swear nut butters are able to cut through the excess heat of a dish. If it's appropriate for the dish, try stirring in a couple tablespoons of peanut butter, almond butter, tahini, etc.
  • Acid can cut through the heat. Use vinegars, lemon juice, lime juice—whatever you can find that is acidic and won't tamper with the other flavors of the entrée.
  • A spoonful of sugar can also go a long way in neutralizing the spice. Proceed with caution, so you don't end up with a massively sweet product. Sugar may be used best in combination with acid.

What have you found to work when you've gone overboard with spice?

About the author: Andrea Lynn is a freelance writer/ recipe developer with an emphasis on spicy and Southern food. Her favorite chile is a tie between the mild yet flavorful poblano and the mighty, reliable fire of the serrano. Follow her on Twitter at Alynn27 or get more info at andrealynnfoodwriter.com.


Comments can take up to a minute to appear - please be patient!

Previewing your comment: