What to Do When You Add Too Much Spice


[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?