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10 Foolproof Fixes to Make Food Less Spicy

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Photo: CC0 Public Domain / Unsplash - Ryan Quintal

Have you made something that’s too spicy? Here’s how to make food less spicy quickly – and what can help when your food is already too hot.

Is your food too spicy? The substance capsaicin (kap-SAY-sin), which is in most varieties of chili, is responsible for that heat. Other substances, such as piperine in black pepper, might also give your dishes too much kick or fire.

Of course, the same heat can be delicious for some and too much for others. If it is too hot, you need to know how to make something less spicy. These 10 tips will help make food less spicy if you’ve over-seasoned your meal and want to neutralize some heat.

How to Make Food Less Spicy

Chilli Oil Cooking
Add more oil as a foolproof way to neutralize spicy food. (CC0 / Pixabay / suju)

If you just need to make something less spicy, you don’t have to throw it away. You can rescue your spicy food—and your evening—with a few simple steps! Depending on what you’re eating, try the following options:

  1. Add fat: Fat binds spicy substances. Many dairy products have a high fat content. So, depending on the dish, add butter, milk, cream, sour cream or yogurt. Many vegan options have a high-fat content, too; coconut oil and cooking oils also work.
  2. Skim off fat: The opposite can work too! If your dish already contains enough oil, the fat will usually rise to the surface after simmering. You can skim that off—spicy substances can bind to fat, making this a great way to make something less spicy. Alternatively, add oil, let your food cook, and then skim it off. However, this is only suitable if you can cook the dish for longer without overcooking or changing the flavor.
  3. Add sweetness: Sweeteners like sugar, sugar substitutes, or honey can neutralize spicy food. However, this approach only helps if something is slightly too hot. Be careful not to add too much in case you make your meal too sweet. It’s best to experiment with a teaspoon at a time.
  4. Increase the quantity: Add more non-spicy ingredients in proportion. This will naturally reduce spiciness and make the dish milder. If that gives you too much food, you can freeze it later!
  5. Add liquid: If you’ve used up your main ingredients, add liquids like vegetable broth, wine, milk or cream.
  6. Include raw vegetables: Add raw vegetables such as potatoes or carrots and let them cook for a bit. They soak up the liquid and neutralize spiciness. And don’t worry if your food doesn’t go well with potatoes: you can fish the pieces out after. Then, store the vegetables, eat them later, or use them in other dishes.

Is Your Mouth Burning From Too Much Spice?

Bread and Butter
How to make food less spicy? Serve a side of bread and butter. (CC0 / Unsplash / Toa Heftiba)

If it’s too late and your food is already burning a hole in your tongue, there are lots of science-backed ways to make food less spicy. Studies show specific substances can relieve the burning. Here’s how to make something less spicy in your mouth:

  1. Fat: Capsaicin is fat-soluble. Whether you’re still cooking or already eating, high-fat foods like milk, butter or yogurt help neutralize spiciness. For example, good drinks for spicy food are kefir or a glass of buttermilk. Oil also helps. Just rinse your mouth with a tablespoon of oil, or use an oil-and-water mixture. Note: Don’t drink water. It aggravates the heat, distributing the capsaicin around your mouth.
  2. Casein: The protein casein, found in milk and dairy, will dissolve capsaicin. Note: Vegan milk alternatives usually do not contain casein—although that’s no reason not to go vegan!
  3. Sugar: Drink a sugar solution, or let a spoonful of honey melt in your mouth. Honey also has an antibacterial effect and is a great all-around home remedy.
  4. Bread and carbs: To make the food in your mouth less spicy, chew your bread or other carbs a little longer to let them soak up the capsaicin. A combination of carbs and fat (or protein) works particularly well. Eat that bread and butter!

How to Avoid Making Food Too Spicy

Seasoning and Spices
How to make something less spicy? Avoid over-seasoning it in the first place! (CC0 / Unsplash / Calum Lewis)

What can you do to prevent what you’re cooking from getting too hot in the first place?

  • Season bit by bit and keep tasting, especially with very hot spices.
  • If you accidentally add too much spice, remove as much as possible before stirring.
  • Use whole chilies instead of crushed, dried or powdered. It allows you to cook the pods for a bit and then take them out.
  • If you chop chili peppers up, remove the white pith and seeds.
  • If you are using canned chilies, rinse the pods before using them.
  • Taste the spices you use! Tasting your food as you make it helps you control flavor and spice much more closely.
  • Serve side dishes like bread or rice, or include a milk-based drink.

Now that you know how to make something less spicy, you can eat spicy foods to your tastebuds’ content—all you need to worry about now is that pesky heartburn.

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