How to Tone Down Hot Spices

Written by mallory ferland
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How to Tone Down Hot Spices
Though flavourful, too much spicy heat can render a dish inedible. (chilli image by Annett Goebel from

Hot spice can either make or break your dish. Without spice, the dish lacks in flavour; with too much, the dish is uncomfortably hot and inedible. The easiest way to prevent over-spicing is to add peppers and spice slowly, tasting after each addition. If, however, too much spice has been added, there are a few tricks you can implement before and after serving to help tone down the spiciness and help salvage the meal.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Dairy products
  • Sugar or honey
  • Extra main ingredients
  • Baking soda
  • Lemon or lime juice

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  1. 1

    The easiest way to tone down hot spices during or after cooking is to add a dairy product to it. To cool an item before serving, stir the dairy product directly into dishes including curry or chilli. Add plain yoghurt, milk, coconut milk or sour cream and stir. Dairy also can be used after serving as a cooling condiment. Cucumber raita made from plain yoghurt and cucumbers is a typical condiment used for cooling spicy Indian or Asian foods. Adding sour cream to hot chilli or other Mexican food items will help dull the spice.

  2. 2

    Mix sugar or honey into the dish. As a flavour, sweet counterbalances spice, so adding a small amount of something sweet such as sugar, honey or agave nectar can help to balance out the heat. Adding sugar or honey, however, does change the flavour, which should be kept in mind. Add only 1 tsp at a time, and taste until properly balanced.

  3. 3

    Add more nonspice ingredients to spread the spice out. The common-sense solution to toning down spiciness is to simply add more bulk ingredients in order to dilute the spice. If you are making chilli, add more beans, canned tomatoes, vegetables and meat. If you are making a curry, add potatoes and extra vegetables. If the spice is extreme, make an entire new batch minus the spices, and mix the two together.

  4. 4

    Stir in ½ tsp of baking soda to balance the pH. Baking soda can be added to a recipe to help neutralise the spice. Only add ½ tsp at a time, increasing until the right level of spiciness is reached.

  5. 5

    Squeeze a lemon or lime into the dish. Similar to baking soda, citric acid helps to combat the alkaline present in capsicum, which produces the burning spiciness of peppers. Squeeze whole lemons into the dish, and offer wedges on the table for guests to squeeze onto their own portions.

  6. 6

    Serve the spicy dish over potatoes or rice. If nothing can be done to tone down the spiciness of the dish during its preparation, serve it along with plenty of rice, pasta, potatoes or any other starchy food to spread out the spice so that less is consumed with each bite.

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