How to Take the Heat Out of Chili

Updated March 23, 2017

Getting a little heavy-handed with the hot peppers or chilli powder can lead to a chilli that tips the heat scale from deliciously fiery to alarmingly unpalatable. Fortunately, a few tricks of the trade can tame the fire in the pot so you don't have to start from scratch. It's always best to start with a small amount of powder or fresh pepper in your chilli and cook it for at least 20 minutes before tasting and adding more to allow time for the seasoning to absorb into the meat and beans.

Serve the chilli with healthy dollops of sour cream and cheddar cheese. The chemical compounds that make peppers hot absorb more readily into fats, acids or sugars. Milk is the best tamer of heat for spicy hot foods, but dairy products that are more chilli-friendly work best. The fats in avocados can also help absorb heat, so serve the bowl with a few slices or make a non-spicy guacamole to put on top.

Stir in a little citrus. The acid and sweetness in fruits such as pineapple, orange, lemon and lime will help bring down the heat scale of a super hot chilli. Using these types of flavours will also change the flavour of your food considerably if used in excess, so as with the peppers, start with small amounts and increase gradually.

Dilute the mixture. Add more beans, meat and other ingredients to dissipate the chilli's heat. This may result in more chilli than you were prepared to deal with, so get ready to freeze some for the next gathering.

Know your chillies. When putting together the ingredients for your next batch of chilli, do some research on what to expect from the peppers. All chillies are rated on the Scoville scale for heat. For example, a bell pepper rates zero on the scale, a poblano rates at 1,000 units, while a jalapeƱo comes in between 2,500 and 8,000 Scoville units. Commercially available peppers can jump significantly on the heat scale, so take care when using a pepper you're not familiar with.

Things You'll Need

  • Dairy products (cheese, sour cream)
  • Citrus (lime, pineapple)
  • Avocado
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About the Author

Nikki Jardin began freelance writing in 2009 and focuses on food and travel articles. She has been a professional cook and caterer for more than 20 years. She holds a degree in environmental science from Humboldt State University.