What if the dish becomes a little spicier or hotter than you like, should you then start over again? Absolutely not! There are ways to salvage a hot dish. These tried and tested tips show you how to reduce spiciness in Indian food or any dish you cook.
There are those odd occasions where you may have misjudged the heat of chilli or accidentally made a curry too hot to eat. So, how to cool down a curry and salvage the dish without compromising the taste?
Luckily there are some easy kitchen hacks on how to tone down spicy food even after adding too much chilli or pepper or getting a fiery spicy Indian food that you find too hot to handle .
In this post I share preventive tips on how to make food less spicy while cooking the dish and also how to reduce spiciness in case a dish becomes to hot.
These tips to fix spicy food can be used for any type of dish especially those that have a gravy base such as curries, soup, sauce and stir-fries.
What Is The Difference Between Spicy And Hot
Many, including me, describe the heat in food as spicy!
But there is a difference between chilli or hot and spicy, which became clearer once I started using spices in my food.
You see spicy can relate to any dish that has spices added to it. This could range in the form of many types of spices used to make food.
It could be cumin powder, cinnamon, coriander powder, etc. However, adding these spices do not necessarily make the dish chilli hot !!
So, what causes food to become spicy?
It is adding the chillies, that is chilli powder, pepper, fresh chillies, chilli flakes, hot sauce that make a dish hot aka renders heat to the dish.
Chillies contain a chemical compound called capsaicin that makes them taste hot.
Capsaicin, when consumed, reacts with our senses sending our brain a message that it is experiencing a burning sensation.
When we eat chillies, they release heat caused by capsaicin. Over time you can train your senses to be able to tolerate more heat.
This is the reason why some enjoy the hottest chicken madras while others may struggle with eating a korma dish.
There are ways to slowly increase your heat tolerance level if you wish to come out of the bland zone.
Children are known to blatantly reject hot foods as their tongue is sensitive to strong tastes such as sour, sweet, bitter and hot. This is the reason they have a preference for neutral mild familiar tastes.
If you wish to get your child to become more experimental and increase their heat tolerance then, I share tips on how to get kids enjoy spice in the signposted post below that I have successfully tried on my then 3 year old.
These harmless tricks work on adults too 🙂
How To Reduce Spice In Curry – Fixes that work
It can well happen that the chilli is too spicy and you only realise that after it has been added to the dish.
Now that the heat is on how do you fix a spicy curry and make it milder !?
Honestly speaking, it is a bit hard to undo heat in a dish once it has been added but there are ways to reduce spiciness and cut through the heat.
I do not have heat lovers in my family. My kids simply don’t do chillies well. ( I understand your chuckle, they are westernised Indians after all) but we are following the make you kids spice happy guide and it sure is working.
Here are 5 easy hacks on how to reduce spiciness in food. These tricks can be used to fix any type of spicy food and not just Indian curries.
1. Add a nutty paste
If you are making an Indian or Asian dish such as Thai or Indian curry, adding a nutty paste of either cashew nut, peanut, almond, tahini paste or even coconut paste will help reduce the spiciness.
You can add nut butter or nut paste to soups too.
The fat content in the paste helps reduce the intensity of the chilli.
This is a great option for vegans who may have added too much chilli into the dish.
2. Dairy for neutralising chilli heat
A fun fact about capsaicin found in chilli is that it combines well with milk compounds neutralising the effects.
So adding a dollop of dairy products such as cream, yoghurt, sour cream, creme fraiche, cheese will help in reducing the burning sensation of chilli.
Non – dairy and Vegan alternative such as coconut milk, almond milk, are naturally sweet and lend creaminess to the dish.
In India, yoghurt is served as an accompaniment with many Indian dishes to neutralise the heat.
3. Add or serve with a starch
Another way to counteract the spiciness is to add some type of starch to the dish.
Potatoes and sweet potatoes are the best ingredients. Boil them and add them to the dish.
This will absorb some of the heat.
If you do not want to add them to the dish, the other option is to serve your spicy dish with some starchy food.
Rice, pasta, boiled potatoes, polenta and even bread are good options.
The combination of bland with bold goes well.
4. Balance taste by adding sugar and acid
This is my favourite and number one trick to follow if I feel I have added too much chilli.
Acids such as lemon juice, lime juice, vinegar, sour yoghurt and even chopped tomatoes help to cut through the intensity of the chilli.
Once you have added any type of acid, balance the tartiness by adding something sweet.
This can be sugar, honey, golden syrup or any type of sweetener.
The two combined together helps to neutralise the heat, but remember to taste as you go to make sure the taste is balanced to your liking.
5. Increase the amount by adding more ingredient
Another trick to reduce heat in a dish is by adding more of the main or supplementary ingredient to the dish.
This could mean adding more vegetables, protein, legumes or broth depending on what you are making.
If you have added too much chilli to your soup then increasing the amount of broth and other main ingredients will surely do the trick.
You can also improvise on the recipe and add grated potatoes, carrots, pumpkin, or any sweet and starchy vegetable to the dish.
The plus side of increasing the amount is that you will have leftovers which is always good 🙂
How To Prevent A Dish From Becoming Too Spicy
The above are fixes to reduce spiciness after cooking . But your aim should be to avid adding too much chilli to begin with.
Most Indian dishes will include some type of heat, whether it comes from chilli powder, black pepper or fresh chillies.
One of the first step to prevent food from becoming too spicy starts during the cooking process.
Following the simple cooking tips below can stop you from making curry too spicy.
1. Reduce the amount of Chilli powder
Although a recipe may have chillies listed in the ingredient, it is not a MUST to add chilli powder to an Indian dish. You can omit it or reduce the amount of heat to your liking.
Another option to reduce spiciness in curries is to use the right type of chilli.
If you do want to add a little heat to the dish without overpowering it or just to lend a subtle heat, use chillies that are mild.
For cooking Indian food I recommend using Kashmiri Chilli powder .
You can buy Kashmiri red chilli from any Indian grocery stores or directly from amazon.
All types of chillies have different heat content.
Few chillies like bird eye chillies, naga chillies, habanero are some of the hottest chillies.
Needless to say, its best to avoid them if you don’t want to set your tongue on fire or you are not the really spicy kind!
For western-style cooking that is when making soup or sauce, I recommend sticking to paprika or cayenne pepper.
2. Taste As You Go
One of the best ways to ensure what your food it good enough to serve, is to taste it while you are cooking.
This is the best way to judge whether you have seasoned your dish well.
Tasting food at least 2-3 times during the cooking process that is once in the middle, once near the end and once before serving will give you an idea if you have the right amount of salt, sweet, spice and heat.
Making adjustments at this stage will help you balance spice in curry.
This takes me back to the point above of adding spice and heat as per your preference rather than blindly follow a recipe.
Add little amounts such as 1/4, 1/2 to 1 tsp of chilli powder depending on the type of chilli you use and what your family heat tolerance is.
Something to remember is to wait for at least two to three minutes after adding the spice and before tasting.
It takes time for the flavour of the spices and salt to permeate through the dish and give the real taste. Tasting food while you cook gives you time to correct any taste mishaps.
It is hard to undo the spiciness in a dish if it is burning your tongue.
What can be done is to try and neutralise the heat so that your dish does not get wasted and can still be salvaged into a more edible consistency.
If you like a bit of heat in your food but do not want to go overboard on the heat I recommend being cautious of how much chilli you add.
It is best to add only a small amount and slowly work your way up. And while doing so I suggest tasting your way through cooking.
This will prevent you from making mistakes.
If however, you do land spicing the dish upp too much for your liking then following one or some of the tips above will help reduce the spiciness.
I may be missing other tricks on how to reduce spiciness. Do share your kitchen hacks that saved your dish!!