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.
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There are times when you may have misjudged the heat of chilli and added too much, or maybe forgot to take some portion out before you serve the food to any non-spicy food eater!
Your level of heat tolerance may not be the same as your guests or other family members. But that should not stop you from enjoying a bit of a spicy kick while serving others a palatable dish.
But what do you do if the chilli you added to the dish, be in an Indian curry, soup, stir fry or any sauce is too much?
How do you neutralize spicy food and make it less spicy?
What Causes Food To Become Spicy
Many, including me, describe the heat in food as spicy!
But there is a difference between chilli and spicy, which I became aware of once I started using spices in my food.
You see spicy can relate to any dish that has spice added to it.
It could be cumin powder, cinnamon, coriander powder, etc. However, adding these spices do not necessarily make the dish chilli hot !!
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.
Here are a few proven tips that will help children explore and increase their spice tolerance level which I successfully tried on mine and to a certain extend on self 😊!
These harmless tricks work on adults too 🙂
How To Make Curry Less Spicy
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 any 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.
It is a type of chilli powder that is low on heat but renders a beautiful bright colour to the dish.
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.
For western-style cooking that is when making soup or sauce, I recommend sticking to paprika or cayenne pepper.
They are mild chillies and a good starting point for spicy food apprentice!
2. Taste As you Go
One of the best ways to ensure what you are cooking it good enough to be 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.
A point to remember is to wait for at least two to three minutes after adding the spice and before tasting.
This is because it takes some 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.
Tips To Reduce Spiciness If You Add Too Much Chilli
The above tips are preventive measures that you can take to avoid adding too much spice or chilli into your dish.
But what if it’s too late and the heat is on !? The questions that go through your mind are:
How to make a hot curry milder? How to reduce spice? Can you salvage the dish?
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 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.
So, how do I reduce spiciness in a dish after I realised I may have overdone it?
Here are some tips
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.
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.
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.
Balance taste by adding sugar and acid
This is my favourite and number one trick to follow if I feel I have overdone the spice bit.
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.
Increase the amount by adding more ingredient
Another trick to diffuse the heat is by adding more of the main or supplementary ingredient to the dish.
That 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 🙂
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!!