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January 24, 2023 3 min read

There comes a time when even the biggest spicy food lovers find their upper limit. Even avid hot sauce users need a cool-off period now and then. This may leave you wondering how you can fix food that is too spicy. 

There are many ways a dish can end up too spicy. For instance, fresh peppers can vary from batch to batch: one can taste mild, while another can taste extra spicy. Mismeasuring ingredients in a recipe can also cause the food to be too hot to handle. For instance, using two tablespoons of cayenne pepper instead of two teaspoons will alter the heat of the dish. 

No matter the reason, it’s always a good idea to know the most effective ways to cool down spicy food. While technically, you can’t remove the existing spice from a dish, it is possible to tone it down. 

Whether you’re looking to lessen the heat of a prepared dish or alter the heat level of your favorite recipe, here are five practical ways to cool down spicy food. 

1. Add More Ingredients to Dilute the Spice 

If you’re making Grandma Jones’ famous family chili recipe only to realize you accidentally doubled the amount of hot pepper sauce and jalapenos, all is not lost. Cooling down spicy food can be as easy as adding more ingredients to dilute the spicy element. 

Depending on the recipe, you can add more liquid, meat, or starches. If it’s chili, for instance, try adding more liquid, beans, meat, tomatoes, etc., to bulk it up. Depending on how spicy it is, you may end up with a lot more food than intended, but at least it’s edible!

2. Counterbalance the Heat with Acid 

Sliced lemons and limes on a small wooden cutting board

If you’re not familiar with food science, adding acid to the fire might sound as useful as putting out a fire with gasoline. But it works! Capsaicin, which is responsible for most of the heat in your spicy food, is an alkaline oil. And when you want to balance something alkaline, you use an acid. 

There are many cooking acids you can use, depending on what dish you have. Lemon or lime juice, vinegar, wine, and tomatoes are all useful cooking acids that can help neutralize the pH levels of spicy capsaicin oil. 

3. Cool Down Spicy Food with Dairy 

In addition to balancing the heat with acid, you can also try cooling down the intense heat of capsaicin with a dairy option. Fun fact: dairy is also acidic. We didn’t include it with acid because it has another benefit: casein.

Casein is a fat-loving protein unique to dairy products. When you add dairy to a spicy dish, it surrounds and binds with the heat-generating oil particles and disperses them. Full-fat dairy products are the most effective. Butter, ghee, sour cream, greek yogurt, and cheese are all good options. Is your chili still too spicy for your family? Try serving it with some cheddar cheese and a dollop of sour cream to cool down the heat further. 

4. Sweeten the Heat 

In addition to acids and dairy, you can also add sweeteners to try cooling down spicy food. Sugar and honey can both help neutralize heat because they absorb some of the oils and change the taste. 

If you use a sweetener to fix your too-spicy dish, use only a little at a time and taste as you go to ensure your savory dish doesn’t end up too sweet. 

5. Negate Heat with Bland, Starchy Foods

A bowl of spicy curry served over rice

If you don’t want to mess with a recipe by changing ingredients or if you’re eating a prepared dish at a restaurant, you can help fix food that is too spicy with some bland sides. When eaten with a spicy entre, neutral grains and other starchy foods can help diffuse the heat when eaten together. 

Rice, pasta, bread, potatoes, couscous, and quinoa are good options when cooling down spicy food. Remember that too-spicy chili? Serve it over a scoop of rice to help absorb.

Pepper Jelly is the Perfect Balance of Sweet and Heat

Did you know that you can also use pepper jelly to help balance a too-spicy dish? Unlike using sugar, this sweet and spicy condiment can help cool the burn without straying too far from the hint of spice you were looking for. 

Grandma Jones’ Pepper Jam is a unique blend of sweet, sour, and spicy that complements many sweet and savory entrees, desserts, cocktails, and appetizers. With eight unique flavors ranging from our cherished Traditional to Southwestern Chipotle and Caribbean Mango, we have something for every palate and every dish. 

Looking to elevate your food to the next level? Browse our blog for more sweet and spicy food and ideas, and pick up a pepper jelly variety pack to find your favorite flavor today!