How to Fix a Dish That's Too Spicy

By Rhoda Boone

The dish you've slaved over is way too spicy. You think, "Oh no, I've gone too far! I shouldn't have added that last dash of cayenne! I've rendered my dish inedible! Possibly lethal!" In a panic you consider tossing the whole thing in the trash and pulling out a frozen pizza.

Not to worry, we've got a few ways to salvage your dinner (and maybe even make it better).

1. COOL DOWN WITH DAIRY
The capsaicin in chiles is what gives the peppers their burn. One of the best ways to counteract this chemical compound is by adding a dairy product: whole fat milk, heavy cream, yogurt, cheese, or sour cream. Even rich coconut milk can do the trick.

2. SWEET SALVATION
Sugars help to neutralize the heat of chile peppers. So try adding a little sugar or honey to balance out too-hot flavors.

3. BULK UP THE OTHER INGREDIENTS
Diffuse the heat by adding more of the major components of the dish. That might mean more broth, meat, or vegetables, depending on what you are making. Or improvise and add grated carrots, squash, or potatoes to soak up some of the spice.

4. SERVE WITH STARCH
Offer something neutral in flavor to temper the spiciness of your meal. Pasta, rice, bread, couscous, or grains are all good choices to serve with a spicy main.

5. ADD SOME ACID
Acidic liquids like vinegar, lemon, or lime juice, and even chopped tomatoes can cut through intense heat. Use whatever will complement the flavors of your dish.

6. NUT BUTTER COULD BE YOUR SECRET WEAPON
If the flavors are compatible—maybe an Asian noodle dish like pad thai—try stirring in some tahini, peanut or almond butter. The fat content in nut butters can help extinguish the flame.

NEXT TIME
Protect yourself from this predicament in the future by adding a little heat at a time and taste as you go. Remember that the liquid in long-simmering dishes like chili or curry evaporate as they cook and the flavors become more concentrated. So treat heat like salt and add it gradually, with a final taste and adjustment towards the end of cooking time.

Read the whole text by Rhonda Boone at www.epicurious.com