How to Make a Meal Less Spicy

Whether you are cooking or eating a very spicy dish, it is useful to know how to reduce the spiciness if necessary. Sometimes, it is hard to tell just how much spiciness a teaspoon of curry powder will add, or the top pops off the spice container when you are sprinkling in some crushed red pepper. Other times, what is mild to the chef may be overpoweringly spicy to the recipient of a meal. Although “some like it hot,” many people have difficulty with heartburn or simply do not enjoy the burning lips and sweats that can accompany a very spicy food. Either way, it is important to know how to rescue the flavor and edibility of an overly spicy dish to make it enjoyable for everyone.


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    Start with a small portion of the spicy ingredient and add to taste. This allows you to gradually increase the spiciness of a recipe until it is at the desired level.
    • For ethnic dishes that you may not be familiar with, curries, chili peppers, chili sauces, and ground pepper spices can add a lot of heat even in small amounts, so starting with only a fraction of the quantity listed in the recipe can save a lot of hassle over adding the whole amount and regretting it later.
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    Temper spiciness with additional un-spiced batches of the recipe. If you have enough time, a spicy rice dish can be toned down by cooking another half or whole portion and mixing it in with the original.
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    Serve the spicy food with a dairy-based drink, dip, or sauce. Dairy products can help mitigate the spice factor in many meals.
    • Drinking milk with a spicy meal reduces the level of spiciness in the mouth.
    • Sour cream, plain yogurt, and cream sauces can help tone down spicy meat and vegetable dishes such as Cajun chicken or curried potatoes and carrots. Alternatively, you could add a cheese topping or butter sauce to temper the spiciness.
    • If you prefer having a side dish, try small scoops of cottage cheese or a dairy-based dip as an optional fire-quencher that can be served with the spicy item. A dairy-based dip or sauce also has the advantage of allowing guests to adjust the spiciness of the meal to their individual tastes.
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    Add cream, milk, or cheese to liquid recipes such as soups and drinks. Unlike solid foods that require toppings or dips, liquid recipes can often benefit in taste and texture from mixing dairy ingredients directly into the recipe to reduce spiciness.
    • Heavy cream or low-fat milk can be added to many vegetable or milk-based soups to reduce the spiciness. Even bean, pumpkin, pea, seafood, and tomato based soups can go well with a dairy base, although broth-based soups should be taste-tested in small samples before adding cream or milk to cut the spice.
    • If cream does not pair well with a particular soup, adding shredded cheese or even an entire slice of cheese (one per bowl) upon serving can help temper the spiciness. Try cheddar cheese with a spicy potato and sausage soup and Swiss or provolone cheese with a beef-broth vegetable soup. Parmesan pairs well with many chicken broth soups and Italian soups, and soft mild cheeses pair well with tortilla soups and bisques.
    • If cream or milk is in short supply, a spoonful of sour cream for individual servings of soup can add both visual appeal and a cooling effect to many spicy vegetable or puree soups.
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    Mix in new ingredients that fit the flavor profile of the original recipe. Grains, vegetables, and meats can bulk up the flavor profile of many meals while simultaneously reducing their spiciness. It may even be better to add a new ingredient to a recipe if having a double batch of just one ingredient would make the meal imbalanced, particularly for one-dish meals.
    • For Indian curry dishes, try adding potatoes, carrots, peas, onions, rice, coconut milk, or plain yogurt (unflavored Greek yogurt or sour cream will work as well).
    • For Mexican food, try mixing in bell peppers, zucchini, tomatoes, beans, cheese, onions, corn, sour cream, or rice.
    • Asian recipes can typically accommodate broccoli, onions, carrots, snow peas, bell peppers, cabbage, or rice.
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    Add sugar, honey, or another sweetener to detract from the meal’s spiciness. This may especially help in Asian-inspired recipes, chicken or pork dishes, or recipes with fruit or seafood.
    • If you are nervous to change the main flavor of the dish with a sweetener, try mixing in some with just a small portion before applying the change to the remainder of the recipe.
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    Pick out the spicy ingredient if possible. Some recipes that call for whole or chopped chili peppers and sauces may have large enough flecks or chunks to manually pick them out of the dish.
    • Be sure to remove them with a utensil to avoid getting the spicy oil on your hands; even after washing your hands, the oil can remain and irritate the skin or eyes.


  • Instead of changing the dish itself, try serving it with bread and butter, plain rice, potatoes, or another starch or grain that can either serve as a mixer or as a “rescue” food to alternate with mouthfuls of the spicy food.
  • When preparing a spicy meal, it is best to opt for less spice in the recipe so that whoever is partaking can season it to their own comfort level; providing a shaker or small dish of the recipe’s spicy ingredient allows everyone to customize their plate. Hot sauce is another alternative for fans of spice to add it after the fact while still letting those who do not appreciate extreme spiciness enjoy the meal sans heat.
  • Another option is to not add any spicy ingredients, and include a spicy seasoning (such as red chili pepper flakes) so the person you're serving it to can choose the amount of spice that goes into it.


  • Avoid adding water or other water-based liquids to thin a spicy sauce or soup, as the compound that causes a burning sensation (capsaicin) is water-soluble and will spread more easily in watery foods, sauces, or drinks. In turn, this can cause the burning sensation to worsen.

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Categories: Meal Planning