How to counteract bitterness?

In this article, we will answer the question “How to counteract bitterness?”, and how to balance flavors in food?

How to counteract bitterness?

Add some fat

Add any type of fat that best goes with your bitter dish. It could be cheese, cheese sauce, cream, milk, olive oil, cream cheese, etc. Fat coats the palate and reduces the perceived bitterness of your food. 

This is why adding milk or cream to your coffee makes it less bitter and more palatable. This is also a great way to enhance the kid-appeal of some bitter veggies like broccoli, cabbage, or brussels sprouts. Coat the veggies in some cheese sauce and your kids won’t take your hands off the broccoli.

Add a sweetener

Counter the bitterness with added sweetness. You could use white granulated or powdered sugar for hot dishes and honey for cold dishes. 

However, do not go overboard with the sugar. The American Heart Association suggests taking no more than 25-36 g of sugar per day.

Add a pinch of salt

You must not underestimate what a pinch of salt could do your dish. It can counter the bitterness and enhance the overall flavor of your food. 

This is especially helpful for bitter veggies. Toss your veggies in some salt and olive oil before adding the rest of the ingredients. 

Just like sugar, you must not exceed the recommended daily intake of salt that is 2300mg per day, equivalent to ½ tsp of salt.

Add a pinch of baking soda

Adding baking soda to counter bitterness may sound like an absurd idea but it does work. You must not add more than a pinch at a time. Mix the food thoroughly after adding the baking soda and taste-check for bitterness. Then add more baking soda if needed.

Squeeze in some lemon or vinegar

Acid does a great job at fixing your overly bitter dishes. Stir in freshly squeezed lemon juice or a tablespoon of vinegar to your overly bitter dish. If you accidentally added too much acid, you can fix it by adding a pinch of baking soda.

Add some spices to your food

Spices like black pepper, cayenne, red pepper, paprika, and chili powder are excellent choices for counteracting the bitterness in your dish. Add some pepper during cooking or sprinkle some at the end before serving your dish.

Cook with herbs

Add freshly chopped or dry herbs like basil, coriander, sage, oregano, ginger, and rosemary to your overly bitter dish to mask the bitter flavor. The savory and earthy flavors of the herbs cut down the bitterness and enhance the overall flavor profile of your dish.

Chill the food to reduce bitterness

This trick best works when combined with any one or two of the other hacks. This trick is especially useful for bitter veggies. Refrigerate the veggies before you devour them. The temperature drop helps mask and mellow the bitterness of the veggies.

Mix bitter ingredients into larger dishes

Make another portion of the dish and add the bitter ingredients in minute quantities or none at all. Then mix both the portions and adjust the other spices. Store the excess food for later.

Eat more bitter foods to get used to them

Make your taste palate acquainted with more bitter foods. Adding sugar or salt to mask the bitterness of your veggies is not the healthiest option. If you are successful in making this lifestyle change, you will see the long-term benefits.

How to balance flavors in food?

Problem: Too rich

The fix: You are wrong if you think you cannot fix your overly rich or umami flavored dish. You can counteract the richness with something sweet and sour. Try mixing in a splash of vinegar or add freshly squeezed lemon juice. 

Alternatively, mix some pickles or sauerkraut in your dish to cut through the richness. Sweet flavored herbs like cilantro and basil can also counteract the richness that comes from extra cheese and meat in the dish.

Problem: Too bland

The fix: Seasoning the food with the right amount of salt is very important to avoid bland food. If you already added salt, do not shy away from adding more salt to it. 

Similarly, you can add some fresh herbs, chopped toasted nuts, and salty cheese to your bland dish. If nothing works, just drizzle your food with some sriracha sauce before serving.

The problem: Too spicy

The fix: If you are not a fan of spicy food, try eating your food with something sour, sweet, or neutral-flavored. 

For example, you can stir in a freshly squeezed lemon, pair your spicy food with something bland such as cucumber, lettuce, or white rice or top off your food with a dollop of yogurt.


In this article, we answered the question “How to counteract bitterness?”, and how to balance flavors in food?


Hi, I am Charlotte, I love cooking and in my previous life, I was a chef. I bring some of my experience to the recipes on this hub and answer your food questions.