In this brief guide, we will answer the question, “How to counteract too many red pepper flakes in food?”. We will discuss different ways that will help you counteract too many red pepper flakes in food.
How to counteract too many red pepper flakes in food?
Chili peppers belong to Capsicum genus and are vegetables, condiments and spices widely consumed in daily life. There are about 25 species in this genus, and the five known varieties are C. annuum, C. frutescens, C. chinense, C. baccatum and C. pubescens. Capsaicinoids are the main source of the spicy flavors of chili peppers, and capsaicin constitutes approximately 69% of the capsaicinoids, which is considered as the main pungent ingredient. The content of capsaicin varies greatly among different chili peppers, resulting in differences in the pungency of the pepper fruit (1).
If you have added too many red pepper flakes to your recipe and are desperately searching for ways to counteract it, do not worry, here we have prepared a long list of approaches to help you counteract too many red pepper flakes in your food, and to make it suitable to eat.
- Add something sweet
- Add acid to decrease the heat
- Neutralize the heat with dairy
- Wash off the excess
- Dilute the recipe
Add something sweet
Sugars can work really well to offset the spiciness caused by too many red pepper flakes in your recipe. It will not directly lower the spice, but it will give a different flavor that will help to distract the taste buds.
Studies demonstrated that concomitant delivery of capsaicin with sucrose and rinsing with sucrose after capsaicin exposure each reduce oral burn. They reported that 40mM sucrose added to 2 mg/L capsaicin reduces burn relative to the same capsaicin solution alone and rinsing with a 10% sucrose solution after exposure to 3 mg/L capsaicin effectively reduced burn, suggesting beverages containing sucrose may be useful in mitigating excessive burn (2).
Add one teaspoon of sugar at a time to even out the spicy flavor in a dish. Then stir, allowing the flavors to mix well. Make sure to add gradually tasting after every addition or your dish will have a more sugary taste.
Other than sugar, you can also add agave nectar or honey if you want a liquid sweetener.
Some more options include raisins or other dried fruits that may be suitable for offsetting the heat of some recipes. In a recipe with only a little too much red pepper flakes, you can counteract it by using a mildly sweet ingredient such as caramelized onions.
Add acid to decrease the heat
If you have mistakenly added too many red pepper flakes in your recipe and want to counteract it, you can add lemon juice, lime juice, tamarind paste, vinegar, wine, tomatoes, and pineapple too.
These are all acidic ingredients that will help to neutralize the intensity of capsaicin present in red pepper flakes.
Capsaicin is basically an alkaline oil that is accountable for the burning sensation that we experience, particularly when it comes in contact with the mucous membrane of our mouth. This is based on the principle of acid-base neutralization (1).
The alkaline capsaicin can be neutralized with acidic ingredients that will help to counterbalance the pH levels of capsaicin and reduce some of that burning flavor.
Although many studies suggest that solutions containing citric acid were effective by suppressing the pungency of capsaicin, other studies demonstrate that this is a dose dependent property and capsaicin, at suprathreshold levels (2 mg/L capsaicin), citric acid, (0.01 M) was ineffective at reducing burn when added to capsaicin (2).
Squeeze half a lemon or lime, or 1 to 2 tbsp of wine, vinegar, tamarind paste or tomato sauce, to your extra spicy recipe.
Neutralize the heat with dairy
Casein present in dairy products binds to the capsaicin, helping to neutralize its heating effects. It acts in the same way as a dishwasher eliminates grease from the kitchen tools.
In addition, food with a significant fat content will reduce chili burn, due to the fact that capsaicin is lipophilic, that is, it has a very low solubility in water and is attracted by lipids. Capsaicin could be dissolved by fat-soluble substances to reduce the oral pungency. People often pair milk or soy milk with spicy food in daily life, because the casein and fat in dairy products can dissolve capsaicin (1).
It has been speculated that fat reduces oral burn via partitioning, due to the lipophilicity of capsaicin. That is, capsaicin may partition into the fat phase, thereby limiting the number of capsaicin molecules available for binding with the transient receptor potential cation channel subfamily V member 1 (TRPV1) receptor (2).
Among the dairy products, you can add butter, ghee, milk, sour cream, or plain yogurt and even ice cream in your recipe, but do not cook after adding the dairy products over a high flame, as it may coagulate. To the dishes that do not require dairy, try adding some cheese.
Wash off the excess
If you see the red pepper flakes on the surface of the food, simply remove them. If they are on a piece of leg, place it below flowing water and wipe the flakes off. In most instances, this method is sufficient to keep the food from turning too spicy. You will then have to reseason with additional flavorings.
In case of soup or gravy, use a fine mesh to remove the flakes. Taking them out will prevent them from losing more of their flavor. In case the red pepper flakes have been cooking for a long time, straining them will not make the food less spicy.
Dilute the recipe
If your recipe is too spicy or the suggestions above did not really work for you, you will have to decide between whether to dilute it or waste it.
In such a case, you can double the main ingredients. For example, if you are cooking spaghetti sauce and the recipe directs 2 tins of tomato paste, add 2 more tins of tomato paste but skip red pepper flakes this time.
You may have to add other flavorings and herbs, but by increasing the quantity of tomato paste, you have directly divided the number of red pepper flakes in the recipe. This means it will taste halfway spicy. You may then reserve the extra sauce for a new dish or store it for later use.
Similarly, if you want to counteract too many red pepper flakes in a soup or stew, you can add more vegetables including onions, carrots and beans. These will help to even out the flavor profile of the dish.
We hope these tricks will benefit you. Still, if nothing works for you, don’t be sad. Learn from your mistakes and start all over again.
Other FAQs about Pepper that you may be interested in.
In this brief guide, we have answered the question, “How to counteract too many red pepper flakes in food?”. We have also discussed different ways that will help you counteract too many red pepper flakes in food.
- Xiang, Qunran, et al. Capsaicin—the spicy ingredient of chili peppers: A review of the gastrointestinal effects and mechanisms. Trend Food Sci Technol, 2021, 116, 755-765.
- Nolden, Alissa A., Gabrielle Lenart, and John E. Hayes. Putting out the fire–Efficacy of common beverages in reducing oral burn from capsaicin. Physiol behav, 2019, 208, 112557.