In this brief guide, we will answer the question, “How to counteract too much acid in food?”. We will elaborate on different ways that will help you counteract too much acid in food.
How to counteract too much acid in food?
If you find out your dish is too acidic, that is probably because you have added too much lemon juice or vinegar to your dish. No need to worry, here we have prepared a long list of approaches to help you counteract too much acid in a recipe and to make the dish perfect to eat.
- Add alkaline ingredients
- Add more ingredients
- Add oil
- Add a little amount of salt
- Add some sugar
Add alkaline ingredients
If you have used too much acid in a recipe, you will find that it will bring a very strong flavor to the dish that makes the whole dish bitter. To offset the strong acidic flavor in this situation, you would need something very alkaline to counterbalance the acidity.
Among the alkaline ingredients, you can add a sprinkle of baking soda or baking powder, which can really help to save the dish. If this still has not done the trick, adding neutral flavors, like sour cream or yogurt, can also help balance out the flavors.
Baking soda is a powerful alkaline ingredient that will transform some of the acids into CO2. The bubbles indicate the visible impact of the baking soda. Taste the dish after mixing in each pinch of baking soda and repeat until the flavors are well-blended. When sodium bicarbonate is dissolved in water, it ionizes and forms HCO3− ions which then react with H+ ions from the acids. Its use in food is because of their nature to react with acids such as vinegar, lemon juice, cream of tartar, and bacterial acids forming carbon dioxide (1).
Tip: Always work carefully when trying to counteract something in a dish. Add small portions of the balancing ingredients and stir well before tasting.
Add more ingredients
If the suggestions above did not really work for you, another alternative approach to counteract too much acid in a recipe is to increase the portion size of the recipe by adding more of what you are cooking.
Make a fresh batch of your dish, double the ingredients without adding the acidic ingredient this time. Making an extra amount of the dish will balance the intensity of the acidic ingredient.
For instance, if you are cooking Bolognese sauce and the recipe directs one cup of milk, add one more cup of milk but do not add any acidic ingredient this time.
You may have to add other flavorings and spices, but by increasing the quantity of milk, you have now divided the acidic taste in the recipe. This means it will taste partly bitter. You may then reserve the spare sauce for a new dish or keep it for later use.
In the same way, if you want to counteract too much acid in a soup or stew, you can add more corn and eggs. These will help to even out the flavor of the soup.
If you used too much acid in a salad dressing, you can try adding more oil to neutralize the mixture. You can also try adding sweet ingredients, for instance, aged balsamic vinegar. Mixing the oil with the acid (acetic acid from the vinegar or the citric acid from the lemon juice), an esterification reaction occurs between the acid and the mono- and di-glycerides of fatty acids present in the oil (2).
Add a little amount of salt
You can also add a little quantity of salt to counteract the acidic flavor. Salty (salt in excess) and sour flavors are interpreted by the same part of the brain, and adding one undermines the brain’s capability to recognise the other. Salt can also be combined with sugar to further increase the effect.
The taste receptor cells that detect sodium are distinct from those that respond to sweet, bitter, sour or savory stimuli. Thus, all 5 basic tastes are mediated by separate and dedicated cells. However, while specialized salt receptor cells may have evolved to make salt appealing, sour- and bitter-tasting cells are activated by high salt concentrations (3).
Add some sugar
Sprinkling a teaspoon of sugar or any other sweetener to counterbalance the acidity is also a good choice, especially if your dish already has sweet ingredients like carrots or pumpkin. Sugar can effectively counteract the bitter flavors giving a well-balanced flavor profile.
Just add sugar gradually, tasting after every addition to make sure that your dish does not get extra sweet.
Other than sugar, you can try adding honey or any other sweetener that best suits your recipe. Then serve your dish as if nothing happened.
Potatoes can work greatly to reduce acidity. They consist of starch with a mild flavor and are particularly great at absorbing excess flavors.
Starch, when heated in the presence of excess water, undergoes a transition phase known as gelatinization. Similar to water, other solvents, including acid solutions, are also used to promote gelatinization. The principal consideration with solvents is their capacity to form hydrogen bonds with the molecules in the starch granule (4).
A peeled and boiled half-cut potato can be added to the recipe to counteract too much acid.
Put the half-boiled potato into the dish that will absorb the excess acidic flavor from the dish. Remove the potato once tender and serve your meal as if nothing happened.
We hope these methods will benefit you. Still, if nothing works for you, don’t be sad. Learn from your mistakes and you can start again.
In this brief guide, we have provided an answer to the question, “How to counteract too much acid in food?”. We have also elaborated on different ways that will help you counteract too much acid in food.
- Madeswaran, Sathyasree, and Sivakumar Jayachandran. Sodium bicarbonate: A review and its uses in dentistry. Ind J Dental Res, 2018, 29, 672.
- De Leonardis, A., Macciola, V., Iftikhar, A. et al. Antioxidant effect of traditional and new vinegars on functional oil/vinegar dressing-based formulations. Eur Food Res Technol, 2022.
- Hanson, M. High Salt Detected by Sour and Bitter Taste Cells. 2013. National Institutes of Health.
- Alcázar-Alay, Sylvia Carolina, and Maria Angela Almeida Meireles. Physicochemical properties, modifications and applications of starches from different botanical sources. Food Sci Technol, 2005, 35, 215-236.