How to counteract too much thyme in food?

In this brief guide, we will answer the question, “How to counteract too much thyme in a recipe?”. We will further elaborate on the different approaches to try that will help you counteract too much thyme in food.

How to counteract too much thyme in a recipe?

The thyme is an aromatic plant of the Mediterranean flora, commonly used as spices and as traditional medicine remedies. It is reported to possess some biological effects such as antispasmodic, antibacterial, antifungal, anti tabagismo, and antioxidant activities.  The flowered stem contains essentially flavonoids (derived of apigenin and luteolin), acids phenols (in particular, caffeic and rosmarinic), tannins, resin and especially essential oil rich in chemical compounds which are responsible for the majority of its pharmacological effects (1).

Thyme is a herb with a unique pungent taste that can be easily overdone. It is most commonly added in savory dishes to enhance their flavors such as braised or roasted meat, or fish, soups, teas and savory baking; but, it can ruin your recipe if added in abundance. 

If you have accidentally added too much thyme to your dish and are desperately searching for ways to counteract it, do not fret, here we have prepared a long list of approaches to help you counteract too much thyme in your recipe, and to make it suitable to serve.

  • Physically remove the thyme 
  • Dilute the dish
  • Add umami flavors
  • Add garlic
  • Add something sour
  • Add root vegetables
  • Add sweetness

Physically remove the thyme 

If you have added too much thyme to your dish, the first thing you can do is to remove the excess directly. However, this approach will not work if you have added dried and crumbled thyme to your recipe. 

Simply separate the thyme from the soup or sauce using a ladle-sized slotted spoon just when you have realized your blunder. If the thyme is on the surface of the meat, you can simply wash it off before reseasoning.

In case the thyme has flavored your preparation by the time you realize your blunder, you will then have to implement any of the different approaches from the list we have provided but you must still try to remove it first. Neglecting it in will add more flavor to your preparation. 

Dilute the dish 

You can dilute the flavor of thyme by multiplying other ingredients. This approach helps to reduce the bitterness and pungent flavor caused by too much thyme.

For instance, if you are cooking fried rice and the recipe directs 1 tin of carrots, add 1 more tin of carrots but do not add any thyme this time. 

Mix thoroughly and allow to simmer for some more time so the flavors blend well. Diluting the thyme will dilute other flavors too, so taste the dish to have an idea of what else is needed.

Continue doubling the ingredients as required. Start with the main ingredients first, after then add the seasonings, mixing thoroughly and tasting between every addition.

You may have to add other flavors, but by doubling the number of carrots, you have directly distributed the amount of thyme in the recipe, counterbalancing its taste somewhat. You may then reserve the extra amount for a separate recipe or store it for later use.

Add umami flavors

Another way is to add strong meaty flavors, such as Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce and fish sauce, to the dish which can help to counteract thyme and also divert our taste buds from the pungent taste that comes from adding too much of thyme.

 Thyme in excess tastes bitter. A substantial amount of taste compounds in foodstuffs stimulate different transduction pathways, such as gustatory receptors, G-protein coupled receptors and ion channels, and elicit taste qualities. Umami also interacts with other tastes. One feature of umami is the suppression of bitterness. Umami-active acidic oligopeptides containing glutamyl peptides, including glutamic acid (Glu)-aspartic acid (Asp), Glu-Glu, Glu-serine (Ser), and Glu-Glu-Glu, suppress the bitter flavors of protein hydrolysates  (2)

Add garlic

The strong flavor of garlic can help to counteract the bitter flavor of thyme. If your recipe already includes garlic, use more extra of it. Though your recipe will taste too garlicky, its flavor is generally more pleasant as compared to thyme when added in abundance.

Garlic has a strong pungent flavor due to the presence of allicin. When this flavor stimulus is added, a suppression over the other flavor stimuli in the solution occurs, where the taste intensity of the mixture is lower than the intensity of each taste solution (3).

Add something sour

Acidic flavor can help to counteract overly strong thyme flavor. Among the acidic ingredients, lemon and lime juice can work really well. Other options include a dollop of yogurt and sour cream that may give what is required.

As mentioned above, tastes in different combinations can have suppression effects on each other. But that is dose dependent. In one study, it was found that caffeine and citric acid suppressed each other at very low concentrations. Another study reported that the threshold for tartaric acid was lowered by quinine HCl. In other words, sensitivity was enhanced. It was also demonstrated that the sourness of citric acid was enhanced by caffeine, whereas the bitterness of quinine sulfate was suppressed by low concentrations of tartaric acid (4).

Add root vegetables

Potato consists of starch with a mild flavor and is particularly great at absorbing excess flavors. A peeled and boiled half-cut potato can be added to the recipe to counteract too much thyme.

Legumes such as potatoes contain starch and other polysaccharides that are able to absorb food components. Starch is composed of two different types of glucose polymer: the linear amylose, and the highly branched amylopectin backbone with linked side chains. Linear amylose chains have been reported to possess greater capacity to interact with many plant compounds, such as phenolics, tannins, and alkaloids than highly branched amylopectin chains, thus forming non-inclusion complex at the external surface of the starch polymer, mainly through hydrogen bonds, hydrophobic interaction or electrostatic and ionic interactions. For this reason, potatoes are a good alternative to absorb the phenolic compounds of thyme (5). 

Put the half-boiled potato into the dish that will absorb the excess flavors of the thyme from the dish.

Remove the potato once tender and serve your meal as if nothing happened. 

You can also use other root vegetables like parsnips and carrots. Taste the dish to decide whether any further effort is required to counteract the thyme flavor.

Add sweetness

Sweet and sugary flavors can also counteract the excess bitterness of thyme in some dishes. You can add wine which is particularly effective in warm soups, or carrots and caramelized onions, which may also work for counteracting the pungent taste of too much thyme.

We hope these approaches will help you. Still, if nothing works for you, don’t be anxious. Learn from your mistakes and try again.

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Conclusion 

In this brief guide, we have provided an answer to the question, “How to counteract too much thyme in food?”. We have also elaborated on the different ways that will help you counteract too much thyme in food.

References 

  1. Jaafari, Abdeslam, et al. Chemical composition and antitumor activity of different wild varieties of Moroccan thyme. Rev Bras Farmacogna, 2007, 17, 477-491. 
  2. Kim, Min Jung, et al. Umami–bitter interactions: The suppression of bitterness by umami peptides via human bitter taste receptor. Biochem Biophys Res Commun, 2015, 456, 586-590.
  3. Tournier, Carole, Claire Sulmont-Rossé, and Elisabeth Guichard. Flavour perception: aroma, taste and texture interactions. Food, 1 (2), Global Science Books, 2007.
  4. Breslin, Paul AS. Interactions among salty, sour and bitter compounds. Trend Food Sci Technol, 1996, 390-399.  
  5. Giuberti, Gianluca, Gabriele Rocchetti, and Luigi Lucini. Interactions between phenolic compounds, amylolytic enzymes and starch: An updated overview. Curr Opin Food Sci, 2020, 31, 102-113.

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.