How to counteract vinegar?

In this article, we will answer the question “How to counteract vinegar?”, and how to reduce vinegar taste in potato salad and tomato sauce?  

How to counteract vinegar?

Each country has its standard percentage of acetic acid in each type of vinegar as follows: in the United States the optimum is 4%, in the European region it is 4%-7% (distilled vinegar) as well as apple cider vinegar and the wine vinegar optimum limit is 5%-6% . On the basis of production method as well as raw material vinegars are classified in two strata following as herbal/organic as well as fruit vinegar (1).

Add a sweetener 

Add sugar or any other sweetener over an overly sour dish. The sweetness of the sugar will cut down the acidity of the vinegar. Simply stir in some table sugar in your dish if it is in liquid form. Alternatively, you can add caramelized granulated sugar to fix your sour dish.

Sugar can buffer the stimulation of acetic acid and improve the taste and flavor of vinegar (2). Suppression or partial masking of sourness regularly occurs in complex food systems. It is well known that sweeteners constitute one of the most effective masking agents for sourness. Sweeteners are combined in the formulations of acidified foods to achieve optimum taste, while maintaining the desired pH (6).

Add fats 

The fat cuts through the acid and vice versa. The fat molecules coat the palate and reduce the sour perception of your dish. Stir some oil, butter, or cheese in your overly acidic dish. Taste check the dish after each addition of fat and add more if needed.

Mixing the oil or fat 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 or fat (3).

Add an alkaline ingredient 

When an acid reacts with a base, ion exchange takes place as a result of which CO2 and water are produced. This reduces the acidity of the vinegar in your dish. The most commonly found basic ingredient in the kitchen is baking soda. Start by adding only a teaspoon of baking soda to your dish. Taste-check after each addition and add more if needed.

When an alkaline ingredient, such as 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 (4).

Mix with the salty food 

The part of the brain that perceives sourness also perceives saltiness. By increasing the saltiness in your dish, you can trick your brain into thinking that the flavors are balanced. For a less distinct taste, add some sugar along with the salt.

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 (5).

Dilute the food 

Dilute your overly acidic dish by mixing it with another portion of the same food. Alternatively, you can just add more liquid ingredients such as water, stock, broth, etc. If the dish tastes too bland, adjust the seasoning to your liking.

How to counteract too much vinegar in the potato salad?

  1. Mix sugar into the potato salad, starting with only 1 teaspoon at a time. 
  2. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest per 2 cups of potato salad. You can also use lime or orange zest.
  3. Cut a large peeled potato into quarters. Keep them in the salad and refrigerate the salad after plastic wrapping it for about 8 hours. Remove the uncooked potatoes before serving the salad.
  4. Stir in 1 tablespoon of finely minced anchovies per cup of prepared potato salad to mask the acidity of the vinegar.
  5. Make another portion of the potato salad, without the vinegar. Mix this portion with the potato salad that needs to be fixed. Mix well and adjust the other spices.

How to reduce vinegar taste in tomato sauce?

Add sweetness

If you are dealing with a cold dressing or salad, mix in a pinch or two of powdered sugar to see if it mellows the bitterness of the excess vinegar. To fix a soup or sauce, mix in ½ tsp of caramelized sugar at a time. Alternatively, you can use honey to fix overly acidic cold dishes like sauces, dips, dressings, or salads.

Add more fat 

Fat coats the mouth palate and reduces the perception of the sourness of your dish. Moreover, the acid dissolves more readily into fat than in water. 

Fat is also a very well-known flavor carrier. It retains and absorbs the sour flavor of the excess vinegar. This mellows the sourness and makes it difficult for your olfactory system to perceive it. 

If you are dealing with an overly acidic soup, drizzle some olive oil on top of it before serving. To fix the extra vinegar taste of the purees and soups, stir in a few tablespoons of butter, yogurt, or cream once the dish is ready. 

According to studies, fats modify responsiveness to others taste compounds by physical processes, i.e., fat may act as 1) a stimulus for salivation and thereby dilute stimulus concen-trations; 2) a barrier that impedes access of taste molecules to their respective receptors or channels; or 3) a modulator of taste compound partitioning and effective concentration (7).

A pinch of a base

Ion exchange takes place when an acid and a base react during a chemical reaction. Baking soda acts as a base while vinegar is a diluted acid (4). 

When baking soda is mixed with vinegar, the vinegar or acid releases a proton, forming carbon dioxide and water. This is how the baking soda neutralizes the vinegar. 

To avoid a soapy or bitter taste, start by adding only a pinch of baking soda to your vinegary dish. Taste check the fish after each addition of the baking soda. Add more if necessary.

The hail mary

If none of the above-mentioned hacks work for your overly sour dish, you can resort to the dilution technique.

Make a whole other batch of tomato sauce with only a small amount of vinegar or none at all.  Then mix this batch with the severely sour batch in increments until the desired mild vinegary taste is achieved. 

Other FAQs about Vinegar that you may be interested in.

How to neutralize vinegar without baking soda?

Can you be allergic to vinegar? 

Can you be allergic to apple cider vinegar?

What can I substitute for white vinegar?

Conclusion 

In this article, we answered the question “How to counteract vinegar?”, and how to reduce vinegar taste in potato salad and tomato sauce?

References 

  1. Hemke, Jay, et al. Vinegar: A traditional functional food. Think India J, 2019, 22, 581-629.
  2. Zhang, Bo, et al. Effects of organic acids, amino acids and phenolic compounds on antioxidant characteristic of Zhenjiang aromatic vinegar. Molecules, 2019, 24, 3799.
  3. 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. 
  4. Madeswaran, Sathyasree, and Sivakumar Jayachandran. Sodium bicarbonate: A review and its uses in dentistry. Ind J Dental Res, 2018, 29, 672.
  5. Hanson, M. High Salt Detected by Sour and Bitter Taste Cells. 2013. National Institutes of Health.
  6. Savant, Lotika, and Mina R. McDaniel. Suppression of sourness: a comparative study involving mixtures of organic acids and sugars. Percept psychophys, 2004, 66, 642-650.
  7. Mattes, Richard D. Effects of linoleic acid on sweet, sour, salty, and bitter taste thresholds and intensity ratings of adults. Am J Physiol-Gastro Liver Physiol, 2007, 292, G1243-G1248.