How to neutralize vinegar without baking soda?

In this article, we will answer the question “How to neutralize vinegar without baking soda?”, and how to fix the common cooking mistakes?  

How to neutralize vinegar without baking soda?

If you do not want to use baking soda to counteract excess vinegar we have got you covered. The following tricks will cut down the taste of vinegar in your dish without making it bitter or soapy. 

In Italy, vinegar is the second most important dressing after olive oil, but its relevance is increasing in the world market, where Italy acts as the largest exporter, followed by Germany. Approximately two million hectoliters of vinegar are produced in Italy, and according to studies, Italian vinegar exports reached 1.08 million hectoliters, corresponding to 237.7 million euros in 2013, with an increase of 300% since 2000 (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.

Studies have shown that the sugar addition can suppress sourness, and acid can be used to suppress sweetness in solution studies. Sugar has also been shown to affect release of volatile components in model solutions. In particular, more hydrophilic compounds were retained and more hydrophobic compounds released as sucrose concentrations increased (2).

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 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. Acetic acid esters of mono- and di-glycerides of fatty acids are well-known emulsifiers often added to several food products to improve their emulsion state, viscosity, and foaming stability (3).

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 (4).

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. As a consequence of dilution, the acidity is reduced (5).

Common cooking mistakes and how to fix them 

Your dish is too salty 

In case you were wondering, dumping a potato in an overly salty dish does not soak the excess salt. If you end up with an overly salty dish, the best thing you can do to fix it is by diluting your dish. Add more liquid such as water, broth, or stock if it is a soup. If it is a stew, add more veggies and meat to dilute the salt. However, starches can absorb sodium ions. The negative potential of the starch granule attracts the cation and repels the anion. However, the absorption of Na+ is rather limited (6).

You made a dish too sour 

Do not fret if you have added too much of an acidic ingredient such as tomato, wine, lemon, or vinegar. The best thing you can do to counteract too much sourness is by adding a sweetener such as sugar or honey, cream, or even caramelized onions.

Although not recommended, you can add a pinch of baking soda to fix your overly sour dish if all else fails. 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 (7).

It’s a bit too tart

Tartness is similar to sourness but the tartness is caused by a citrus ingredient only. You can cut down the excess tartness by adding sugar, honey, or maple syrup to your dish. A tart taste is a sour taste and can be neutralized with the addition of sugar (2).

Your dish is too sweet

Consider adding an acidic ingredient such as lemon juice or vinegar to fix your overly sweet dish. Add a pinch of salt along with the acidic ingredients to help balance out the flavors. Studies have shown that the sugar addition can suppress sourness, and acid can be used to suppress sweetness in solution studies (2).

Your dish has a bitter flavor 

If your dish turns out to be too bitter due to the addition of excess greens or spices such as turmeric, you can count on sweeteners or fats to cut through the bitterness. Stir some sugar, honey, cream, or butter in your dish to tame the bitterness.  There is a variation among people and among bitter agents in the ability of sucrose to suppress bitterness, but for some people and for some compounds, sucrose is an unequivocally effective masker of bitter taste (8).

Your dish is pretty bland 

If your dish turns out to be bland, there is a lot of room for experiment. For example, you can add a pinch of salt to help bring out the flavors of your dish or add some sugar. Alternatively, you can add a splash of vinegar for a subtle sour taste or herbs and spices. You can also try adding coordination of 2 or more ingredients until you get the desired flavor.

You made your dinner too spicy 

If the excess spiciness is caused by peppers, you can cut it down by adding cream or butter to your dish. The fat-loving protein present in dairy products, known as casein, binds with the spicy capsaicin oil and destroys its true spicy nature.

If the spiciness comes from non-pepper sources, you can fix it by adding a pinch of sugar or a dollop of nut butter to your dish. Although, you can also use cream or butter.

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 (9).

You did not get a good sear on your meat 

A super hot pan surface is the trick to getting a good sear. A hot surface will make the water sizzle when it is splashed on the pan surface. Moreover, avoid overcrowding the pan and moving the meat too often.

Other FAQs about Vinegar that you may be interested in.

Can you be allergic to vinegar? 

Can you be allergic to apple cider vinegar?

How to counteract too much apple cider vinegar?

Can I use vinegar to get rid of termites?

Conclusion 

In this article, we answered the question “How to neutralize vinegar without baking soda?”, and how to fix the common cooking mistakes?  

References

  1. Galletto, Luigi, and Luca Rossetto. A hedonic analysis of retail Italian vinegars. Wine Econ Pol, 2015, 4, 60-68.
  2. Marsh, Ken B., et al. Perception of flavour in standardised fruit pulps with additions of acids or sugars. Food Qual Prefer, 2006, 17, 376-386.
  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. Hanson, M. High Salt Detected by Sour and Bitter Taste Cells. 2013. National Institutes of Health.
  5. Cairns, A. M., et al. The pH and titratable acidity of a range of diluting drinks and their potential effect on dental erosion. J Dent, 2002, 30, 313-317.
  6. Samutsri, Wisutthana, and Manop Suphantharika. Effect of salts on pasting, thermal, and rheological properties of rice starch in the presence of non-ionic and ionic hydrocolloids. Carbohydr Polym, 2012, 87, 1559-1568.
  7. Madeswaran, Sathyasree, and Sivakumar Jayachandran. Sodium bicarbonate: A review and its uses in dentistry. Ind J Dental Res, 2018, 29, 672.
  8. Mennella, Julie A., et al. “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down”: bitter masking by sucrose among children and adults. Chemical senses, 2015, 40, 17-25.
  9. 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