Tips on Reducing the Burn of Spices in Your Cooking

By BullEyes 5 Min Read

Have you ever taken a bite of a dish, only to be met with a firestorm of heat that sears your taste buds and sends you scrambling for a glass of water? While many people savour the heat and complexity that spices add to cooking, others may find overly spicy foods overwhelming or even unpalatable. Whether you’ve accidentally added a heavy hand to your curry or you’re trying to accommodate guests with milder palates, knowing how to dial back the spice can save a meal from being a fiery flop. Here are some practical tips for reducing the burn of spices without sacrificing flavour.

1. Dairy to the Rescue

Dairy products contain a protein called casein, which binds to capsaicin (the compound that gives chili peppers their kick) and helps wash it away. Incorporating dairy into your spicy dish can significantly tame the heat. Consider stirring in some yogurt, sour cream, or coconut milk, depending on the dish’s profile. Serving the spicy food with a side of dairy, like a raita or a dollop of sour cream, can also provide a cooling effect that guests can control.

2. Add or Serve with Acid

Acidic components like lemon juice, lime juice, or vinegar can cut through the heat and add a fresh dimension that balances the overall flavour. Drizzle a bit of your chosen acid over the dish or offer slices of lemon or lime on the side for individual adjustments.

3. Bulk Up the Base

If you’ve gone overboard with the spice, try increasing the quantities of the non-spicy components in your recipe. Adding more vegetables, broth, or even water can dilute the spiciness while also yielding a larger portion of the dish. For sauces and soups, a bit of tomato sauce or diced tomatoes can help mitigate the heat.

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4. Incorporate Sweetness

Sweet ingredients can counterbalance the heat of a dish. Consider adding a touch of sugar, honey, or even fruit like pineapple, mango, or apple to provide a sweet relief to the palate. This doesn’t mean making the dish overtly sweet but adding just enough to temper the spice.

5. Introduce More Fats

Fat can help coat the mouth and reduce the perception of heat. Try incorporating a bit more oil, avocados, or nut butters into your dish. For instance, adding a spoonful of peanut butter to a too-spicy curry can soften the heat and add a depth of flavour.

6. Serve with Carbs

Offering starchy sides like rice, bread, pasta, or potatoes can help absorb some of the spices and lessen the burn. These are not only effective in toning down the heat but also complement most dishes beautifully by adding texture and volume.

7. Remove Some of the Offending Spice

In cases where whole spices or chili peppers are the culprits, physically removing some of them from the dish can instantly reduce the heat level. If your dish is peppered with whole chilies, taking a few out will immediately make a difference.

8. Dilute with More Liquid

Especially effective for soups, stews, and sauces, adding more liquid (such as stock, water, or coconut milk) can dilute the intensity of the spices. Keep in mind that this might also extend your cooking time to reduce the added liquid to your preferred consistency.


Spice is the variety of life, but it’s all about finding that perfect equilibrium that satisfies your taste buds. By utilizing these tips, you can rescue a dish that’s too spicy, ensuring that your meal is an enjoyable experience for everyone at the table. Remember, it’s always easier to add heat than to take it away, so start with a lighter hand on the spices and adjust as necessary. With a little practice and some culinary creativity, you’ll master the art of balancing flavours in no time.

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