Adding Citrus Can Really Balance Out Spiciness

The adage "measure twice, cut once" applies to cooking too, a lesson learned if you've ever made the mistake of adding one can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce rather than one chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, as the recipe actually read (guilty). It is easier to add more seasoning when cooking than to take some away; however, even the most experienced home cook sometimes adds too much salt or heat to create an equally unpalatable dish.

While doctors will never taut the benefits of a high sodium diet, for good reasons, there are health benefits to spicy foods if you can stand the heat. According to a study conducted by the Harvard and China National Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the mortality rate is 14% lower for people who consume spicy food six to seven days a week, at least one meal per day. The British Journal of Nutrition also reports that adding chili peppers to meals can induce thermogenesis, the metabolic process our bodies use to break down food suggesting chili peppers can help you reach your goal weight quicker.

That's good news if you can handle the heat. If you haven't built up a tolerance for spicy food, then the only option is to fix the over-seasoning if you want to salvage dinner. Luckily there are several ways to counteract super spicy food, and depending on the ingredients in a dish, one is sure to extinguish the fire in your mouth without sacrificing the taste.

Adding an acid can balance out the spiciness

Capsaicin, the compound found in chili peppers, is responsible for that burning sensation in your mouth and your body's physiological reaction (sweating, flushness, burning) when consumed or touched. While medicine has harnessed that heat, measured on the Scoville Scale, to relieve pain, the feeling can be pretty unpleasant and painful, going in and coming out if your palate isn't used to it (via The National Library of Medicine).

Aside from chili peppers, adding too much wasabi, horseradish, black pepper, or Sriracha, amongst many other ingredients, can ruin a dish for the faint at heart. According to Eating Well, there are ingredients you probably have on hand to balance out the spiciness, beginning with citrus. Depending on the dish's flavor profile, adding a complementary acid like lemon, lime, or orange will neutralize the alkaline molecules in capsaicin, which is why limes and cilantro are often found on the plate in Indian and Mexican cuisines. Use the juice of the fruit in small amounts to quell the spiciness

Taste the dish and if necessary, add more citrus in small amounts until you can handle the heat. Other acids can also be used if you used your last lime for margaritas. Vinegar, tomatoes, and dairy can cut through the intense heat without altering the dish's flavor, preventing your nose from running and your mouth from feeling like it's on fire like magic.