How To Make Chili Less Spicy

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If you’re like us, you love a spicy chili. And that’s often a default state for many chilies, simply from the spices used in many recipes. The chili powder used in most chilies may include cayenne peppers, ancho chilies, or pasilla chilies, to name a few spicy ingredients. And some recipes may call for cayenne pepper powder straight into the pot. So it is possible to use too much, especially for family cookouts and parties where high heat tolerance is never a sure thing. Though, there is good news. If you’ve over-spiced your chili, there are ways to fix the problem without giving up and starting over.

Table of Contents

Dilute

The best way to tone down the spiciness of chili is to add more of the ingredients that are not hot, thus reducing the concentration of spice. In a chili, the easiest tool for dilution is simply to add more beef or beans, but more tomato can be effective as well.

If the chili is only a little too hot, consider diluting it by adding more liquid. Tomato juice, water, or a stock can be effective for this purpose.

Diluting your chili with a starch as another option. One traditional method of toning down spiciness in chili is to add a paste made with masa and water. If you do not have masa on hand, consider using pieces of potato to help absorb the spice. You can place the potato into your chili as it cooks, and remove it before serving. Both masa and potato can help to thicken your chili without making a significant difference to its overall flavor profile.

When diluting the heat in your dish, remember that you will also be diluting the other flavors. Be sure to increase the cumin, garlic, and other non-fiery spices in your chili to compensate for the dilution.

Add dairy

Not only can a dairy product help to dilute the spiciness in chili, it’s also the best way to curb chili burn if you’ve eaten an over-spiced chili. Dairy products are also typically bland, which means that they are not likely to clash with other flavors.

Dairy products contain casein, a protein that binds with capsaicin and helps to wash it away.

For chili, the most compatible dairy product is sour cream. You can either add it towards the end of the cooking time or serve it as a condiment to be added at the table. Add sour cream to your chili in small increments, tasting it until you have achieved the desired heat level.

Sweetness

Consider adding a very small amount of a sweetener like sugar or honey to your chili. You will want to keep the amount small so that the sweetener does not overwhelm the dish. No one wants a sugary chili. Sweetness can effectively cancel out the heat when used in moderation.

You can also add sweetness in the form of caramelized onions. In addition to their sweetness, the onions will add bulk to dilute the chili.

Acid

This is a trick that you see used throughout South Asian cuisine, where lime juice is sometimes used to balance the heat. Examples include Vietnamese Nước chấm, wherein an acidic ingredient is combined with bird’s eye chilies to make a dipping sauce. Acidic ingredients that can work in chili include lime or tomato juice. Vinegar can work as well.

Nut or seed butter

Peanut butter, almond butter, and tahini paste are also effective for toning down the spice in a chili. Like dairy products, nut and seed butters are able to neutralize heat without dominating the other flavors.


UPDATE NOTICE: This post was updated on October 10, 2022 to include new content.
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John

That is a good article. I was just making pastitsada, a spicy variant of pasta Bolognese, but from Corfu. Recipes vary, there are probably as many recipes as there are families on Corfu! I overdid the chili and it dominated. Some recipes said to add vinegar later in the cooking. I did, a splash of red wine vinegar, and it worked. It mellowed the heat of the chili, but retained all of the flavour.