Halt That Heat! How To Make Salsa Less Spicy

There are quite a few ways that you can wind up with an overly spicy salsa. For one thing, many recipes will tell you to use a certain quantity of chopped jalapeño peppers but omit the fact that jalapeños can vary wildly in heat. This means that even if you follow the recipe’s measurements exactly, you could wind up with a dish that is far hotter than the writer intended. Alternatively, you may have assumed that you had a higher tolerance for hot foods than you really do. Whatever the reason, you will have two options—to throw the dish into the trash can or to salvage it. Follow the tips below to learn how to make salsa less spicy.

Dilute it

You can tame the heat in an overly spicy salsa by increasing the amount of non-spicy ingredients in relation to the spicy ingredients. In other words, you can restore a balanced flavor by adding more tomato, onion, and cilantro. You can do this simply by making another batch and adding it to the first, or you can remove half of the hot salsa and add an equal amount of ingredients to bring it back up to a full recipe.

Either of those solutions should be able to reduce the spice factor by half. If your salsa is particularly thick, you may be able to dilute it with a little water without making it too watery.

Increase the acidity

To learn how to make salsa less spicy, you will also have to learn how other flavors influence the overall flavor profile of the dish. Acidity is an important part of the salsa flavor profile; you will have to change this component without altering the others. You can do this by adding lime juice, whether or not it was in the original recipe. This will add a delightful citrus note to your salsa while also helping to counteract the high concentration of capsaicin.

If you do not have lime juice, consider adding a little vinegar. Adding more tomato to the dish can increase the acidity slightly while also helping to dilute the heat from peppers.

Add sweetness

A tiny amount of sugar may do the trick if your salsa is just a little too hot. Note that you do not want to use so much sugar that you wind up with a sweet salsa, but a small amount can help to lessen the heat from spice. You can get the same sweetness from other ingredients if you don’t want to add sugar to your salsa. Consider adding a small amount of tomato paste, to give it a smoother and less watery consistency in addition to neutralizing the heat.

Add fried onions

Along with providing the sweetness mentioned in the previous tip, fried onions have another benefit—they add fat. Fat is another age-old tool for lowering the heat level in spicy dishes. Fat can help to break up the capsaicin coating that causes the burning sensation. The capsaicin bonds with certain nerve receptors in the tongue. The fat from fried onions can break that bond so that it does not linger as long.

Serve it with sour cream

Dairy is one of the time-tested ingredients for cutting the heat in spicy foods and salsa is no different. While it is not exactly the most authentically Latin American solution for excessive spice, serving your salsa with sour cream can help to neutralize the heat from capsaicin. The sour cream contains fat and serves as a diluent for the salsa, both of which help to reduce its heat.

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UPDATE NOTICE: This post was updated on July 20, 2022 to include new content.
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