If you’re like us, you love a spicy chili, and that’s typically a default simply from the spices used in many recipes. The chili powder used in most chilis 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 (yes, it’s true) to use too much, especially for family cookouts and parties where high heat tolerance is never a sure thing. There is good news, though: If you have added too much spice and your chili is too hot, there are ways to fix the problem without giving up and starting over.
You should consider diluting your chili with a starch as another option. One traditional method of toning down spice 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 flavors in your chili to compensate for the dilution.
Not only can a dairy product help to dilute the spice, the dairy itself can counteract the heat. 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 post 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.
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.
This is a trick that you see used throughout South Asian cuisine where lime juice is sometimes used to balance heat. Examples include Vietnamese Nước chấm, wherein an acidic ingredient is combined with bird’s eye chilis to make a dipping sauce. Acidic ingredients that can work in chili range 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.