Sauce Too Hot? How To Make Sauce Less Spicy

| Last Updated: September 5, 2019 |

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Sauces can wind up being too spicy for a number of reasons including a cook underestimating the heat of chili peppers or one who mistakes one hot pepper for another. Whatever the reason, there are ways to get around excessively hot food without having to throw the dish out and start again from scratch. No single universal solution will lower the heat in all sauces, but there are a bunch of different methods that can try. Which you use depends on the recipe. Let’s break down how to make sauce less spicy – one is sure to help.

Note: In this post, the solutions we cover are for sauces like curry sauce or pasta sauce, not hot sauces (though one or two would work for hot sauces).

Add more of the non-spicy ingredients

The method that comes the closest to a universal method for taming spicy sauces involves adding more ingredients to the sauce. Look at the recipe and simply add more of all the ingredients that are not hot. Start by doubling the ingredients and then tripling them if the sauce is still too hot.

Doubling your recipe has some obvious downsides, including the fact that you may not have all the ingredients you need and that it will involve making far more sauce than you can use. If you need a more economical method, try one of the solutions below. 

Add butter or olive oil

The capsaicin in chili peppers is oil soluble, which means that you can lessen the heat by adding fat. If your sauce can handle some extra oil, try using butter or olive oil to dilute the capsaicin and thus make the burn more tolerable. With some dishes, you can add oil to the dish and then pour it off to draw out some of the heat. 

Add coconut milk

Dilute certain sauces like curries from Thailand or other parts of South East Asia with coconut milk. Coconut milk shows up in many recipes from this part of the world and will not detract from the overall flavor profile of the dish. 

Add yogurt

Yogurt is as common an ingredient in some parts of India as coconut milk is in Thailand. It also has the benefit of nullifying much of the heat that you might get from some Indian dishes. If an Indian dish is too spicy, try adding a little yogurt to it. The addition of yogurt will make the dish a little richer while also giving it a subtle and pleasant acidity. 

Use sour flavors

If your sauce can handle a higher level of acidity, try vinegar. Some cooks consider vinegar and other sources of an acidic flavor to be the most reliable method of making a sauce less hot.

Note that vinegar is flavorful enough that even a little of it can throw off the flavor profile of a delicate sauce. Use it carefully. Other ingredients that you can use to provide the tart flavor profile include tamarind and lemon or lime juice. Tamarind is more suitable for use in Indian dishes than it would be in most Western preparations. 

Add a sweetener

Sweeteners like sugar and honey make an overly hot sauce milder in a similar way to vinegar. A sweetener can dilute the sauce and strong sweetness provides a kind of distraction from the heat.

Add alcohol

Note this method will not work with heat from chili peppers. If your sauce is spicy because of too much black or white pepper rather than capsaicin, alcohol may help. The piperine that makes black and white pepper hot is soluble in alcohol. Add wine or some other spirit to reduce the heat. 

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Amy D.
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Amy D.

I am frequently faced with foods that are too spicy for me, since I am a relative wimp. I usually just leave the sauce/dish as is, and then eat it topped with full-fat sour cream (my go-to for lowering heat…not always a traditional choice, depending on the culture, but it ALWAYS works) or full-fat cottage cheese. I never feel yogurt has sufficient butterfat to tame spice.

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