Crushed red pepper (a.k.a. red pepper flakes) is a convenient way to add spiciness to a variety of dishes since it is easy to measure out. The heat is usually moderate but will quickly become overwhelming if you go overboard. Use the tips below to rescue your meal if you have added too much crushed red pepper.
The problem of a little too much crushed red pepper (as opposed to way too much) can easily be solved by diluting the dish. Just add more of all the ingredients except the red pepper and your food should be restored to a comfortable level of heat. Dilution can be expensive since it requires you to use more ingredients than you had planned. If you don’t want too many leftovers, try halving the dish and then making it back up to a full recipe with extra ingredients.
Dilution may not work if your crushed red peppers were unusually hot or you doubled or tripled the amount you were supposed to use; if that’s the case, try one of the other solutions below.
Wash it off
If the crushed red pepper is on the surface of the food the way it might be on a leg of lamb or whole chicken, just remove it. Place it under running water and wash the flakes away. In most cases, this should be enough to keep it from making food too hot. Re-season with other seasonings.
With soup or sauce, try using a fine strainer to get out the seeds and flakes. Taking them out will stop them from releasing more of their heat; if the crushed red pepper has already been cooking for a while, removing it will not make the dish less hot.
Dairy products are among the most commonly recommended tools for neutralizing excessive heat from chili peppers. The casein in dairy products will bind with the capsaicin that is responsible for the crushed red pepper’s heat. By binding with capsaicin, casein removes it from the tongue and disperses it. It works in the same way that dish soap removes grease on kitchen utensils.
Any dairy product should work; milk, yogurt, and even ice cream can be useful. You can add the dairy item to the dish or serve it on the side. For example, a curry with too much crushed red pepper may benefit from a raita on the side; a chili will be helped by adding sour cream.
Many experts recommend the use of acidic foods as a means of counteracting capsaicin. Thai and Indian cuisines do this quite well with the addition of lime juice or tamarind paste as a means of neutralizing the heat.
The tartness may help to break down the capsaicin and can balance out the heat. Acidity can come from numerous sources aside from limes and tamarinds, such as tomatoes and peppers; choose the option that is best for your recipe.
Adding a sweetener to a dish with too much crushed red pepper can help. It won’t directly affect the heat level, but it will provide an additional flavor to distract from it. The sweetener can be sugar but does not have to be. Consider agave nectar or honey if you need a liquid source of sweetness.
Alternatively, you may want to add sweet ingredients like raisins or other dried fruit that may be appropriate for softening the heat of some dishes. For a dish only a little too much crushed red pepper, consider adding a mildly sweet ingredient like caramelized onions.