Turn Down The Heat: How To Cook Spicy Food Without The Added Irritation

From sesame pork to sweat-inducing buffalo wings, people everywhere have a certain appreciation for spicy food. In fact, it’s actually the preferred cuisine of people from Nigeria, China, the U.S. and beyond {beyond where?}, according to a survey by Royal DSM.

Perhaps, though, you’re not one of those individuals, and the thought of all that heat gets you plenty agitated. Luckily, there’s a way to enjoy the unique flavoring and intensity of many spicy foods without burning your tongue. All it takes is a little culinary magic and you, too, can enjoy that four-alarm chili in no time.

The power of sugar and acids
Perhaps the easiest way to help mitigate a dish’s inherent spiciness is through the use of sugar and various acids, Serious Eats explained. Additions like lime juice, vinegar and lemon juice are great for neutralizing heat, and they won’t interfere with the recipe’s remaining flavor interactions . Though sugar can be just as effective as acids, adding too much of it can make a dish taste too sweet. The best bet is to use a combination of both sugar and acids. All of those helpful components can be found in many widely used fruits and nuts, including grapes, bananas, almonds and walnuts.

Starch is your friend
As The Kitchn pointed out, starches help combat spiciness in two primary ways. First, items like rice, potatoes, barley, bread and crackers absorb some of the capsaicin, the agent responsible for a food’s level of spiciness, and thus prevent it from entering the body too quickly. Additionally, these same starches can also throw off your taste receptors, effectively distracting them from processing the majority of that oh-so intense capsaicin. If nothing else, having to pair certain foods with starches can lead to more inventive recipe combinations.

Implement a better balance
Similar to the starch method, One Green Planet suggested relying on other ingredients to reduce spiciness. One way is to utilize only spicy condiments, like salsa, so that it’s not directly on the food. That way, people can dip their food into them as they see fit. You can also balance the heat with an ingredient like yogurt, sour cream or cilantro, all of which have varied cooling effects. These foods will help maintain the intensity of the spice while reducing the painful reactions.

Learn even more tips for channeling intense spice when you enroll in a chef training program.

Recent Posts