How to Neutralize Red Pepper in Food

Overzealous seasoning with red pepper can ruin a meal, overpowering the palate with an unpleasant dose of heat. A dish that suffers from a heavy application of red pepper spice isn’t easy to salvage, but it may be remedied with a few clever additions. Whether the spicy culprit is chili powder, red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper, tame the heat by adding ingredients that neutralize spice, such as dairy products, nut butters, acidic juices, sweeteners and starches.

Spicy red pepper flakes on a wooden spoon. (Image: bhofack2/iStock/Getty Images)

Step 1

Add a splash or spoonful of a dairy product or a nut butter to an excessively hot dish, but exercise your best judgement as you want to select an ingredient that will not only tone down the spice but complement the dish as well. Try adding a few splashes of milk to soothe spicy hot soups or stir in a spoonful or two of peanut butter to tone down fiery chili. Sour cream and yogurt can be subtly snuck into casseroles, adding creaminess while helping tame excessive heat.

Step 2

Sift a spoonful of sugar into a too fiery dish to counteract spicy red pepper if dairy or nut butter doesn't do the trick. Likewise, a squirt of acidity can do wonders, but moderation is strongly advised as a spicy dish can quickly turn sweet or sour instead. Neutralize heat with lemon or lime juice in dishes where such acidity is complementary like fajitas. Sugar, honey or a similar sweetener also counteracts heat; try drizzling some honey or dissolving a few pinches of sugar in a hot stew. Better together, add a little sweet and a little sour to combat spiciness more effectively.

Step 3

Toss a starchy ingredient into the mix to rescue an aggressively spicy dish by absorbing some of the heat if dairy, nut butters, sweet or sour just aren't cutting it. Adding potatoes, pasta and rice helps lessen spice and adds more flavor and texture to the resulting dish. If potatoes aren't an appropriate addition, simply remove them once the dish is finished.

Things You'll Need

  • Dairy products (optional)

  • Nut butters (optional)

  • Acidic juices (optional)

  • Sugar or sweeteners (optional)

  • Starchy foods (optional)


Double the recipe, if feasible, omitting the red pepper spice from the second batch.

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