The best chili is a careful balancing act creating a chili that is spicy but not too spicy.
I'm sure we have all been a little too heavy-handed in our seasoning when creating a spicy dish. In fact, it is easier to accidentally over spice dishes like chili which typically has a long-simmering time. When simmered for a long time liquid evaporates concentrating the flavors in the dish.
But don't worry if your chili turned out too spicy, it can be saved.
If you want a tried and true chili recipe with carefully measured spices try my recipe for Hearty Crock Pot Chili.
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Here are some of the best ways to salvage chili after you have added too much chili powder. Many of these tricks will also work for other spicy food.
1. Dairy Products
Capsaicin is the chemical compound in chili peppers that causes a burning sensation when you eat them. One of the best ways to counteract capsaicin is to add some dairy. Dairy contains casein that binds with the capsaicin and neutralizes it.
Popular sources of dairy for chili usually come in the form of toppings. Try topping your chili with a dollop of sour cream, Greek yogurt, creme fraiche, and/or cheese to tone down the spice level.
2. Add a Potato or Two
Another good idea for reducing excess spice is to add a couple of peeled russet potatoes or sweet potatoes to the chili. The potatoes will soak up liquid along with some of the spice as they cook. Because they soak up so much liquid and will release starch as they cook you may need to add additional liquid to the chili.
Remove the potatoes from the chili before serving, but don't throw them away. Mash them with some butter and cream to make some delicious chili mashed potatoes.
Sugar also helps to neutralize the heat from capsaicin. The good news is you shouldn't need to add much sugar to tone down the excess spice. Try adding a little sugar, brown sugar, honey, or tomato sauce (which is high in sugar) to balance out too spicy chili. You could also try adding some caramelized onions which will add natural sweetness along with another layer of flavor.
4. Add Additional Ingredients
Another simple solution is to add additional tomatoes, beans, or chopped bell peppers to your chili. Increasing the volume of your chili will help to diffuse the spice. This can be the easiest way to tone down hot chili.
5. Pair Chili with a Starch
Starchy foods' neutral flavor will help to counterbalance the chili's spice. One of my favorite ways to serve a batch of chili is over a bed of cooked pasta. You could also serve too spicy chili with macaroni and cheese which has the added bonus of introducing some dairy as well.
Potatoes are also a delicious complement to spicy chili. Spoon chili over a baked russet potato.
6. Add Fat
Adding additional fat to your chili will also tame its spice level. One of my favorite high-fat additions for chili is avocadoes. Mash one up and stir it into your chili or dice the avocado and add it as a garnish to individual bowls of chili.
If you don't want to add anything to the chili pair a bowl with a peanut butter sandwich. The starch from the bread and the fat from the peanut butter will help soothe your mouth in between bites of chili.
7. Add Acid
Acidic ingredients are great at cutting through too much spice. Capsaicin is alkaline, meaning it has a high pH number. By adding acids that are lower on the pH scale the two ingredients will neutralize each other.
A little acid will go a long way. For the best results, slowly add the acid in small additions tasting as you go.
The obvious acidic addition to chili would be additional tomatoes or tomato paste.
Other options include:
- Citrus Juice like Lime Juice or Lemon Juice
- Vinegar (red, white, or apple cider)
- Tomato Juice
How Not to Cool Down Spicy Flavors
- Don't add additional water to the chili. Capsaicin is an oil and everyone knows oil and water do not mix. The only thing additional water will do is make your chili watery.
- Don't add anything carbonated like beer. The bubbly sensation that comes from carbonated beverages will only increase the burning feeling in your mouth.
The best way to tone down too spicy chili is to add additional ingredients that either compliment and/or cut through the spiciness, such as dairy, sugar, fat, or acid.
The next time you make a pot of chili remember to add spices in small amounts. You can always add more spice later.
A good option when making chili for a crowd is to serve a milder chili and offer a variety of hot sauces so that people can increase the spiciness to suit their taste preferences.