Whether you avoid spice or are a heat-aficionado, we’ve all experienced a burning dish that was a bit too hot for comfort. And sometimes we just want to make sure the dishes we’re making for friends or family don’t get too hot. Luckily, there are some pro tips you can take to help reduce the spice levels of hot peppers and spicy dishes.
Some pro tips for making peppers less spicy include soaking them in water or vinegar, removing the seeds, pith, and veins, rinsing them, and grilling them first. To reduce the heat of a dish, add acidic, fatty, sweet, or bland and starchy ingredients to cut through the heat.
There are a lot of cooking methods and ingredients to prevent a dish from becoming too hot to handle. Next time you’re preparing a spicy meal, remember the 15 tips in this article to control the heat level.
Remove the Pepper Seeds, Veins, and Pith To Lower the Capsaicin Level of Hot Peppers
First things first, let’s talk about capsaicin. This is the compound responsible for a pepper’s spiciness. You know the painful sensation you experience when eating hot foods? That’s capsaicin at work. It binds to pain receptors which gives you that stinging, numbing sensation.
So, the easiest way to ease spiciness when eating hot peppers? Lower the capsaicin level.
Many people believe that capsaicin is stored exclusively in the seeds of hot peppers—but that’s not the case. To really lower the levels of this spicy compound, remove not only the seeds but also the pepper’s veins and pith (the spongy white interior) using a paring knife. Just be sure to wear gloves and avoid touching your eyes when doing this, so you don’t burn your eyes out!
Rinse the Sliced Open Peppers
You may not think that you can just wash away some of the pepper’s spiciness, but you’d be mistaken. Giving your sliced peppers a brief shower under the tap can eliminate a surprising amount of its heat.
If you’re hoping to make your dish a flavor bomb by adding peppers, reconsider this method. While a good rinse can rid your pepper of some heat, this will also cut down its flavor.
Soak the Peppers in Water
Submerging your peppers in a water bath is one of the most accessible ways to reduce the capsaicin content. While rinsing your peppers is a quick method for when you’re short on time, it drowns out the flavor.
If you have some extra time, try letting your halved peppers rest in a bowl filled with water for anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour. This method draws out some of the spice-filled oil that peppers contain, making them milder overall.
Keep in mind that you can always pull the peppers out early and taste-test them to gauge their heat level, but you can’t inject them with more if you’ve pulled out too much.
Soak the Peppers in Vinegar
Acidic ingredients like vinegar do an incredible job of neutralizing capsaicin content in a pepper. To achieve this, mix one-part white vinegar with three-parts water. It takes about two hours to reduce the heat, but you can toss the peppers in whole. The great thing about this method is that it preserves that lovely pepper flavor while taking the kick down a level.
Grill Your Chili Peppers Before You Add Them to the Dish
Many people claim that roasting or grilling chili peppers increases their heat level, but when you remove the seeds, pith, and veins, this is no longer true. Grilling your chilis before tossing them in your dish creates a more subtle flavor and softens the texture. Just don’t forget to remove the insides if you intend on reducing the heat level of the pepper.
Cook with Butter or Ghee
Here’s a little science for you: capsaicin is what’s known as a fat-soluble compound. This means that it doesn’t dissolve in water, yet it does break down in fat. That’s why gulping a cold glass of water doesn’t do much to relieve that burning feeling after you’ve taken a bite of a fiery dish, but a glass of milk generally helps.
Cooking your dish with a fatty substance like butter or ghee (clarified butter) cuts right through the capsaicin to minimize that burn.
Cook Your Spicy Dish Longer
There’s a sweet spot when it comes to cooking the spiciness out of your dish. Peppers release capsaicin as they cook, but it eventually disperses. Essentially, your food will get increasingly spicy as time goes on before it becomes milder. Cook your dish for several hours to achieve this.
Add Cheese to Your Spicy Dish
Just like cooking with butter or ghee, the same capsaicin-cutting logic applies to adding fatty cheese to your meal. Yes, we’re giving you the go-signal to add more of it to whatever you’re making (as if you needed an excuse in the first place).
For best results, aim for a high-fat cheese like cheddar, parmesan, or paneer.
Add Cream to Your Dish
You may be familiar with the popular notion of downing a glass of milk instead of water when eating spicy food. The concept of adding cream to the meal works in the same way. Again, the fat content in these dairy products helps neutralize that painful spicy feeling.
Don’t consume dairy? No worries! Try adding avocado instead for a similar result.
Add Some Lime Juice
Just like high-fat dairy products, a squeeze of lime juice can also minimize some of that capsaicin-induced sting. Lime’s acidic content can cut through the spice to neutralize overall heat.
You can also achieve this by dressing your meal up with lemon or vinegar to alleviate that burn. Use whichever flavor best suits your dish.
Add Some Honey to Your Dish
Mixing sweet and heat together creates a phenomenal flavor, and honey is the ideal ingredient for getting the job done. Adding in some honey can absorb some of the spicy oils in your meal.
Honey’s unique taste profile can bump your dish up a level, too. However, if you’re happy with your dish’s seasoning, gradually add the honey in, tasting as you go for both heat and sweet content.
If you don’t have honey on hand, feel free to substitute it with maple syrup or agave.
Add a Bit of Sugar
Does a spoonful of sugar help reduce capsaicin levels? You bet! Well, maybe not an entire spoonful. Try adding a small amount of sugar to your dish to neutralize those heat-packed bites. Depending on the nature of the dish, you may want to dissolve the sugar in some hot water to help this sweet addition disperse uniformly.
Add a Few Slices of Pineapple
Remember what we said about adding acid to a spicy dish to cut through the heat? Pineapple has enough acid to bring those pH levels down and get the job done.
If pineapple doesn’t make sense as a part of your dish, you can serve it on the side. Who doesn’t love a side dish? Plus, it’s a fun way to incorporate more fruit into your diet.
Add a Side of Yogurt
Just like other dairy products, yogurt’s fattiness reduces your dish’s heat levels. However, you don’t have to mix in this one.
Pairing your food with a side of yogurt is a fantastic palate cleanser and can provide that much-needed relief from the excess spice. This method is also perfect when you’re cooking for people who enjoy various heat levels since you aren’t adjusting the entire meal’s spice content.
Add a Side of Rice or Bread
It may seem too easy but serving your food with a side of rice or bread is a simple hack to reduce a meal’s spiciness. Rice and bread’s starchy blandness helps disperse the concentrated heat and soak up all the flavor. Best of all, pairing your dish with a side of rice means you don’t have to alter the overall taste and heat level. It’s perfect!
You don’t have to be a professional chef to tone down your food’s spiciness now that you have these pro tips in your back pocket. Next time you’re cooking with spicy peppers, rinse them with water, pre-soak them in a vinegar or water bath, grill them, and make sure you remove the seeds, veins, and pith.
If you need to tone down a hot dish’s intensity, try adding something fatty, acidic, sweet, or bland and starchy to cut through the capsaicin or overall heat.