How to Decrease Spiciness

How to decrease the spiciness of a chili I’ve already made?

​Everyone has a different level of spice tolerance. Some cooks will happily add several fiery habanero peppers to a stew without thinking twice about it. Others break out in a sweat when confronted with moderately spicy jalapeno peppers (or their smoky incarnation, chipotle peppers). Others reach for a glass of water when they spot a grinder of black peppercorns at the supper table.

Because one person’s perfect spice level is another person’s agony, it’s entirely possible to make a recipe to specification and find that the heat is too much for comfort. Making things trickier still, peppers are not uniform in their spiciness – buy 10 random jalapenos, and not every one will be equally hot. Other simple changes, like forgetting to remove all the seeds and veins from a fresh pepper before using it, can accidentally take something from pleasantly spicy to unbearable.

By the time you notice your chili’s heat level is off, it may already be too late. If your instant reaction is to throw out your chili and start over, there may be a way to save it, but it’s going to take some extra work. You can’t simply neutralize the spice; you’re going to have to dilute the potency.

If your chili is twice as spicy as it should be, the easiest fix is to make a second batch of the same chili but without anything to contribute pepper heat, blend the two batches together, then freeze half of it for eating later. Your second chili doesn’t necessarily have to be exactly the same as the first. As long as you double the overall volume of chili, you split the heat from the overly spicy batch between both batches. If you’ve got lots of beans but little meat left to make the second batch, work with what you have.

If you’ve made a major measurement miscalculation, more drastic action may be required. If the recipe called for a teaspoon of dried chipotle powder but you threw in two tablespoons of it, saving your chili from the garbage bin will require a different tactic. If it’s six times too spicy (as in the teaspoon versus two tablespoons example), divide the batch in six, freeze it, then add one of these six portions when you make a new batch of chili instead of using the hot pepper or spice called for in the recipe.

Treat an experience like this as a reminder to always hold back on things like hot peppers and salt that, if overly strong, can make your dish inedible. You can adjust the seasoning level upwards later (once served or once ready to taste), but you can’t easily take it back once you’ve put it in.

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