Tips on making over spiced soups more palatable.

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By Kathleen Purvis

Q. Two related questions: “If you make soup or chili too spicy, what can you add to tone it down enough to eat it?” And, “if you add too much pepper to a vegetable soup, is there a way to reduce that taste?”

A. In both cases, my first move would to dilute the soup or chili by adding more of the original base liquid, such as more stock or tomatoes. Some sources suggest adding a little sugar, particularly brown sugar, to something that is too spicy, but that would depend on the soup. Sweetness might not be a good match with the original flavor.

For too-hot chili, it also helps if you serve it with a dollop of sour cream. Dairy products are the most efficient way to cool the burn of chili peppers.

Now, on the peppery soup, pepper isn’t a flavor that is easy to neutralize. But I have found that a little acidity, such as a tablespoon or so of balsamic or sherry vinegar added at the last minute, helps to bring soup flavors into balance. So it makes sense that some sources suggest toning down pepper by adding the juice of half a lemon and a pinch of sugar. If diluting the soup by adding more broth doesn’t work, lemon juice would be worth a try.