Whether you’re cooking a sweet potato stew or baking a soufflé, the one-million-dollar question is should you put some sugar or sweetener or add some additional flavors to it? Will it spoil the taste or add some more of it? Messing up the dish by adding unnecessary flavors is one of the most significant kitchen malfunctions that could happen to you.
However, over-salting the food is also not a good idea. If you are floating in this boat, remember that you can’t remove sweet or salt from a dish once you have already put it in. You can only balance it and it’s not even that hard!
Here we are with 4 of the best hacks on how to reduce sweetness from a dish:
Taste as You Go
If you check out one of those Gordon Ramsay videos, you will see how Chef Ramsay goes on to tasting and adjusting the flavors as he goes. Therefore, it only makes sense to learn from the best!
A dish can get messed up when it’s overly sweet just because you put a little more sugar than the original recipe asked for. Even a small pinch can entirely ruin the taste. If it’s your personal preference, then that’s totally fine.
Whatever the scenario is, it’s crucial for you to taste as you go. For instance, if you are making a stew or a sauce, if the recipe calls for ¼ cup of sugar or more, we’d suggest you begin by putting half of what’s been printed. While stirring, give it a quick lick to taste it. Proceed to add more if it really does need more sugar.
As you can see, the key is to add sugar with care. You can apply the same trick when you plan on putting something spicy like paprika or cayenne pepper.
There’s no harm if you don’t do that, but let’s face it – precaution is better than cure. And when it comes to sugar, it’s just a matter of balancing things out. If the sugar is under control, you still have the freedom to add more. But if it becomes too sweet, you will need to take drastic measures.
Dilute or Discard
If you think that your dish is too sweet and there’s no option left for you to fix it, what you can do is dilute it with some water or discard it. Discard may sound a bit too harsh, but here’s what more you can do:
- Double the Recipe
This means that you could add some more of the main ingredients and double the proportion. For instance, if you are making spaghetti sauce, whereby the recipe asks for two cans of crushed tomatoes. To reduce the sweetness, you could add 1 or 2 more cans of crushed tomatoes to adjust the flavor. In tune with that, you may need to increase some of the other ingredients too like your meat.
- Discard half
If you are still at one of the initial stages of the cooking process, meaning if you still haven’t added the main ingredient, one good thing you can do is discard some of the food or save it for later. Going back to our example of the spaghetti sauce, you could dump half of the sauce and then add fresh cans of crushed tomatoes. This way, you will cut half of the sweetness and total the volume of the sauce as it was before. The same goes for your cake or brownie batter too!
Balance Out the Flavors
Don’t dump everything just to start all over again! It’s not only a waste of food but also a waste of time and hard work. If you too are against throwing away food, try adding in new flavors to hide the sweetness. It’s not always adding a little bit more salt, how about adding a little sourness or spiciness to the dish (if it applies).
- Sour Ingredients
Generally, adding some lemon juice does the trick. It’s accessible and always available in your fridge. If it’s not a chocolate dish, you can add lemon juice to pretty much any recipe. The freshness of the lemon and the sweet tangy flavor will add a whole new dimension to your recipe.
If you can’t find lemons don’t go substituting orange juice! Although tangy, adding orange juice will increase sweetness too, so it’s not recommended. Red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar are some good choices as well. However, shy away from balsamic because it does have a little amount of sweetness in it too.
- Bitter Ingredients
Bitterness may already sound like a BIG no. But hey, not all recipes say bitterness is bad. You don’t need to add a large amount of kale, say, radicchio or arugula to add a little bitterness. A simple ingredient like unsweetened cocoa powder could be your ultimate solution. If you are working with two quarts of sauce, a single teaspoon of cocoa powder will work up your way. But do keep in mind that the sweetness will not entirely go away, it’s just a way of balancing it.
- Spicy Ingredients
Spicy and sweet does go hand in hand when it comes to savory dishes. We are sure you a HUGE fan of sweet and spicy chicken. Who isn’t?! So, whether it is chile peppers, ground dried chilies or just a single spoon of hot sauce, add something to add a kick to your dish! Again, it will not completely erase the sweetness, but it will add some more flavors to the dish. But do remember not to go overboard with the spices. Too much heat is bad news for your taste buds as well as your hands at times!
Add Dairy Products
This is a selective option. Turn any recipe fancy by adding some cheese or some heavy cream in your dish. We’d recommend adding some unsalted cheese to your dish.
Cheese is a versatile ingredient that hits it off with almost most of the dishes. And in case of curries or other gravy, sour cream or heavy cream is just what you need to balance out that extra sweetness.
Thinking of a healthier option? Did we forget to mention how amazingly yogurt works too? That’s right, whether it’s heavy cream or yogurt, all of them add another new extra flavor, enhancing the taste of the dish. And voila, you’re now a gourmet chef!
No Need to Balance Sweetness When You Cut off Desserts Completely, right?
Wrong. Desserts are an extremely important part of your everyday diet. Even when you are under a strictly planned diet, you need to take in a little bit of sugar in your daily meal plan. A no-dessert approach is not the key to stay fit! It’s high time you should break this dangerous mindset.
- Allow Yourself to Eat the Cake
It’s your colleague’s birthday, and you suddenly remembered you can’t have that cake just because you are in a crash diet. Understand that fat is not bad, neither are carbs. Restricting yourself to get that one slice of pie is not healthy. Know your body and bend the rules of your workout. Nothing can top healthy foods, but they can make you fat, too!
- Everything is Good Food
Even if you eat all the organic, no-antibiotic and grass-based food, you will still gain weight. A little bit of that sweet won’t hurt your diet. Extreme sugary foods are not good, but just a bite is not bad either. So, stop asking yourself whether food is good or bad for your diet.
Even Science Wants You to Eat that Chocolate Mousse
As per the research from the University of Toronto, a week without no chocolate led to extreme cravings. Therefore, an excellent way to control such cravings is to control the portion of it. Another study from Israel showed that having dessert in breakfast actually helps you to reduce more weight.
So what you added some extra sugar to your recipe by accident? Don’t discard it and fall in a pit of helplessness. It’s human behavior to learn as we go. The main to key to balancing out sugar is to understand what kind of recipe it is, and then adding the necessary ingredients to balance it out. Whether your dish is a savory one or sweet, or certain factors like which stage your cooking/baking is in will greatly help you determine how you should balance out the flavors!
- Sweet Solutions: How To Have A Guilt-Free Holiday Season – HuffPost
- How Sugar Works – HowStuffWorks