Even the best cooks can get distracted or accidentally employ a heavy hand with seasoning. Or perhaps you followed a recipe precisely only to discover the suggested amount of salt misaligns with your taste buds’ preference.
No need to toss the entire meal. You can save it by balancing spices with more fat, acid, or sweetness. In many cases, such as with soups and stews, you can bulk up the recipe with more vegetables or dilute it with more broth. Adding more grains or potatoes can mellow the flavors of salads and pilafs. These specific remedies can help you fix common overseasoning dilemmas.
1. Too salty?
Add more unseasoned liquid, mix in more vegetables with neutral flavors (think lettuce, spinach, zucchini), or mask the saltiness with acid from lemon juice or white-wine vinegar.
2. Too spicy?
Neutralize the zing with fat (olive oil, butter or ghee, and coconut oil are good options); milk, yogurt, or sour cream; or nondairy milk, such as cashew or coconut. Certain recipes can benefit from nut butters or avocado. If it’s still too spicy, tame the dish with sweetness from honey, maple syrup, or molasses.
3. Too bitter?
Add some salt. “Though we typically turn to sugar to balance out bitter flavors in a sauce or soup, it turns out that salt masks bitterness much more effectively than sugar,” writes chef Samin Nosrat in her book Salt Fat Acid Heat. Just be sure to add slowly and sample as you go — a good reminder for all chefs and all recipes.
4. Too acidic?
Add a fat or a sweetener.
5. Too sweet?
Add an acid, such as lemon or lime juice or vinegar.