The home chef's worst nightmare is when a dish tastes too sweet. Luckily for Oola readers, we've rounded up some of the best ways to neutralize sugar in your favorite fares. First we will discuss how to appropriately fix cooking errors if they do happen, then finally we'll cover some common culinary mistakes, while adding some general tips to avoid over-sweetening. Read on for our tried-and-tips to battle the sweet.
One possible way to solve your sweetening problem is with diluting your meal. Consider doubling the recipe without adding the sweet elements then tasting it again. This may solve your problem, give you extra leftovers, or set you up for some helpful overflow to freeze for later use.
Another consideration is adding additional ingredients to make your dish or sauce more robust but again not adding the sugar. Experiment with taste and texture until it is able to be saved. For example, if your spaghetti sauce is too sweet, add an additional teaspoon of chili powder for a smoky element and add another can of crushed tomato for a hit of acidity. These additions can help dilute the too sweet flavor of most dishes.
Another option is to balance sweetness with spiciness. Consider adding an ingredient with some heat to better balance the flavor profile of your dish. Some examples would be chili peppers, hot sauce, or dried spices like crushed red pepper or cayenne pepper. Be sure to add in small ingredients so your food doesn't end up too sweet AND too spicy to be palatable.
Adding dairy to overtly sweetened dishes can sometimes be a solution. Particularly in savory dishes, certain dairy items can provide much needed balance. Like if your pasta is in a pinch, a sharp cheese like Parmesan can offer a different flavor than too sweet. Or, if your recipe calls for sweetened vanilla almond milk, you can substitute an unsweetened variety in the hopes of removing some sugar. Another example that's especially timely given the autumnal season is chili; if your chili is too sweet, tangy sour cream or Greek yogurt are possibilities for additions. For an overly sweet dessert, add unsweetened whipped cream.
Our last problem-solving idea is to add bitter and/or sour elements to an overly sweet meal. Vinegars or citrus (lemon or lime) juice are some common sour options, depending on the recipe. If applicable, bitter greens like kale or peppery arugula can help with balance. A dry ingredient that is quite bitter and may help remedy your cooking situation is unsweetened cocoa powder; consider adding small amounts at a time then stirring and tasting to test.
Don't beat yourself up about messing up the seasoning in a recipe; it's one of the most common kitchen mistakes. Perhaps you misread the instructions, accidentally added sugar instead of salt, or forgot to taste as you go to avoid over seasoning. Another easy way to make an error is a faulty sugar container or spice top that fell off during measuring.
One more easy mistake is when using sugar substitutes; pay attention to if they are sweeter than normal sugar (like stevia is). If that's the case, you cannot substitute using a 1:1 ratio and must lessen the amount of sweetener added to not overpower your end result. Whichever way you erred, not all hope is lost. Just try out some of the tips we gave you, and your dish will be back on track!
We'll start with some common good habits for cooking to help avoid over-sweetening your food. As mentioned previously, it's a great option to taste the recipe as you go, so you can make sure it is hitting all the right notes in every phase of cooking; this helps to ensure you're not unpleasantly surprised with the too sweet end result.
Another key action that could make all the difference is where you measure your ingredients. It's common practice to measure over the cooking receptacle, but we suggest measuring over a bowl or the sink so it doesn't spill over and infect your dish. Start with these two tips for a higher chance of culinary success.
Overall, we hope to have set you up for continued success in the kitchen with our tips for battling sugary dishes. If salt is your problem, check out our guide for resuscitating overly salty dishes here. Happy cooking!