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Do You Have 'hOt PePpEr' Lips? - How To Put Out the Fire in Your Mouth

Updated on January 13, 2013
From kiss12 on
From kiss12 on


The new Hubber rep31552...sbcglobn asked HubPages how to correct the mistake of adding too many red hot chili peppers into a dish he or she had prepared.

Opinions vary about the procedures to use for this catastrophe of burning tongues, so a list of options present themselves for your consideration.They come from big city restaurant kitchens, home chefs, nursing home and daycare cooks, old wives tales; and some of them seem to work quite well.

Try one might, though, some dishes can likely not be saved, so a lighter hand at the red hot chili pepper shaker may be in order. See the suggestions below and try any you think will work for you.

Happy cooking!

Adding a glass of water to the dish may not be the answer. (From lockstockb on
Adding a glass of water to the dish may not be the answer. (From lockstockb on

Neutralizing Heat

One suggestion for lessening the heat of chili peppers in a cooked dish is to add water to dilute them, but this does not work, because water spreads the oils of the peppers that create the heat and does not eliminate them. So, for the same reason that we do not use water to put out chemical fires, we do not use water to put out the fire from hot peppers.

A Mr. Wizard style food experiment on Food Network in 2009 used several other ingredients against hot pepper tongue burn and milk was the most successful of these ingredients. Water actually made the burning worse. Milk or cream may indeed lessen the burn of the peppers in some dishes, but the dairy product may not be appropriate to the dish itself. If milk or cream is appropriate to the dish and the amount of chili pepper in the dish is not extremely disproportionate, then try adding small amounts of the dairy product and mixing well. A peppery soup can become a less-peppered cream soup, for example.

Wittenberg University in Ohio tells us that the capsaicin of hot peppers cannot dissolve in water, but will do so in fat; milk contains the necessary fat. This suggests to me that other dairy products will work: perhaps butter, sour cream, buttermilk, cottage cheese, other curd and soft cheeses...chocolate milk (appropriate to some Mexican moledishes) may not work because often, fat is removed before chocolate is added. Regardless, this list of dairy items present another range of modifications for a too-hot dish.

Make More

If you have used perhaps double the amount of hot peppers in your recipe than was required, make a second batch of it without peppers and mix together the two batches. If the prep and cooking time is long and you have guestrs wating in the dining room, this will be too long a delay and unsuccessful. If the prep and cook time is short, you will be grateful if everyone eats seconds or you can freeze the remainder of your delicious creation.

Sweet Relief

Some dishes that have become too hot with peppers can be neutralized by adding an amount of sugar or honey. This is particularly true of the hotter BBQ sauces and the various meat and/or bean chiles. Too much sugar or honey can be overpowering as well, so the sweetener can be added slowly, between tastings.

If a hot dish - or any dish - becomes too sweet, the addition of a little cider vinegar can help.

We find that the Scoville Scale of culinary heat provided by hot peppers was developed by beginning with hot peppers and adding sugar until the acid creating the heat was neutralized. From that fact, we know that sugar works.


Has anyone developed a "hotness thermometer" for peppers yet? I envision this to be some sort of test strip like litmus paper that one would insert into a dish several times during preparation in order to read a spice- created heat level. Int he electronic world, this might be a probe of some sort attached to a digital readout. Such a device could be a help. Searching universities, I found such a machine with the help of the mention of it on the TABASCO website (link, above right).

An example of one of the smaller models (image, public domain).
An example of one of the smaller models (image, public domain).


Some cooks suggest using large cooked potato chunks or thick slices added to an overly spicy dish to absorb the excess heat of too many peppers. This is a good idea and is used by some professional kitchens as well. In some curry dishes, smaller chunks of cooked potatoes can be simmered into the dish and left there, evening out and decreasing the heat.


Some cooks find that if they add canned corn to an overly hot pot of chili, the corn contrasts with the pepper heat to produce a pleasant taming of the spicy heat, Other home cooks cook the pot of chili down until most of the moisture is evaporated and use it for a starter. That is, they freeze half for another time and use the remaining half to start another batch of chili to which they need add no hot pepper.


I have not tried this one, but I suspect that adding cauliflower to a dish will absorb some of the heat into that vegetable.

Another cook suggets adding sour cream to a dish to offset a peppery disaster. That idea worked well for an overly peppery burrito I once made.

Some people suggest soaking up spicy liquid with fat chunks of bread, discarding them, and adding broth to the remaining pot of food. I have not tried this method;, however, if it works, someone might like to eat the spicy bread with a less spicy stew on top.  


In some restaurants, a cut lemon is provided with curry.With hot and spicy Mexican food, you often find lime wedges.

Either lemon or lime can be added to the dish to tone down the heat as well as to add additional flavor.

At home, try adding a lemon cut into quarters and simmer the pot of overly spicy hot food for 10-15 minutes over a low heat. A lime can work as well as a lemon, especially with chicken and pork.

A little sugar may be added to the dish if it becomes too tart.

Comments and Ideas

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    • philipandrews188 profile image


      9 years ago

      Nice and fun hub. I enjoyed reading.

    • Sun-Girl profile image


      9 years ago from Nigeria

      Nice and cool advice.

    • ethel smith profile image

      Ethel Smith 

      10 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Great advice but I am not a lover of chilli, hot or not

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      10 years ago from Sunny Florida

      Great suggestions as I like hot spicy food but not too hot. I am going to try yogurt and some of your other suggestions next time I get the food too hot. Thanks for the tips.

    • dallas93444 profile image

      Dallas W Thompson 

      10 years ago from Bakersfield, CA

      I wish I had read this hub when I was a child. It was a "challenge" to see which of us "boys" were the "toughest." We had to eat hot peppers and anything else that produce "fire" into your mouth. I tried everything... I know water did not help! Great hub.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      10 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Hi Sandy! great to see you.

    • Sandyspider profile image

      Sandy Mertens 

      10 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

      Great tips on putting out the fire in food. I like overly spicy food that doesn't always like me.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      10 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Thank you for the new comments! - Yogurt and sugar seem to really work.

      Dim - Never thought of marmalade, but sounds great and I did use grape jam in a hot burrito once.

      This subject is a lot of fun. :)

    • Dim Flaxenwick profile image

      Dim Flaxenwick 

      10 years ago from Great Britain

      Thanks Patty. Great info as always. My husband always uses marmalade!!!???

    • profile image


      10 years ago from Norwalk, CT

      Sugar kills the fire is such a truism. When I'm making spicy Indian curry, I'll often make gulab jamun, a very sweet Indian dessert made with lots of sugar and cardamom, to go along after the meal to help neutralize the heat in the mouth.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      10 years ago from London, UK

      Yohurt is the best to balance and reducing too hot dish.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      10 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Thank you, davidisaiah; that's another good idea!

    • davidisaiah profile image


      10 years ago from Klamath Falls, Oregon

      I have used yogurt at times to balance heat. I have used this instead of coconut milk in curries.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      10 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Fantastic idea, Jeff! Thanks very much for that one.

    • Jeff Berndt profile image

      Jeff Berndt 

      10 years ago from Southeast Michigan

      My roommate used to put chocolate chips in his chili con carne when he over-spiced it. It worked, too!


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