Some people would argue that there is no such thing as ‘too much spice’ however we all have friends we cook for who may have more sensitive taste palate. So it pays to know ways to help them out before we even start cooking!
To take away the heat and burning sensation from spicy food in your mouth there are options from dairy based drinks to acidic foods or even starchy carbohydrates. The active ingredient in chili is capsaicin and it acts as an irritant to mammals, meaning we love it in moderation.
Having the tools to tone it down can save a burning mouth, so let’s look at ways to have them to hand.
How To Cool Your Mouth After Eating Too Much Spice
One persons mild and gentle dish is another’s mouth burning idea of purgatory. It can be hard to get the balance just right for everyone.
The active ingredient in chili pepper is called capsaicin and it will interact with the taste buds of most mammals to create a burning sensation. No permanent damage is occurring, however it can feel pretty intense at the time. We all have different tolerance levels to this active ingredient.
This means that my level of tolerance to chili is different to my friends. In order to have a harmonious dinner table it is a good idea to have a few of these tricks up your sleeve. You will see that it can actually be to your benefit as well, some of these options are real show stoppers!
1. Have A Dairy Based Drink
Not just a drink, but sour cream, double cream, yoghurt or a glass of cold milk will help to neutralize the capsaicin compound that is the chilis natural defense to being eaten!
There is a protein in milk called casein that is a fat loving protein and will literally wash away the capsaicin. Cleansing as it goes. So adding it in the form of dairy products like sour cream with chives in, or even as cheese in vegetarian curries is ideal to help moderate the heat when you have ‘too much spice’.
For more on the science behind this subject have a read of this article from Psychology Today.
2. Alcohol – Not Beer
Let’s talk alcohol!
Certain alcoholic drinks like beer or wine just do not contain enough alcohol to neutralize the effects of capsaicin. Tequila, vodka and other spirits tend to, even when added as mixers. Keep it as shots for maximum effect and even use the old slice of lime with your tequila trick. That will be a real palate cleanser.
Everything in moderation though and don’t forget that some of your guests may not choose to drink alcohol, but we have some really good options for them coming up!
3. Try Having An Acidic Drink
I am known for this in our family. I love tomato juice. No matter where we are going for dinner I will see if they have any available. Failing that a pineapple juice also works for me. To be honest the perfect acidic drink could be a bloody Mary as you can use as much vodka as you like as well. This means a double dose of cooing agents for your mouth.
Have a read here for a really refreshing bloody Mary recipe we love.
You can also try a squeeze of lemon or lime in a drink for a longer thirst quencher that also takes the edge off of the heat of spicy dish.
4. Add Acidic Foods As Side Dishes
Tomato based dishes with a lower chili content can help, like a salsa or even guacamole. The acid helps to denature the capsaicin and allows your tongue to receive less of that active ingredient that causes the burning sensation. The more acid the greater the relief. To a point. Once it becomes overpowering it can make the dish unpleasant.
Even a dish that has lemon freshly squeezed over the top can help to reduce the burning sensation. I remember eating white rice with oodles of lemon and lime slices squeezed on top when I was younger. Not recommended and a nice salad with fresh slices can work a little better if you have it prepared in advance.
5. Eat Some Bland Carbohydrates
This can tie in well with the sort of dishes we are eating. Rice goes with most dishes that have a sauce of wet component. This makes it perfect o soak up the juices, but also it sort of waters down the spice. I also love a nice side dish with chickpeas with a Northern Indian dish or pulses or beans with a Central American dish.
The bland level is up to you, and really I wouldn’t think you need to knock all flavor out of the dish! Just make sure to have one or two ‘warm’ dishes that don’t include chili as an ingredient. Perhaps the flavor is from ginger or garlic instead of capsaicin?
6. Sugar Or Honey
This one falls into the old wives tale category for me. Using sugar to neutralize the effects of chili pepper does work, when you eat enough sugar. You may find that you never manage to eat enough sugar and one cube certainly won’t make a noticeable difference.
I’m hoping that this article can give you a bit of a build up to get prepared for a hot meal and put some measures in place. But in a pinch and if you have nothing else to hand shove a few spoonful’s of granulated or castor sugar into your mouth and let it dissolve on your tongue. Icing sugar doesn’t seem as effective.
7. Peanut Butter Or Tahini
A bit unusual I know, but the oils found in peanut butter and tahini help to neutralize the burning effects of chili pepper. Rather than eating spoonful’s of the stuff, why not think about some traditional Middle Eastern after dinner sweets?
Ranging from the heavily honeyed and full of nuts Baklava to the rich and creamy Layali Lubnan which has double cream and scattered nuts to help cool your mouth. Not the perfect way to stop a burning mouth, more a gentle way to relax your slightly hot tongue.
8. Coconut Water – Not Water
Coconut water or coconut milk does not contain the protein that you find in the milk of animals. However it is not without it’s cooling affect and even holding a mouthful of coconut water for a few seconds can take the edge off for that time. We use it in place of water.
Tap water, soda water or carbonized water will exacerbate a mouth that is under attack from the heat of chilies.
9. Avocados / Bananas
If we think about a nice chili filled nacho we can often think about a guacamole with tomatoes and red onions on the side. It is not just the cool and acidic tomatoes that are playing a role here to cool your mouth but also the avocado. It acts as a physical barrier to your tongue as well as a creamy coolant.
I have tried a banana to help cool my mouth and to be honest it may work, but it tastes so weird that it is almost unpleasant to do! Trust me be prepared and have other methods ready to help cool your mouth!
10. Sadly Not Chocolate
I was advised to try chocolate once and really it only adds to the burning sensation. You would think it would work as you have sugar and dairy products in one go. But it is just a waste of chocolate. As a chocolate lover I am partial to chili chocolate though!
A Conclusion For Too Much Spice On Your Tongue
While all of these methods work really well alone, try to use them together as much as possible. You can cool your mouth from too much spice in some lovely ways, especially if you plan for it!
When I was young we went to Bradford for the first time and had some amazing curries, however the over riding memory was of the first time I drank mango Lassi. A mixture of yoghurt, fresh mango, sugar and cardamom it ticks all of the boxes for a cooling and refreshing drink after eating too much spice. Our favorite recipe is here and it really is one of those tastes of heaven.
A perfect treat for guests and even for those who do like their spices to be on the hotter side. If you make a jug of lassi and then combine with a few starchy and carbohydrate heavy side dishes then you are prepared to help your spicy mouth in advance! Or for those who like an alcoholic drink a double gin and tonic with plenty of lemon and lime slices is also a great way to kill off the capsaicin compound.
What Next & Further Reading