If you’re a lover of Indian food but sometimes struggle to handle the heat, you’re not alone.
There are plenty of people out there who really enjoy the flavors and authenticity that you get from Indian food, but the downside is that many Indian dishes have a spiciness to them that not everyone who isn’t used to it can handle.
How do you reduce spiciness in Indian food? To make Indian food less spicy, you can adjust the recipe to take reduce the amount of hot spices, substitute some spices for milder ones, add dairy or nut butter, or incorporate some form of starch to mitigate the spice.
Whether you get heartburn or simply are sensitive to spicy foods, you need a solution to still be able to enjoy this delightfully unique cuisine!
Lucky for you, there are always modifications that can be made to just about any dish so you can still enjoy the hearty and authentic flavors without having your taste buds burnt off.
In this guide, we will walk you through just what you can do to reduce spiciness in Indian food. We have several helpful tips and a step-by-step guide for toning down that heat,
You will soon be on your way to enjoying Indian food, minus the extra spicy flavor, so stick with us to learn how!
A Guide to Reducing Spiciness in Indian Food
Thankfully, if the natural spice of things like curry proves to be too much for you to handle, you don’t have to just grin and bear it.
While these spices bring with them the natural and unique flavors of many Indian dishes, there are things that you can do to try to tone down the spice without sacrificing the flavor.
There is more than one way to handle the heat. The most common method used is adding a nut paste, but some other common approaches include the use of dairy, starch, sugar, or changing the amounts of ingredients.
Let’s talk about each of the best ways to tame the flame!
1. Nut Paste or Butter
Probably the most common approach to reducing spiciness in Indian food is to use a nut paste or a nut butter to tone down the spice.
Most of these dishes have some form of nuttiness to them, so while it might seem like this could make it very nutty in flavor, it really doesn’t.
How to use nut paste or butter to tone down spiciness:
- Make or purchase nut butter or paste. You can easily find nut butters but you can also make them on your own.
- While you are preparing the dish, add a scoop or small spoonful of the nut paste to the dish.
- Allow the nut paste to cook or simmer with all of the other ingredients.
- The nut paste will tone down the spiciness and not be a dominant flavor in your food.
You can use either nut paste or nut butter. If you want to make your own nut paste, just use some peanuts, almonds, cashews, or even coconut and grind them down to a very fine texture. Mix them up with oil to create a paste.
This works to reduce the spiciness of chili peppers that are common in Indian dishes because the fat content actually neutralizes the spice slightly.
Dairy is a perfect ingredient for reducing spiciness and amping up the creaminess. In fact, it’s one of the main ingredients we recommend adding for toning down spicy chili as well.
While you can certainly cook your recipe with milk or dairy, you might also just be able to use this option by adding a dairy ingredient or a dairy topping.
Here are the dairy products that will tone down spiciness:
- Sour cream
- Crème Fraiche
- Cheese of any kind
If you want to use milk, it’s best if you are cooking it into a dish. In that instance, we actually recommend coconut or almond milk.
These are sometimes common in this type of cuisine, as it is because the sweetness of them allows for both creaminess and flavor.
It’s very common in India to serve yogurt with spicy dishes almost as a condiment or a dip to help tone down and neutralize the natural heat of any dish.
In the same way, you can top with or add in cheese or try sour cream as a condiment instead.
Using something with starch is another great way to reduce the spiciness. You can serve a starchy side dish or you can add some sort of starch to the dish itself.
For example, potatoes and sweet potatoes are both heavy in starch. You can prepare a suitable side or cook them with your dish and your spiciness will be more tolerable.
How to use starch to tone down spiciness:
- Prepare your dish per usual.
- Boil the starch if necessary (potatoes and sweet potatoes should be boiled).
- Dice or chop your starch of choice and cook it into the dish with the rest of the ingredients.
- Enjoy your dish with a little less spiciness to it.
If you are not a fan of adding the starchy item you decide to use directly to your dish, you can always prepare a side of some sort and pair the two together.
In addition to potatoes, you can use starchy foods like rice, pasta, or even polenta. Starches tend to be bland, so combining the bland starch with the bold flavors of the dish will really help you out.
People use sugar regularly to tone down things like acidic tastes or spiciness. It works the same way here. Adding some sugar will balance out the spiciness of the dish and sweeten it up just a little.
The trick is to use sugar and some form of acid like vinegar, lemon juice, lime juice, or even chopped tomatoes.
How to use sugar to tone down spiciness:
- Prepare your dish as usual.
- When the dish is almost done, add an acidic ingredient (lime juice, lemon juice, tomatoes, vinegar, or sour yogurt work well).
- After adding the acid, balance out the entire dish with the addition of sweetness. You can use sweetener, sugar, honey, or golden syrup.
- You need only a small amount of each. When combined, the sugar and the acid will neutralize the heat of the dish.
- Taste as you add because you don’t want to ruin the flavors; you simply want to tone down the spice.
You will still get to enjoy the same great flavor with a minor alteration. While the spice will reduce and the flavor will change slightly because of that, it won’t degrade the dish or make it any less flavorful.
5. Adjusting Ingredient Amounts
This last one is another simple option. Rather than adding different things to your dish and worrying about whether or not they will change your flavors, you can simply adjust the ingredients already present in the dish.
In this instance, you could actually add additional ingredients like vegetables to help offset some of the spice or you can simply reduce the amount of chilies or chili spice while increasing some of the other ingredients.
You can simply add a bit of broth to a soup or you can improvise with things like carrots, pumpkin, legumes, or even protein. In the end, you will want to reduce the chilies or any spicy ingredient as well.
You can develop your own flavors and balance here and create the dish to your liking so you get just the right amount of spice for you and whoever else you might be serving.
We hope that you found this guide to reducing the spiciness of Indian food to be helpful and informative.
You have several options that you can try to help cut down on the spice and make the dish more tolerable for your taste buds.
Not everyone likes spice, and that’s perfectly ok! Make an adjustment and enjoy the cuisine anyway. We invite you to review our question and answer section below for some additional information.
Is All Indian Food Spicy?
While Indian food is known for its traditional blends of bold spices, not all Indian food is spicy.
This also depends on your personal definition of what “spicy” means. Are you someone who can’t even stand black pepper in your soup, or are you the kind of person who would pour lava on your hot wings just to feel something?
Many Indian dishes have some sort of spice that may make it spicy to your tastes but there are, of course, dishes that are not traditionally spicy to consume.
And sometimes dishes that are usually spicy are made differently and without so much spice, with different regions and people preferring different flavors and textures.
If you want a traditional dish that isn’t designed to be spicy or hot in flavor, you can try dishes like dhokla, daal baati churma, dali thoy, malai kofta, or dahi bhaat. There are others as well but these are some popular solutions.
Which Indian Food Should You Try First?
We recommend trying some of the most common dishes like curry, samosas, pakora, saag paneer, or butter chicken. However, there are plenty of really great options to choose from.
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