spaghetti sauce

Easy Fixes for Spaghetti Sauce That Is Too Sweet

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We all love making quick and easy spaghetti sauces for those nights when intense hours of cooking just don’t feel like an option. But, more often than not, in our tired state, we end up accidentally over-sweetening it!

Maybe you cannot relate, but it is still possible you have tried making a recipe that has ridiculous salt-to-sugar ratios. 

So, how do you easily fix spaghetti sauce that is too sweet? The easiest fix is to add an acidic ingredient or a creamy one. Both of these act as balancing methods. Then, you can also add salt to help completely hide the sweetness.

Today, we will have a look at the best ways to fix a very sweet spaghetti sauce! However, we will also look at a few ways you can prevent this common mistake entirely.

This way, you can have a perfect sauce every time, no matter how tired you are!

What Is Spaghetti Sauce?

Spaghetti sauce is a very broad and general term used to refer to a tomato-based sauce specifically used to make spaghetti dishes.

This term can also be used to refer to a bolognese sauce, which is another type of common sauce used to make spaghetti bolognese.

spaghetti sauce

What all of these sauces have in common though is the tomato part. This sauce is made using some form of tomato, chopped onions, minced garlic, carrots, and some herbs, aromatics, and other spices.

Using different combinations of these ingredients will naturally create different flavored sauces. And, many people even include other flavoring ingredients like mustard, sugar, honey, mayonnaise, and other vegetables.

The exact flavor of a spaghetti sauce will never be fixed in stone. However, there are a few things that will make it a good sauce or not:

  • Spaghetti sauce should have a predominantly tomato flavor. This flavor can be enhanced using tomato paste. Furthermore, fresh tomatoes will give it a refreshing and more authentic flavor than canned tomatoes.
  • This sauce should have a well-balanced flavor. You have to use some type of sweet ingredient (even if it is just sugar) to cut through the tartness and acidity of the tomato. Furthermore, the sweetness should also be balanced with savory flavors using spices and salt.
  • A spaghetti sauce shouldn’t be runny, but also not so thick that it doesn’t move. The sauce should have a thick consistency and some texture. But, the juices should allow it to easily flow over the spaghetti noodles.
  • If you do add herbs, always try to add fresh ones. They will add a much more intense flavor and will help better balance the sauce. Not to mention, you can use them fresh as a garnish to add some color to the dish.

How to Cut Sweetness in Spaghetti Sauce – 5 Effective Methods

So, here are the 5 best easy fixes for spaghetti sauce that is too sweet. We have used easy and extremely effective methods! And, you most likely already have all of these ingredients in your pantry or fridge!

So, what are you waiting for? Let’s get right to the best fixes!

1. Add an Acidic Ingredient

It is a well-known rule in professional kitchens that acidity cuts through the sweetness.

What this essentially means is that if you need to reduce the amount of sweetness in your spaghetti sauce (or any dish really), simply add an acidic ingredient.

Now, this can be anything from lemon juice, lime juice, vinegar, or acidic wine. Ultimately, whatever you have on hand will work well.

And, if you are worried about how the liquid will affect the consistency of your sauce, don’t worry too much about it.

You can easily simmer the sauce over medium heat to reduce the moisture content and get it back to its original thickness.

When adding an acidic ingredient, make sure to use small amounts at first (unless you are making a massive batch of sauce).

For a regular sauce recipe, only add about 1 teaspoon of acid at a time. Allow it to simmer for 2 minutes, taste the new flavor, and make adjustments if it is still necessary.

2. Add a Liquid Creamy Dairy Product

Another fool-proof way to cut down on sweetness for your spaghetti sauce is by adding a creamy ingredient. You can use a dairy one or plant-based alternative – as long as it is creamy. 

Some great options include coconut cream, Greek yogurt, heavy whipping cream, milk, or cream cheese.

Now, not all spaghetti sauce recipes contain dairy products. It is not even common at all. But, it will reduce sweetness and add a ton of creaminess to the sauce.

You should also not add too much at a time. When you do, you are increasing the volume of the sauce and making it runnier. So, we would recommend only adding 1/4 cup at a time for a regular sauce recipe.

You don’t have to recook the sauce after adding the cream-based ingredient. However, you have to mix it well before tasting the sauce again.

Only cook the sauce if you want a thicker consistency. And, do so over very low heat to prevent the dairy from separating.

3. Add Salt

Salt is also a very easy way to remove some sweetness from a sauce. It balances it out more than anything else. And, you can use any type of salt that you’d like.

Just remember that some salts are saltier than others—quite a tongue twister, but it’s true. For example, you should add a lot less Maldon salt or sea salt flakes than regular table salt.

With salt as well, only add a pinch or two at a time, literally! It is increasingly easy to over-salt a sauce. This is much more difficult to fix and can lead to a slippery slope of making adjustments and ruining it completely!

Add the salt, mix it in well, allow the sauce to simmer for a minute or two, and taste again before adding more.

4. Add Cheese

Cheese is a common ingredient added to pasta dishes, and spaghetti is no exception.

Luckily, it is also an easy way to adjust the sweetness in your sauce. Instead of adding it as a garnish, add it directly into your sauce and allow it to melt.

The reason that cheese also works well as a balancing ingredient, is because of its creamy consistency once melted. And, most cheeses have a slight tanginess or saltiness to them.

Ones that work very well (while not completely changing the flavor of your dish) are Gouda, cottage cheese, Parmesan (I recommend this one), and Cheddar.

Now, naturally, if you are trying to make authentic Italian pasta, rather opt for some traditional pasta cheeses instead of cheddar or Gouda.

5. Change the Flavor to Something Spicy

Last on our list, but certainly not least, you can change the flavor profile entirely and make the sauce spicy. It will reduce the sweetness!

And, before you immediately dismiss this option, you don’t need to add a ton of spice to hide the overwhelming sweetness!

Spiciness can be added in the form of fresh chilies, dried chili flakes, or chili powder (I personally prefer this one). Even some types of peppers will work. Either way, only add a touch at a time to prevent making it too spicy to eat.

Ways to Prevent Making Spaghetti Sauce Too Sweet

Now, while it is incredibly easy to fix and overly sweet spaghetti sauce, there are also ways you can entirely prevent making the mistake in the first place. After all, it is better to prevent a problem than try fixing it!

tomato paste

Reduce the Amount of Sweeteners

So, our first piece of advice is to go easy on the sweeteners. If your recipe does call for sugar, syrup, or honey to be added, only add half of the amount at first.

Finish cooking and seasoning the sauce completely before adding the remaining sweeteners. This way, you will completely prevent having to adjust the flavor afterward.

Substitute the Sugar

This alternative works well if you don’t have the required amount of sugar or if you simply don’t want to add sugar to your sauce. The main reason sugar is added is to help cut through the tartness of the tomatoes.

But, there are many other ways you can achieve this and not add to the calorie count. One solution is to add baking soda instead.

Yes, we know that sounds completely bonkers! But the alkaline helps balance the acidity—it’s simple science!

But, if you don’t want to add baking soda, you can replace the sugar with other naturally sweet ingredients like carrots, potatoes, fruits (citrus works great), and even starchy grains.

Add Tomato Paste

Now, you might be thinking we are crazy! But while tomato paste does have a very intense bitter flavor, it is often what is needed to cut through the acidic one. And, as it cooks, it develops a sweetness.

Tomato paste is easy to add and you only have to add about 1 teaspoon to a regular recipe.

If you’re looking for some new spaghetti recipes, check out this great video from the folks over at Tasty!

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