9 Tips to Balance Out a Recipe with Too Much Vinegar

by Patricia R. Davis

Vinegar can be the perfect addition to a recipe, but there can be too much of a good thing. The acid will quickly overwhelm the dish if you overdo it on the vinegar. While this is less risky with lighter vinegar such as champagne vinegar, it can be a problem with stronger stuff such as balsamic vinegar. Here are nine tips to help you balance out a recipe with too much vinegar:

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Strain off the vinegar.

This is the easiest way to remedy too much vinegar, but it is not always possible — depending on what dish you are making. This approach is best when the vinegar or the sauce containing the vinegar has been added to a plate of mostly solid foods, such as meat or vegetables, that will be easy to strain. Place a colander on top of a word to catch the vinegar, then pour the food into the colander. Return the food to the original dish and add the vinegar or sauce back a little at a time until the dish finally tastes right.

Add a creamy element.

Acidic ingredients such as vinegar are often used to cut through creamy, fatty flavors — and the reverse can also be true. Adding dairy or plant-based fat might be just the fix you need to balance out too much vinegar. Milk, yogurt, sour cream, mayonnaise, avocado, and olive oil are all great options to explore, depending on what other flavors are already in the recipe. Do not be afraid to explore this option if straining off the vinegar is impossible.

Increase the sweetness.

Sometimes adding a creamy or fatty ingredient will not work with the recipe’s flavor, which is why the next best alternative is to add a sweet or sugary element. The sweetness will help counteract the sourness of the vinegar and make the recipe more balanced. Raw honey, agave nectar, maple syrup, and white and brown sugar are all good solutions you are guaranteed to already have in your pantry. You can also try adding dried fruits, candied nuts, and other toppings to add an element of sweetness if the alternatives do not work.

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Try adding salt.

While it may seem counterintuitive, salty flavors can balance excess acid (including vinegar) due to how your taste buds and brain interpret sour and salty flavors. Adding a pinch of salt might be exactly what your recipe needs to balance out the extra vinegar. Do not go overboard, though. A recipe with too much salt is just as much of a problem as a recipe with too much vinegar.

Dilute the soup or sauce.

If you are making a liquid dish, the easiest way to solve too much vinegar is to dilute it by adding other ingredients such as water or broth. This works best with soups or sauces you make on the side. It would help if you were careful not to water it down too much, which can negatively affect the final flavor and texture — but in a time crunch, this is a fast and easy solution for soups and sauces.

Increase the other ingredients.

You can apply the same dilution principles to other recipes, though in this case, you will need to add solid ingredients rather than just water or broth. Starchy vegetables such as potatoes are usually the best ingredient to add to a dish with too much vinegar due to their neutral flavor and the way they soak up the excess vinegar, but other components will also work. Keep taste testing throughout to ensure you get the balance of flavors back on track.

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Supplement with spices.

Very hot flavors like chili powder, cayenne pepper, and various hot sauces will add a kick to your dish and distract from excess vinegar. However, it would help if you were careful with this approach because these flavors are also very strong and can quickly overwhelm a dish when combined with extra vinegar. Add only a little at a time and sample the plate after each addition to avoid worsening your problem.

Skip other acidic elements.

If the recipe calls for other acidic ingredients such as lemon juice — but you have not added them yet — try adding the rest of the ingredients except for the other acids, and then see if the vinegar notes are still as prominent as they were. Acids build on one another, so if the dish already has too much vinegar, adding other acids will only worsen the problem. If you have gone heavy on the vinegar already, that will probably be the only acid your recipe needs (and even then, you might need to combine this tip with other techniques).

Experiment with a pinch of baking soda or powder.

If all else on this list fails, baking soda or baking powder might be able to come to your rescue. Both of these ingredients are very alkaline, which is the opposite of acidic, so they will help to neutralize the vinegar and make the taste more balanced. Because baking soda and powder can add a chalky flavor and texture to the dish, it is best to add only a tiny bit and continuously stir it to prevent lumps from forming.

Have you ever successfully rescued a dish to which you added too much vinegar? Got more tips for counteracting too much vinegar that we forgot to mention on this list? Let us know how you accomplished this kitchen magic in the comments below!

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