The secret to making a delicious meal is balancing the flavors so that it has the same amount of sweet, spicy, salty, bitter and sour. However, if the dish is too sweet, it doesn't mean it should go to waste. By tweaking the recipe or incorporating additional ingredients, you can get the balance right so that the sweetness doesn't overwhelm the other flavors.
Method 1 of 4: Adjusting the recipe
Step 1. Decrease the amount of sugar
If you are sensitive to sweet things, the amount a recipe calls for may be too much for you. In this case, adjust the recipe and reduce the sugar so that the flavor is more balanced for your taste. For example, if the recipe suggests ¼ cup sugar, use ⅛ cup sugar.
- If you don't know how much to decrease, start by adding a very small amount, like a teaspoon, and taste the dish. Add another teaspoon if not sweet enough. It's easy to add more sugar, but it's harder to balance the sweetness when it's already on the plate.
- If you're making a baked recipe, like cookies or cake, it's obviously harder to adjust while preparing. Sugar also affects the texture and moisture of baked items, so you should be careful when adjusting the amount in a recipe. Using 3/4 of the suggested sugar usually gives the best results, but do a test batch to ensure you are satisfied with the result.
Step 2. Use a sugar substitute
Artificial sweeteners are usually sweeter than white or brown sugars, which means you don't need to use as much in your recipes. This can help you gain more control over the sweetness of your food. Sucralose and stevia are ideal for cooking and baking as they are stable at high temperatures.
- Sucralose can replace sugar in a 1:1 ratio, which means that if the recipe calls for 1/4 cup of sugar, you can use the same amount of sucralose.
- Stevia is 200 times sweeter than sugar, so replace each cup of sugar with a teaspoon of stevia on your plates. If the recipe calls for a tablespoon of sugar, you only need 1/8 of a teaspoon of stevia. A pinch of stevia can replace a teaspoon of sugar.
- Some sweeteners don't react in the same way as sugar when heated, so avoid using them in recipes that involve heat.
Step 3. Replace with molasses
It contains natural sugars that can add a subtle sweetness to your dish, as well as antioxidants that are good for you. Replace a cup of white sugar with 3/4 of a cup of molasses.
- For best results, choose an organic natural molasses. Some types have a more subtle flavor, while others are stronger and thicker in texture, which is good for baked recipes.
- If you're using molasses to replace sugar in cookies and cakes, you'll need to adjust your recipe liquids by approximately three tablespoons for every cup of molasses you add.
Step 4. Use honey instead of sugar
Like molasses, honey can add a smoother, healthier sweetness to your recipes. However, it is sweeter than white sugar, so you don't need to use as much. For every cup of sugar in a recipe, substitute 3/4 cup of honey.
- In baked recipes, you will need to reduce the amount of liquids by approximately two tablespoons for every cup of honey used.
- Items baked with honey tend to brown faster than items made with white sugar, so keep an eye out for cookies, cakes and other sweets.
Step 5. Replace sugar with agave syrup
This item has a lighter flavor than molasses or honey, and the texture is finer than honey but thicker than molasses. However, like the other two options, it's natural, so it's a good alternative to white sugar. Replace each cup of sugar in the recipe with 2/3 of a cup of agave nectar.
- Because of the liquid consistency, you will need to reduce the liquids in the recipe by 1/4 to 1/3 cup for every cup of agave used.
- Agave recipes tend to brown faster, so reduce the temperature by about 20°C.
Step 6. Incorporate applesauce into baked items
Make your cookies, cakes and other recipes a little less sweet by using the natural sugars in apple puree instead of white sugar. This is also one of the easiest substitutes to make, as you can use the same ratio. This means that if the recipe calls for two cups of sugar, you can use two cups of applesauce instead.
- Use unsweetened applesauce to replace sugar, otherwise your recipe may be too sweet.
- When cooking with applesauce, reduce the amount of liquid in the recipe by 1/4 cup for each cup of puree.
Method 2 of 4: Diluting the recipe
Step 1. Add more of the main ingredient
If you've added too much sugar, you can balance the flavor by incorporating more of another ingredient to help make the dish less sweet. The easiest way to dilute a recipe is to add more of the main ingredient so the sweet taste isn't too obvious.
- If your tomato sauce is too sweet, add more tomatoes or tomato paste to lower the sugar.
- For a salad dressing, mix in more olive oil.
- If your chili turned out to be too sweet, add more meat or beans to help balance the flavor.
Step 2. Mix water or broth
In some cases, adding a little more liquid to a recipe can help balance excess sweetness. Water is an ideal choice as it has no flavor, so it will dilute the sugar without changing the taste of the dish. Chicken, beef or vegetable stock are also options if you don't mind adding more flavor to your dish.
- Diluting a recipe with liquid generally works best for recipes that already have a creamy or liquid consistency, such as soups and stews.
- If using water or chicken stock, start with a small amount to see how it affects the dish. You shouldn't just think about flavor, but also consistency.
Step 3. Use milk or cream
If you feel that water or broth will make your recipe too thin or runny, products like milk and cream are an ideal alternative. They tend to have a thicker consistency so they will keep the food creamy and balance the sweetness.
- Milk and sour cream work well in soups and sauces.
- If you are vegan or do not consume lactose, vegetable milks such as almonds, cashews or soy are good alternatives. Choose an option that has no flavor or sugar in the composition.
Method 3 of 4: Adding Acids
Step 1. Mix a citrus juice
Citrus fruits have a fresh, sour flavor that can balance the sweetness of a recipe. If your dish is too sweet, squeeze some fresh juice to counteract the excess sugar. It's best to start with a small amount, like a teaspoon, so you don't risk making your food too sour instead of too sweet.
- Lemon or lime juice works best to balance a salty recipe that has become too sweet.
- It's a good idea to squeeze the fruit into a cup or bowl rather than directly into the pan. That way you don't accidentally let seeds or pulp fall into the food.
- If a citrus juice is too liquid to add to the dish, lemon or lime zest can also add a little acidity.
Step 2. Add vinegar
Like citrus fruits, vinegar is an acidic ingredient that can add acidity to a dish to balance the sweetness. However, unlike fruit that can spoil quickly, you can keep a bottle of vinegar in your cupboard for years, so you'll always have the item on hand if you've added too much sugar to a dish. Start with a teaspoon and taste to ensure the recipe is balanced. You can always add more if needed.
Just about any vinegar can help adjust the recipe, but white, red wine, white wine, and apple are usually better
Step 3. Mix wine
Adding a teaspoon of wine to your recipe to balance the sweetness is similar to using vinegar as they are both acidic and alcohol-based. However, wine has a higher alcohol content, so boil the food to evaporate the alcohol if you don't want it on your plate.
You can use cooking wine to balance the sweetness, but whatever you have at home will do
Method 4 of 4: Adding Seasonings
Step 1. Add some pepper
Adding a spicy touch to the dish can help to minimize the sweetness, and pepper also adds some heat. Depending on the food and your personal taste, you can use black pepper, cayenne or ground red pepper to help balance the flavors in the recipe. Usually a pinch is enough, but try the dish to see if it's good.
Step 2. Add garlic
There's a reason so many recipes use garlic: it has a distinctive taste that can help to lessen the sweetness of a dish. Best of all, garlic is versatile, so you can add it to sauces, meat, fish, vegetables, soups and stews that have become too sweet.
- Fresh garlic cloves taste stronger, so they usually work better. However, garlic powder can also work. Start with a clove of garlic or ⅛ teaspoon of the powder and adjust to taste.
- Don't cook the dish for too long after adding the garlic, as it gets sweeter the longer you cook it, so you can end up increasing the sweetness of the food.
Step 3. Mix in oregano, ginger, basil, cumin or your favorite spice or herb
Any spice that adds heat or a smoky flavor is ideal to counteract the sweetness, so choose an option that complements the dish you're making. Fresh or dry seasonings can do, but start with a small amount and taste while cooking.
- Dried herbs and spices are stronger and more concentrated than fresh ones, so you don't need to use as much. Start with ⅛ teaspoon and add more if needed after tasting.
- Other spices and herbs you can use to balance the flavor include rosemary, sage, thyme, chili powder, and marjoram.
- No matter what method you use to balance the sweetness of your recipe, it's important to taste it while cooking. Add a small amount of the ingredient that should balance and try the food to see if it works. If you decide to add more, try again.
- Sometimes it helps to have a second opinion about the sweetness of a dish. It may still feel too sweet after tweaking with another ingredient if you've been tasting it all along. A friend or family member with a different taste can make sure you don't go overboard trying to balance the flavors.
- In savory dishes, cinnamon and unsweetened chocolate powder can serve to give a sweet touch. Try using them in sauces, soups and Mexican recipes.
- Don't use salt to try to balance the sweetness of a recipe. While it may seem like a good idea, salt helps emphasize sugar, which is why it's included in many cookie and other confectionery recipes.