Chili sauces are one of the most popular combinations of spices and ingredients in the world. Used in delicious chili con carne, inspired hot dogs, spaghetti, tamales, tacos, and much more.
With so many types of chili sauce, there is no one recipe that people follow. However, they all follow similar guidelines, using similar ingredients.
One of the most common issues that people have is with sweetness – making chili too sweet. In this article, we explore why this happens and give you practical knowledge of how to neutralize the sweetness in your dish.
Why Is My Chili Too Sweet?
Most chili sauces contain tomatoes, sugar, chili, an acid like vinegar, and other spices such as garlic. These ingredients are what decides how sweet and spicy your chili will be.
Here’s what you should know about them.
– Added sugars
Many chili recipes call for either white or brown sugar, but you should be careful about adding in additional sugar as it is one of the leading reasons for chili being overly sweet.
You can use the exact amount of sugar that a recipe calls for, and it might be too little or too much depending on one or more of the other reasons your chili can be too sweet below.
You can use either too many tomatoes, the wrong variety, or both. This can be the cause of over-sweetness even if you’re not using additional sugar.
Cherry tomatoes are often sweeter than plum tomato varieties such as Roma or San Marzano Tomatoes. If you are using diced tomatoes, you should make sure you know which type of tomatoes are being used; otherwise, you might end up with a super sweet surprise.
Make sure not to use too many tomatoes, and remember you can always add more to the dish when cooking chili. A good rule is to start with less than you think you need.
– Not enough spices
If you don’t have enough spices in your chili, the sweetness will be uncontested and shine through above everything else. You should make sure that you add enough garlic and enough chili powder or fresh chili.
– Wrong ratios
It can be easy to get the wrong ratios of ingredients because you may not be able to follow a recipe to the exact specifications every time.
This is why as a cook, you want to become skilled enough to cook beyond the recipe. If you get the ratios wrong for any reason, like one of the above examples, then you need to know how to fix your chili.
How To Fix Sweet Chili?
Salt can be used to help balance out the sweetness in food, and that includes your chili sauce. Add a little salt at a time and taste as you go in order not to overpower your dish with salt because you do not want to trade one problem for another.
You can try using different types of salt, such as Himalayan pink salt, kosher salt, or sea salt. There are also spiced salts such as celery salt, garlic salt, and more. Garlic salt works particularly well with chili recipes.
– Lemon Juice
One of the keys to good cooking is acid, and your chili sauce recipe may already call for something like lemon juice, vinegar, or cooking alcohol. When your chili is sweeter than you’d like, you can add a bit of extra acid to the dish to try and neutralize the sweetness.
You should try adding half a teaspoon of lemon juice at a time, stir and taste test as you go.
– Spicy Ingredients
One of the easiest ways to reduce sweetness in a dish is to add spice to become the predominant flavor in your chili. However, since chili should be bursting with flavor, you should be careful how much heat you add. Regardless of what peppers and spices you’ve used for the chili so far, you can try adding a quarter of a teaspoon of chili powder at a time to the dish. Chili powder can be very spicy, and it works as a quick way to add heat to your dish without having to “back and forth” too much, which can spoil the overall flavor of your chili sauce.
Fats offer another great way to reduce the sweetness of chili. The fat works as an excellent balancing agent that also adds even more flavor. Many chili recipes outright call for fats such as butter and sunflower oil, but you can add some of the below if they don’t.
- 5-10g of butter
- Sour cream
- Grated cheese
All of the above can help neutralize sweetness in chili and are often called for either during the cooking process or after the cooking process for the same reason.
The tangy and sour notes reduce the strength of the spice, sweetness, and more. So don’t add too much.
Note: Don’t cook the sour cream or grated cheese if not instructed in the recipe, as it can cause texture issues or ruin the flavor.
Fixing your chili when it is too sweet is a simple matter of understanding the options you have. Preventing it in the future is about understanding why it happened. We live and learn, and that’s the fun of cooking!