It does not matter what you are making; a bitter tomato sauce can ruin the entire dish. Indeed, when your sauce is too bitter tasting, you can go from a delicious lasagne to a sharp unenjoyable mess to clean up in seconds.
However, there’s good news. You need not worry because there are some rules to follow that can help balance out the flavors and fix that nasty sauce.
Here’s how you can fix a bitter tomato sauce right now.
Why does tomato sauce taste bitter?
Shop-bought or homemade tomato sauce can taste bitter for a lot of different reasons. At least when it comes to causes. The main reason is that the tomato is too acidic, which creates a bitter taste and flavor.
Another possible reason could be that your homemade tomato sauce has gone bad.
Some herbs such as basil and even oregano can introduce bitterness to your dish when overcooked. Therefore, you should add herbs and spices to the sauce toward the end of the cooking process.
Picking the wrong tomatoes can be an issue, especially with homemade sauces. You can end up buying under or over-ripe tomatoes or the wrong kind for the sauce you’re making. It would be best if you opted for San Marzano or Roma tomatoes for most sauces. Both of the tomatoes above are types of plum tomato, an often overlooked variety of tomato by home cooks. Other kinds of tomatoes often fail to create a nice consistency for sauces, leading to people adding to a sauce, making it too acidic.
Shop-bought sauces are often full of low-quality ingredients, and they will always be hit and miss. Sometimes you can find excellent passatas, other times not. If you can’t make your sauce entirely from scratch, you could try finding a good brand of canned tomatoes, especially the plum variety. Remove the skins and as many seeds as possible as these can also add to bitterness.
Finally, you should avoid using aluminum pans and opt for stainless steel. Aluminum reacts with the acid in many foods, including tomatoes, which can ruin the flavor.
How to fix bitterness in tomato sauce?
To fix the bitter taste in your sauce, you need to balance out the acidity and sweetness. High levels of acidity in your tomato sauce are what cause bitterness in terms of flavor.
It used to be that balancing this out was done by adding sugar. However, this does not neutralize the acidity as well as this other ingredient—baking soda.
Baking soda is often superior to adding sugar in tomato sauce as it simply neutralizes the acidity without affecting the rest of the flavor.
Solution: Add either ¼ teaspoon of sugar at a time or ⅛ teaspoon of baking soda in increments to your tomato sauce. Do this until the tomato sauce is no longer bitter.
In the worst case scenario you can always opt for a tomato sauce substitute instead.
Does sugar reduce acidity in tomato sauce?
Yes. Sugar can help reduce the acidity in tomato sauce. In addition, the sweetness of sugar can further help to adjust the flavors to create a more well-balanced sauce.
Does butter reduce acidity in tomato sauce?
Yes. Butter can help reduce the acidity in tomato sauce. Products like butter, cheese, and other fat-containing products can help reduce the potency of different flavors, such as acidity and heat.