A little twist of lemon can lighten a heavy dish, cut through richness, and add distinctive zest. But too much lemon juice can make even the best recipe a bit too sour and bitter. Baking soda to the rescue! It’s the best trick to counteract the natural acids in lemon juice, bringing the pH level back to neutral.
Too Much Lemon
Lemon juice has the same acidity as mild vinegars like balsamic and red wine vinegars. This acidity makes a dish so sour your lips pucker. Because of the citrus oil in the fruit, it can also add bitterness, especially if you’re using both the lemon zest and juice. While it might seem like adding sugar is the way to rescue a dish with too much lemon, it only masks the bitterness and sourness with excess sweetness. Neutralizing the acid works much better to return the dish to normal.
Benefits of Baking Soda
Baking soda is a natural buffer. Buffers help keep a stable pH, making foods neither too acidic nor too alkaline. If you add only a little bit of baking soda to your extra-lemony food, it neutralizes the acidity. By bringing the pH level closer to neutral, your food becomes less sour and bitter.
How Much to Use
Too much baking soda can lead to a soapy taste, so use it sparingly. You need only a small amount—roughly 1/4 teaspoon baking soda for 1 cup liquid should be enough. If possible, don’t add salt to your food until you’ve neutralized the acidity from the lemon juice; baking soda adds sodium, which can increase saltiness.
Adding the Baking Soda
To make sure you add the baking soda evenly, sift it over the food that needs to be neutralized. When you first add in the baking soda, there will be some slight bubbling as it reacts to the acid in your food. Once the bubbles subside, stir or mix the food, and then taste it. Add more baking soda as needed, but only a little at a time.