Bitterness is not necessarily a bad thing in a dish, but the best foods have an equal balance of flavors. If the bitter taste of lemon overpowers your recipe, there are simple remedies to cut the harsh taste. You can either neutralize the fruit's bitterness during the cooking process or balance it post-cooking by adding complementary ingredients.
Sugar or Honey
Sweet ingredients help to balance out the sour taste of citrus, so be careful not to skimp on the sugar or honey in recipes containing lemon. If your lemon dish is still bitter after cooking, add sweetened whipped cream or ice cream to the dessert. You can also add 1 to 2 teaspoons of honey, syrup or sugar to a lemon sauce, marmalade, vinaigrette etc.
Fats and Oils
Fats of all types add richness and provide relief from the bitter flavors of lemons.The butter in the shortbread of lemon bars, for example, offsets the lemon flavor of the topping. Add a pat of butter to any lemon sauce or lemon risotto if the dish is too bitter. The fat in whipped cream, also adds a rich complement to bitter lemon.
Other complementary ingredients are nuts, such as almonds, hazelnuts, pine nuts and walnuts, all which have full-bodied flavor. Herbs, including basil, mint, rosemary, and thyme, have bitter notes of their own that mute the tartness of lemons.
Lemon Rind and Baking Soda
You can experiment during the cooking process to reduce the pungent lemon flavor. For example, if your recipe calls for 2 teaspoons of lemon zest, cut that amount in half. If a recipe containing lemon only calls for baking powder, try adding 1/2 a teaspoon of baking soda to neutralize acidity while cooking.
Susan Lundman began writing about her love of cooking, ingredient choices, menu planning and healthy eating after working for 20 years on children's issues at a nonprofit organization. She has written about food online professionally for ten years on numerous websites, and has provided family and friends with homemade recipes and stories about culinary adventures. Lundman received her M.A. from Stanford University.