How to Neutralize Vinegar in Food

By Fred Decker

Strongly flavored ingredients are a double-edged sword for cooks. It takes only a very small quantity to add interest to a dish, but it's easy to add too much to a dish and overpower the flavors of the other ingredients. This is especially common with ingredients such as salt, lemon juice, chili peppers and vinegar. If you're familiar with the ways ingredients interact, however, it is sometimes possible to rescue the dish with a few timely additions.

Apple vinegar
credit: daffodilred/iStock/Getty Images
Vinegar is pleasant in moderation but harsh when overused.

Step 1

Neutralize the vinegar chemically by stirring in a pinch at a time of baking soda. Baking soda is a potent base, or alkaline, ingredient and will convert some of the vinegar to carbon dioxide. Taste the food after stirring in each pinch and repeat until the flavors are balanced.

Step 2

Offset the extra vinegar by adding small pinches of sugar to moderate the acidity. Stir the dish well and taste after each addition to keep from overcompensating.

Step 3

Add small quantities of salt to balance the acidity. Salty and sour flavors are interpreted by the same area of the brain, and adding one impairs the brain's ability to perceive the other. Salt and sugar can also be combined to increase the effect.

Step 4

Prepare a half-batch of the recipe, if possible, with the vinegar left out. Combine with the original batch and taste after stirring them together. The vinegar should no longer be dominant.