How To Make Chilli Con Carne Less Spicy: ANSWERED!

December 2, 2022
how to make chilli con carne less spicy

A big satisfying bowl of chilli con carne is a staple in so many households, but what happens when you accidentally make it way too spicy for your tastebuds? 

Maybe you’ve gone a little overboard with adding chopped fresh chillis, or you’ve accidentally picked up a variety that’s way hotter than your usual go-to, or perhaps you’ve just been a bit heavy handed with the chilli powder. 

Whatever the cause, the good news is that there’s a way to fix it and tone down spicy chilli con carne, even if you’ve left it too late to cut down on the heat in the first place. 

How to make chilli con carne less spicy

In a rush? Here’s the short answer… 

You can make chilli con carne less spicy once it’s cooked by stirring through a dairy product such as soured cream, adding some acid such as lime juice, adding more chopped tomatoes, adding a touch of sweetness, or by serving a smaller portion alongside some of your favourite blander side dishes. 

Keep reading to discover more about the food science behind why these methods work, plus practical tips and advice for salvaging your too-spicy chilli con carne and transforming it into a meal that your whole family can enjoy! 

1. Add some dairy (soured cream is my favourite!) 

Capsaicin is the oil-based molecule that’s found in peppers that’s responsible for setting those tastebuds alight. It triggers the pain receptors in your mouth, and whilst a little can be satisfying and enjoyable, depending on your personal preference and tolerance levels, too much can prove to be uncomfortable and even downright unpleasant. 

This is where dairy products come in. Dairy contains a protein called casein, and it can help to break down that pesky capsaicin. That means stirring through some natural yoghurt or grated cheese can really help to cool down your chilli. If you like the idea of your meal being a little creamy, this is a good choice for you! 

Soured cream is my favourite option when it comes to dairy that you can add to chilli. It’s tangy as well as cooling, and can add an extra layer of satisfaction to your dinner. 

2. Add some acid (lime juice is the top choice here!)

If you don’t eat dairy, or you just don’t have any dairy products in your fridge right now, another option for how to make chilli con carne less spicy is to add an element of acid to your meal. This helps to balance the alkaline of the capsaicin, which can in turn really cool down your mouth. 

But what does this look like in practical terms? The best choice here is a good squeeze of lime juice! This will have the added extra benefit of really bringing out the flavours of your other ingredients and giving your meal some zing. 

Alternatively, you could add a couple of splashes of wine, cider vinegar, or red wine vinegar. The acid here will do the same job. Just make sure that you add your chosen ingredient very gradually, and taste as you go. 

3. Add more tomatoes 

Technically, tomatoes are also an acid, so it’s the element of acid that makes this choice work from a scientific point of view! This one is such an easy choice though that I feel it deserves a mention of its own. 

If you need to fix chilli that is too spicy, simply add an extra tin of chopped tomatoes and return the pan to the heat, leaving to simmer until it’s at your desired consistency. If you don’t have any more tinned tomatoes, you can chop up and chuck in some fresh ones instead. I love the added texture this brings to the dish! 

As an added bonus, you’ll end up with a slightly bigger batch, so you can even freeze a portion or two so you’ve got a quick and easy dinner one evening when you just don’t have the time to cook from scratch. 

4. Add sugar 

A little bit of sweetness is another trick you can use to make your chilli less spicy. It absorbs the oil-based capsaicin, providing relief from the heat. 

A pinch or two of sugar works great, though you can also use a touch of honey or maple syrup instead. 

Just be sure to use a little caution here, and be mindful that being too heavy handed with the sweetness could also alter the flavour of your dish. You probably don’t want your chilli to end up tasting like a dessert! 

5. Serve a smaller portion with more side dishes 

If your chilli is a bit too hot to handle but you still love the flavour, you might want to try just serving up a smaller portion and adding plenty of your favourite side dishes to help you to balance out the plate. 

Think rice, creamy guacamole, tortilla chips or wraps, baked potatoes, sweet potato fries, cornbread, and a vibrant green salad. Adding a handful of options to the table and inviting everyone to dig in makes for a fun and informal meal, and it gives everyone a chance to build their own unique chilli bowl. 

Final thoughts on toning down a chilli con carne that’s too spicy 

Chilli con carne is one of those staple meals that you’ll want to enjoy time and time again. It’s quick and easy to make, many of the ingredients are those which you probably already have in your store cupboard, and it’s always a real crowd pleaser. 

Even if you have a favourite tried and tested recipe though, various factors can result in your meal being just too much in terms of heat. 

Keeping these ideas in mind will mean you always have a back up plan to help you to fix a chilli that is too spicy, or make sure that you can cater to a crowd even if they have difference preferences in terms of how heat the chilli is! 

Before you go, you might want to also check out my guide to substitutes for kidney beans in chilli con carne

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