How To Cut Lemon Flavor From Any Dish – 6 Tried & Tested Methods

Lemon is an excellent addition to almost every dish. It helps brighten dull flavors.

But, it’s a strong flavor and easy to go overboard.

Read More: how to fix too much lemon in a dish

I’ve tested several methods of cutting lemon flavor and gone through my results below. I’ve included quick fixes (so you can fix that sauce RIGHT NOW), plus ways to prevent overdoing the lemon in the future.

To To reduce the acidity of lemon juice in a dish you can use baking soda. Add ¼ of a teaspoon per 1 cup of liquid. Stir to taste. Mix the sauce and taste.

A note about my experiment:

I used a broccoli and lemon soup that I prepared as my control. I divided the soup into equal portions and tried each method separately. I deliberately made the control dish more lemony to replicate the issue as you’d face it in a real-life situation.

Despite just using a soup for this experiment, these techniques also work when you’re dealing with sauces, stews, salsas, guacamole, you name it. You can even use them for icing sugar. They’ll also work just as well if you’re needing to reduce the lime flavor from your dish.

How to cut lemon flavor

Too much lemon can manifest itself in a number of ways.

Too much lemon can make a dish taste bitter, acidic, or tart.

You can do three things to cut the lemon flavor:

  • neutralize the acid
  • add something to mask the taste
  • dilute the flavor
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In this article, I go through six different ways to tackle too much lemon flavor in your sauce, soup, or any other dish.

Neutralize the acidity with baking soda (or calcium carbonate)

Bowl of soup with baking soda next to it
Baking soda neutralizes the acidity found in lemons

Lemon juice is an acid. Baking soda can be used as a base (alkaline).

Mix the two together and baking soda will neutralize your lemon juice. It will remove the lemony flavor and lower the acidity of the dish.

This is the only way to address the root cause of the problem. All the other suggestions are a masking of the problem.

A very small amount of baking soda is needed. ¼ of a teaspoon per 1 cup of liquid.

Too much and the dish will taste more like soap. Be REALLY careful.

Once you add the baking soda, the reaction begins. Some bubbles might appear. This is a good sign, as it indicates that the reaction has begun.

To Make sure that the reaction takes place evenly on the dish. Sprinkle baking soda all over the surface instead of just one area. After the bubbles subside, stir and taste.

Baking soda is suitable for a dish with lots of other flavors, but I probably wouldn’t add it to a drink or a thin sauce. There’s too much risk of it changing the taste for the worse.

You can also try calcium carbonate (available from Amazon). This is the same as baking soda, but it has less flavor. You can use it in any dish without fear. The health benefits of the calcium supplement are numerous.

Add sugar/honey to mask the sourness

(*6*)
Honey is a great way to counter lemon flavor in soups and sauces

If you were looking at a taste wheel, sweet and sour would be opposites.

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They don’t cancel each other out, but mix together to make a new, more pleasant flavor.

If you’ve added too much lemon to a dish, adding something sweet will help counteract the sharp tartness.

You have two options: honey and sugar. Honey will be best used in cold dishes, while sugar will be fine in hot dishes.

This won’t get rid of the acidity in the dish, and it won’t taste as it would have if you just put less lemon in, but it will still taste delicious. It cuts the perceived acidity (the lemon flavor).

Caramelized onions is a unique source of sweetness that I enjoy. They are a wonderful addition to pasta!

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Add some salt to counteract bitterness

Dish with a pinch of salt added to counteract the lime flavor
Salt helps to dampen lemon flavors by enhancing the sweetness already found in the dish

Maybe surprisingly, salt will also help to mask too much lemon.

I discussed sweet and sour and their interaction. Saltiness works in a different manner with sourness, but still balances it.

It reduces the bitterness from lemons by adding sweetness to other ingredients.

You can add salt and sugar simultaneously. Take a small bit of sauce out and experiment with it until you find a taste you’re happy with.

This will allow you to recreate the main dish.

Add some fat (cheese/oil/butter) to balance out the lemon

Stew with cheese added to cut the lemon flavor profile
Fats such as cheese, oil and butter help to absorb the acidity found in lemons

A good one for a salad or pasta dish is to add some cheese.

The cheese’s fat will absorb some acidity, giving the dish a richer flavor.

Parmesan is my favorite cheese, but you can use any other type of cheese.

Olive oil is a fat-rich oil, which will help to balance the acidity of a lemon. This oil is great for salads.

You can also use butter, cream, yogurt, or sour cream.

Dilute the sauce to cut the lemon flavor

If you’re working with a sauce or soup, you can dilute the lemon flavor by adding more of the other ingredients.

Increase the chicken stock, add more oil or water to make your sauce more flavorful.

This method allows you to make more sauce. You can save the extra sauce and remove it. It’s a win-win situation.

It will also work well with mayonnaise. Once the emulsion is made, it’s pretty stable. You can add oil to reduce the lemon and water to adjust the thickness.

You will lose all other flavors. You can remedy this by adding more of your other spices and herbs to the mixture.

Add something starchy

Soup with rice added to absorb lemon flavor and acidity
Rice and other starchy foods help to mask acidic lemon flavors

Adding something starchy is a good option for soups or stews.

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Starch is a component of potatoes, beans, lentils and rice. It absorbs some liquid. The starch basically dilutes the mixture.

Starch replaces the lemon flavor with something milder, but still delicious.

Overall, the dish is less tart.

One downside of this option is you’ll change the texture of your dish. The final dish may become thicker depending on how many potatoes you use or how many beans are used.

To This can be fixed by adding more stock or water to the mixture.

This works best when you are still cooking the dish. It gives the potatoes and other ingredients more time to absorb the liquid. The starch can be added to a final dish.

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Pureeing the rice/beans/rice first before adding it to the finished dish was the best way to dilute the dish.

How to add lemon to a dish without making it too acidic

I should have titled this section ‘how not to make the same mistake again’.

This is where prevention is key. You won’t need to Google this again if you don’t make the dish too lemony.

Add less than the recipe suggests starting with

Lemon is a strong flavor and can easily overwhelm a dish.

It’s also possible to be oversensitive to lemon, so you taste it more than someone else would. The same goes for chili. A dish can be too spicy for one person, but delicious for another.

You’ve learned the hard way it’s impossible to take out a flavor once you’ve added too much. But it’s easy to add more in.

Start with less lemon than what the recipe calls for and slowly add it in, tasting as you go. This will greatly reduce the chance of adding too much and having to perform a rescue mission.

Use fresh lemons over bottled lemon juice

Fresh lemon juice in small glass jar next to freshly squeezed lemon
Always opt for fresh lemon juice over bottled

Over time, lemon juice oxidizes and becomes less flavorsome and more acidic (sour).

Bottled lemon juice can be old and oxidized lemon juice. It is much more bitter and sour than fresh lemon juice.

Freshly squeezed juice of lemon will have the best flavor, but it won’t be too acidic.

It is best to not leave the lemon juice for longer than 8 hours. After eight hours, the flavor of the lemon will be affected by oxidizing.

Use lemon zest rather than juice

There are two parts of the lemon that can impart flavor: the zest and the juice.

Most people tend to go for the juice because it’s easier (and means less washing up).

However, for most applications, the zest (or mixture of zest and juice), is better.

The zest has a stronger lemon flavor without being too tart. The juice is MUCH acidic.

If you are asked to make juice again, add some zest. You’ll be able to notice the difference. It will taste fresh and not sour.

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