My Homemade Chili Is Too Spicy. What Can I Do?

Three ways to save a recipe that's too spicy for your taste.

Photo by Clayton Junior

“Ack! I accidentally made dinner too spicy.”

Katharine Kovan, via e-mail

The fix: There are a few ways to tone down overly fiery food. Sara Moulton, a chef and the host of Sara’s Weeknight Meals on PBS, says sugar is an unobtrusive antidote—especially for soups, chilies, and stews. Add it in 1⁄2-teaspoon increments, and taste after each round. You can also dilute spiciness by adding more of the main ingredient, says Brendan Walsh, the dean of culinary arts at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. “For a stir-fry,” he says, “put in more starchy vegetables. If you’re cooking meat, add some more meat.” Another option: Plate the dish with a garnish of soothing dairy—like a dollop of cool ranch dressing alongside way-too-hot wings.

Have a disaster that needs solving? Share your problem at, or tweet it to @RealSimple, and be sure to include the hashtag #nowwhatRS.