How to Cool Down a Hot Curry | 10 Easy Ways to Milder Curry

So you’ve got a big Indian meal planned, but there’s a problem. I think it’s safe to say that not everyone wants a blisteringly hot curry… (even if you do). Or maybe you’ve just gone a little overboard with the spices? Either way, you are going to want to know how to cool down a hot curry. Here I’ll offer 7 simple tips that will help make your curry milder.

How to Cool Down Hot Curry | The Quick Answer

The best way to cool down a hot curry is to combine a couple of effective techniques to work in tandem with each other. Adding a few cubes of raw potato and increasing the volume of the curry is the most effective way to cooler curry.

Of course, you aren't limited to just a couple of techniques. Depending on the recipe you might want to employ a range of options to bring that spice level all the way down. 

Below, you'll find a table giving details of how effective each technique is on a scale of 1 - 10, with 10 being the most effective, along with some reasons why you might not want to use this as part of your heat reduction strategy.

Adopt a balanced approach, use a method that works well with your dish and learn from your mistakes, that way, your curry won't be too hot in the future.

Reducing Chilli Heat in Curry | Quick Reference Guide

Method

Effectiveness

Downsides

Use less chilli

10

  • Can only be done prior to cooking (so isn’t ideal)

Know your chilli varieties

10

Increase the volume of other ingredients

9

  • Can also dilute other flavours
  • Increases bulk of dish significantly
  • Can cause problems with flavour ratios

Add potato cubes

8

  • Increases cooking time
  • Adds prep time
  • Increases bulk of dish

Skimming off the fat

7

  • Only works with curries with high oil content

Add dairy

7

  • Not suitable for lactose intolerance
  • Some curry dishes aren’t supposed to be creamy
  • Possibility of curdling

Adding nut butter

6

  • Not suitable for nut allergies
  • Can affect flavour of curry
  • Changes texture of curry

Add acid

5

  • Can affect flavour of curry dish
  • Can make sauce watery
  • Doesn’t work with dairy (it can lead to curdling)

Add fruit juice

5

  • Can significantly affect flavour of your curry
  • Can cause watering down of sauce
  • Can curdle if combined with dairy

Add sweetening agent

4

Affects flavour of curry

What Makes Indian Curry Hot?

To understand how to stop something, it might make sense to see what causes it in the first place.

In 99% of cases, the main ingredient that makes a curry hot is a compound called Capsaicin. This compound is found in chilli peppers. This compound binds to a receptor called the TRPV1, which sends a signal to the brain telling it that something is hot.

More chilli equals more Capsaicin! And more Capsaicin means a greater feeling of ‘heat’ in your dishes. There is your first clue….

chilli in a hand

How to Cool Down a Hot Curry

Have you gone over the top with spice or mismeasured your quantities? The reason doesn’t matter. You just need to cool that curry down.

Here are 10 ways to cool down a hot curry: -

10 Ways To Cool Down A Spicy Curry

1. Use Less Chilli

Ok, this one might be a little obvious, but it is probably the easiest way to cool a spicy curry right down. It is also the cause of most curries being too hot in the first place.

But don’t worry, I don’t blame you!

Different brands of chilli powder can be fiercer than others. You’ll also find that newer chilli powder is much more fiery than old chilli powder. Adding too much chilli is easily done, especially if you regularly use a fixed quantity in your recipes.

If you are unsure, you have a  few options. My advice would be to use half the amount you normally would, and if you find that your curry is a little too mild, you can always add some more chilli powder later.

2. Know your chilli's

chilli cut open with seeds



It may or may not come as a surprise that all chilli's are not created equal. By knowing how hot your chilli is, you can avoid adding too much inadvertently.

You may find that a recipe only requires one chilli…

But the type of that one chilli can make a massive difference in heat.

The heat of a chilli is measured on the Scoville scale. This is an objective way to assess how hot a chilli actually is.

Here’s the difference that one chilli can make. Let’s say you make two curries. The first you make with a Fresno red chilli pepper, the second with a Naga chilli

Two individual chillis, two very different stories. The Fresno chilli measures 2,500 SHU on the Scoville scale. The Naga measures somewhere in the region of 1,400,000 SHU on the same scale.

What does this mean?

Basically, the second curry will be 500 times hotter than the first for the same ‘amount’ of chilli!

By knowing how hot your chilli is, you can make subtle adjustments to the heat before you prepare a curry.

Don't know your dragon's breath from your naga? Don't worry. Here's a quick  table detailing the various types of chilli and how hot they are.

Source:  Wikipedia

Chilli Heat Reference Guide

Type of Chilli

Scoville Rating (Highest)

In Simple Terms

Carolina Reaper

1,500,000+

Atomic

Naga pepper

1,000,000+

Nuclear

Ghost Pepper

1,000,000+

Scorching

Habanero

350,000

Very Hot

Scotch Bonnet

350,000

Very Hot

Birds Eye Chilli

100,000

Hot

Cayenne pepper

50,000

Warm – Hot

Serrano Pepper

25,000

Warm

Anaheim pepper

2,500

Black pepper hot

Poblano pepper

2,500

Black pepper hot

Banana pepper

1,000

Mild



3. More Volume | Add Ingredients

If you made a curry for one person and using a single chilli and made a curry for ten people using a single chilli, which do you think would be hotter?

The first, right?

So it stands to reason that by adding volume, you dilute the effects of the chilli. How you do this is up to you. More liquid can work, but I prefer to add some vegetable and a little more meat to pad it out.

If you are worried about making too much curry, don’t worry. You can freeze curry easily!

Things you could consider adding to your curry to increase the volume could include: -

  • More base gravy
  • Stock
  • Water
  • Vegetables (see potatoes below)
  • More Meat

4. Add Dairy to your curry

a glass of cool milk

Now here’s a really great tip on how to cool down a hot curry. In fact, it’s one of my best.

Adding dairy products, such as cream, to your curry will cool it down and make it milder.

You could also consider leaving your curry at ‘full heat’ and drinking a glass of milk with it.

The reason this works is that dairy milk contains a compound called Casein. This compound is what is known as lipophilic. It literally means that the molecules within Casein love attaching themselves to fat.

What’s this got to do with curry?

Well, remember how we talked about Capsaicin? Capsaicin has a huge tail made out of fat. The Casein in the milk grabs the tail of the Capsaicin and drags it away!

acid

Note: - you’ll read some guides that tell you to add things like coconut milk or almond milk. Here’s what I say to that…

Nonsense.

Coconut milk and other plant-based kinds of milk do not contain Casein! If the molecule isn’t there, it can’t grab the Capsaicin!

One of the hottest curries I ever had was a Thai green curry with plenty of coconut milk and was still blisteringly hot!

Want some suggestions for dairy that works well to reduce curry heat: -

  • Heavy Cream (be careful it doesn't 'split' in a hot pan.)
  • Single cream
  • Milk (full fat works best)
  • Creme fraiche
  • Sour cream
  • Cheese (either chunks of paneer or cream cheese both are a tasty addition)

Adding yoghurt can also work well. This is because it is an acid and contains Casein. Speaking of which…

5. Add Acid to your Curry!

Now we don’t mean anything too harsh, but a mild acid like white wine vinegar or a squeeze of lemon or lime juice can get your curry back down to a tolerable level. Be aware that you will be faced with diminishing returns, however. It’s no good making your curry turn eye wateringly sour instead of ridiculously hot.

Here’s why it works.

Capsaicin is what is known as an alkaloid, basically a strong alkaline substance. The best way to neutralize an alkaline is to balance it with an acid. A little lemon juice in your recipe will take the fiery edge off.

Other acids you can add to reduce heat include: -

  • A little white wine vinegar
  • Malt vinegar
  • Lime juice
  • freshly squeezed orange
  • Half lemons and limes
  • Buttermilk


6. Add a Potato!

Potato doesn’t contain any fancy compounds that stop food from being spicy.

So, how does it work?

Well, as potatoes cook, they become super absorbent and can suck out some of the chilli heat in your dish. Think of them like a giant sponge. You can leave the potato in our take it out at the end of the cooking process.

Want to know which are the best potatoes for curry? I've got a dedicated guide right here.

7. Adding Sugar to a Curry

As with the above adding a little sugar to your curry can sometimes work wonders. Sugar, in particular, forms a weak acid when it is diluted.

I’m a little sceptical of this one personally. I normally find that I end up with a ridiculously hot and sweet curry.

That said, there is a place for a hot, sweet and sour curry. If you’ve never tried one, check out my king prawn pathia recipe here.

8. Crack out the Nut Butter!

This is a tip I picked up from an Indian chef. This was his go-to solution when he had made a curry too hot.

Now, I need to be honest. This does work to make a curry less hot, however, its effectiveness is limited.

Also, you need to be careful. Nut butters can be dangerous for people with nut allergies, so if you are hosting an Indian dinner party, be sure to check with your guests first.

As to which nut butter you use is up to you. Here are some great suggestions: -

  • Peanut butter
  • Almond butter
  • Cashew nut butter

Aside from reducing the heat in curry, you'll also find that your curry takes on a really rich and creamy texture, especially if you use smooth peanut butter.

9. Add fruit Juice to Balance the Heat

Adding fruit juice is a great solution to reducing heat in your curry for a few reasons.

You can consider it a sort of two pronged approach, that hits a couple of boxes.

Namely...

You are diluting your curry, while at the same time adding an acid (not to mention adding a sweet element too).

There are plenty of curries that are made with fruit juice anyway. Often you'll find pineapple juice in particular used in recipes like Pathia, giving a hot and sweet taste

My advice would be to add a little at a time, to avoid overdiluting your curry and making it watery.

10. Skim the Fat

This might actually be my best kept secret in how to cool down a hot curry.

By skimming the fat you can actually remove a large element of the chilli heat.

Here's the science behind it.

Capsaicin, the 'hot' part of the chilli is, in fact, hydrophobic. This means it hates water. It is however, fat soluble.

So it hates water and loves fat, right?

Right!

If your curry is too spicy and is particularly oily, you can use the above knowledge to your advantage. By skimming the fat from your gently simmering pan you can cool your curry significantly.

Want to see how to do it?

Here's a quick video with a great 'hack' showing you how to skim fat easily, even if it isn't floating on the top! : -



What is the Mildest Curry?

If you’ve decided that you want no spice at all, the best bet would be to go for something really mild.

The mildest curry is a Korma or a Tikka Masala. The reason for this is that neither contains any chilli at all. As a result, there is no capsaicin, so no burning whatsoever!

What is the Hottest Curry?

You can have curries at the other end of the spectrum that will literally make a grown man cry.

The hottest curry is the Phaal. This is made with heaps of fresh chilli, spices, and even extra chilli powder. This means that there is loads of Capsaicin in the dish.

If you are feeling brave, you can check out my phaal recipe here.

As long as we make hot curries, there is always someone willing to give it a try.

Check out this nutter! 


Is Eating Spicy Curry Bad for You?

Not really, but it might make you feel uncomfortable for a little while. The TRPV1 receptors in your body are located all over, so if you go too hot, you might just be able to feel your curry all the way along its journey!

If you want to know how to minimize the effects of a hot curry the next day, check out my handy guide here.

Final thoughts…

Listen, it’s easier to avoid something than it is to ‘fix’ it. My main advice, when it comes to how to cool down a hot curry, is to avoid making it too hot in the first place.

Getting rid of excess chilli completely is practically impossible. The best you can hope for is to minimize its effects. Try using a combination of the tips above. Let me know how it goes in the comments below.


Enjoy Making Curry Yourself?

Hey folks, thanks for reading this article. I hope you found it useful, and that you learned something new allowing you to make your curry extra special. Here are a few things that can really elevate your curry game to the next level. 

These are affiliate links, so if you use them I receive a small commission, but this won't cost you any extra. In all honesty, I use very similar items myself, and wouldn't hesitate to recommend them to my friends.

A Complete Curry Kit: - Literally, everything you'll need to make curry all in one place. Cookware, storage, utensils, even the spices! This is my dedicated guide to getting you up and running all for the price of few takeaways.

Curry pans: - You need one, and one only. A frying pan exactly like this is really easy to use, and is exactly the type that authentic Indian chefs use to make the type of curry that you'll have in your local takeaway. You can see my full reviews of several pans right here...

Spice Storage: - Being organised is half the battle in making great curry. Spices can be notoriously hard to keep tidy. That's why I tend to use a spice rack like this. You can arrange your spices by size, heat, or any way you choose. I've got a detailed review of several Indian spice racks in this guide.


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