Sweetness is one of the five tastes the human palate recognizes. When a dish is too sweet it can overwhelm the entire palate, leaving you unable to taste much else or even enjoy the dish to the end. But, what is sweet to one person might not be as sweet to another; since every palate varies. Give yourself and your guests time to adjust to the flavors and slowly offset the sweetness until everyone is satisfied.
Salt offsets sweet, but it can also enhance the sweetness if it’s not used appropriately. Too little salt can make a sweet dish taste richer, but too much salt can make a dish inedible. When using salt, add it slowly and stir in between to incorporate. Then taste the dish before adding more. Other salty ingredients, including soy sauce, fish sauce or bacon, can be used to offset sweetness as well.
Acids are naturally sour, but they can also offset overly sweetened dishes. Use an acid that complements the ingredients of your dish. Some acids that you can use include vinegar, wine or citrus fruits. For example, a caramel sauce that is too sweet can have a touch of orange added to it to help offset the sweetness. Acids are overpowering, so add in small amounts at a time and taste the dish before adding more.
Herbs don’t offset sweetness, but they do help cover it up and add an additional flavor to distract the palate. Use a strong, familiar herb, such as garlic, oregano or onion powder. Use an herb that complements the dish and adds additional flavor, such as adding garlic to an overly sweet marinade.
You can offset sweetness by diluting the dish, especially if it is a sauce, soup or other liquid-form recipe. Dilute using flavored -- chicken, beef or vegetable -- stock, water or dairy to thin out the sweet taste. You may need to add other seasonings to compensate for the dilution. Add just a splash of your diluting liquid at a time and incorporate it well.
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