I’ll admit something I’m not proud of: I go overboard with lemon juice when trying any new recipe. The tangy flavors that lemon lends to any dish – I think there’s nothing that can go wrong (at least, initially!).
So, more often than not, I end up botching the recipe and scrambling my way around to save the dish. So, over the years, I have learned a few tricks (more like lessons) on how to counteract too much lemon in sauce, pasta, guacamole, hummus, and whatnot!
And this article here is going to entail pretty much everything I know on the topic. So, let’s begin!
Table Of Content
Too Much Lemon In Sauce? 6 Ways To Fix It!
You can add baking soda to neutralize the excess acidity from lemon in the sauce. Start by adding ¼ of a teaspoon per 1 cup of the sauce. Some other easy ways to mask lemony flavors are to add sugar or honey, mashed orange zest, or some salt and fat.
I Conducted A Small Experiment To Find Out The Best Way To Cut Lemon Flavor
So, I made a lemon and garlic butter sauce and deliberately went overboard on the lemon.
I divided the soup into 6 equal servings and tried different methods to fix them. Here’s what I did:
- Added baking soda
- Added something sweet
- Added salt
- Added butter
- Added something starchy
- Diluted the sauce
Too much lemon in the sauce can present itself in a number of ways. The dish can turn too acidic, sour, tart, or even bitter. Luckily, all of these mishaps can be fixed in no time. 🙂
Which Method Worked The Best To Counter Too Much Lemon In Sauce?
Adding a pinch of baking soda worked the best for this particular lemon and garlic butter sauce recipe. It instantly neutralized the acid without compromising the flavors. However, take it slow while adding the baking soda – too much of it can make your sauce foamy.
Adding sweet and salty components also turned out well. The taste was somewhat distorted, but they did a good job masking the lemon flavor.
Fatty and starchy addition didn’t work particularly well for this recipe as they dampened some other flavors too. The sauce was already buttery, so I didn’t add too much butter. And potatoes didn’t absorb the tangy flavors as much as I’d hoped.
But I’m sure butter and potatoes will work well for stew, gravy, salsa, curry, and guacamole, among other things!
The wise choice here would be to try the chosen method on a small sample of the dish first. Then, once you find out what technique works well, you can always scale it up for your main dish.
Now, let’s have an in-depth look at the different techniques I used.
Adding Baking Soda
Works best to neutralize the acidity without altering the flavor
As a matter of fact, adding baking soda is the only method that tackles the problem at its core. The rest of the solutions presented here simply mask the taste.
Well, lemon juice is acidic. And baking soda is a base (alkaline). So when you mix these two together, the baking soda will neutralize the lemon juice and get rid of the tangy flavor by reducing the dish’s pH level.
How Much Baking Soda To Add To The Sauce?
Remember, a little goes a long way. If you add too much baking soda, the dish will become foamy and even taste like soap! There are plenty of leeways here depending on the sauce’s flavors and quantity, but I’d recommend adding a quarter of a teaspoon per 1 cup.
If the sauce is too thin to begin with, add even less soda as it will change the taste and texture quite profusely. Or you can give baking soda a pass and use a bit of calcium carbonate. It works just as well as baking soda without changing the taste.
Well, the added calcium will also impart some health benefits.
As soon as you add baking soda, the dish’s texture will change. You’ll see some bubbles forming. This is a good sign – it means baking soda is doing its work.
Note: To ensure the reaction is spread evenly across the dish, don’t dump it all in one spot. Instead, you’d want to sprinkle baking soda over the entire surface!
Adding Something Sweet
Works best to mask the sourness
Adding something sweet is the first thing that comes to my mind when I add a bit much lemon juice. I’m sure that’s what most of you think of too. Luckily for us, this method works brilliantly.
Have you ever noticed that the sweet and sour are at opposite sides of the taste wheel? So, they don’t cancel each other per se but blend together to remove the tartness and create a brand new, pleasant flavor.
The two go-to choices of sweeteners would be sugar and honey. If you’re feeling experimental, you could also try using maple syrup.
If your sauce is hot enough, you can add granulated sugar and let it sit for some time to melt. If the sauce is cold, you can’t work your way out with granulated sugar. You’ll need to use sugar in liquid form or simply honey.
It’s important to note that adding something sweet won’t lower the sauce’s acidity. Frankly, it won’t taste as it would have if you had put less lemon juice in the first place.
But don’t worry – it will taste delicious.
Depending on the sauce, you could also add some unconventional choice of sweeteners like caramelized onions, grated carrots, and crushed raisins.
How Much Sugar Or Honey To Add To The Sauce?
Once again, start by adding a quarter of a teaspoon of honey or sugar at a time. Stir the sauce and taste to see if you’ve achieved the desired result. If not, add some more.
Adding Some Salt
Works best to counter the bitterness
Just like baking soda, salt is an excellent acid-neutralizer. As long as you channel moderation, salt’s basicity will easily cancel out excess acidity in the dish without altering the flavors too much.
Salt reacts with sourness primarily to remove bitterness from the sauce. It dampens the bitterness of lemon juice by enhancing the sweetness of other ingredients.
However, as it goes without saying, you should be quite careful while using this technique.
Since baking soda doesn’t have any distinct flavor, it can be added multiple times without significantly altering the food’s flavor.
If you go overboard with salt, you know what happens then.
How Much Salt To Add To The Sauce?
Begin with just a pinch of salt. Then stir the sauce and taste it before adding any more. Or else, you can separate a small portion of the sauce out and experiment until you reach the desired result.
Next, you can replicate and scale up what you added to your main dish.
Adding Some Fat (Butter)
Works best to balance out lemon flavors
Fat can be a great agent in the fight against acid. You can use butter, whipped cream, or cream cheese. My original recipe already had a generous share of butter in it – therefore, it didn’t work out too well for me.
But I’d still put my money on some butter/cheese to cut the acidity and give sauce or any other food a richer, more rounded flavor.
Depending on what your sauce looks and tastes like, you can also choose from parmesan cheese, creme fraiche, yogurt, sour cream, and olive oil to add to your sauce.
However, note that all of these ingredients have a strong and pretty distinct flavor of their own – thus, it can change your sauce’s flavors quite significantly.
Also, they’ll add some more calories to your sauce, which is something to think about if you’re on a diet.
How Much Fat To Add To The Sauce?
Add a teaspoon of fat of your choice at a time. Stir to incorporate the new ingredient and taste before adding some more. If you have a big portion of sauce, you might want to start with 1 tablespoon.
Adding Something Starchy
Works best to remove tartness
Okay, now you might question my credibility, but yes, I did add some potatoes to my sauce. I first boiled and cut them into mid-sized cubes. Next, I let the potatoes rest in my sauce for around 5 minutes and removed them.
And it didn’t really work…
So, I switched to another starchy ingredient to save the day – rice flour. I wasn’t disappointed with the results at all.
While adding potatoes to sauce may not be the best idea for sauce, it definitely is a good option for soup and stews. And so are beans, lentils, and rice. All of these ingredients are starchy and will absorb some of the liquid when added.
This technique works the best if you cook and puree the starch before adding it.
The starch removes some of the lemon flavors and replaces them with something very subtle yet delicious. The final effect is a less tart sauce/dish.
However, the one downside of using rice flour was that it changed the sauce’s texture. I then had to add some water to make it a bit runny. I also added some more seasoning, by the way!
How Much Starch To Add To The Sauce?
You can start with a tablespoon or a teaspoon of cooked and pureed starch. Stir it well and taste the sauce. If required, add some more. If it becomes too bland, add some more seasoning.
Diluting The Sauce
I saved the best trick for the last. When working with food like soup or sauce, you can dilute the lemony flavor by adding more other ingredients.
Add some more stock, oil, water, or whatever makes up your sauce’s main base. I’m stating the obvious, but this technique has the added benefit of making extra sauce!
You can always store the sauce for another day. It’s a win-win situation.
If your sauce has a mayonnaise base, adding some extra olive oil is the best way to cut the lemon flavor. However, you should avoid adding additional ingredients if you’re adding oil, as they can mess with the emulsion.
How Much Should You Dilute The Sauce?
For small sauce portions, add a tablespoon of extra liquid at a time. For larger amounts, add ¼ of a cup.
If the sauce becomes too watery, add some cornstarch and simmer it for a while.
Too Much Lemon In Sauce? Real Answers By Real People!
Food forums are my happy places on the internet. So naturally, I scoured through some of them while researching for this article, and I must say, I came across some interesting, some reassuring, and some bizarre tips to mask too much lemon in the sauce.
Let’s have a look at them suggestions. And by the way, all the comments expressed below belong to the respective owners! I’m just pooling them all together so you can go through them on a single platform.
Let’s see what they have to say!
“Begin with small pinches of baking soda – the size of a pencil eraser. It will get rid of the overpowering acidic lemon flavor. Extremely effective.”
“Soda and sugar are the cure for too much sourness but go easy.”
“The baking soda tip worked BRILLIANTLY for my rosemary lemon chicken bone broth.”
“You can add a bit of sugar or dijon + honey.”
“Add a little sugar. I’d probably start with a teaspoon.”
“Hmm… I would add more veggies to dilute the sauce – spread it out over a couple of meals.”
“Based on what else is going on, I’d add a bit of honey and salt to create a new balance.”
“I seldom use lemon for just one reason – the taste is unmistakable even in small quantities. I use vinegar because its acidity blends much better.”
“Add some butter.”
“Some extra fat, sweetness, or spiciness will balance the sour/acidic flavor with something else.”
“Bit of sugar and a pat of butter.”
“Discard one cup of the sauce liquid and replace it with one cup of water. Reduce until desired. Taste the result, and if it’s still lemony, repeat the process until it’s to your liking.”
So, that’s a roundup of some ingenious and reassuring answers shared by our lovely peeps.
Now that I have shared all the tricks I know, plus some more from our fellow foodies, let’s address the elephant in the room. Yep, you guessed that right.
I’ll tell you how to add lemon to a dish without overdoing it.
Tips To Add Lemon To Your Sauce Without Overkilling It
- Add less than what the recipe suggests
- Skip bottled lemon juice
- Use lemon zest instead
Add Less Than What The Recipe Suggests
Lemon has an intense flavor. It can easily overwhelm a dish and mask all other flavors. Thus, start with less than what the recipe asks for. You can always add some more later.
By now, I’m sure you’ve learned the hard way to remove the flavor once you add too much.
Tip: You can even skip adding lemon altogether to the sauce and serve the dish with a slice of lemon on the side. People will then add it as they wish.
Skip Bottled Lemon Juice
As long as possible, skip bottled lemon juice for fresh lemon slices any day. That’s because lemon juice oxidizes, becomes less flavorsome, and more acidic over time.
And as you can guess, bottled lemon juice is old and way more oxidized. So the taste will be a lot more sour and bitter than the fresh stuff.
Tip: If you absolutely have to squeeze the lemon ahead of time, don’t go over 8 hours. After the 8-hour window, oxidizing will start to affect the flavors.
Use Lemon Zest Instead
You can get away by using zest or zest-and-juice mix for most applications. The zest will make the dish lemony without the tartness that comes with it.
Frequently Asked Questions
Now before we end this article, here’s a quick look at some of the most frequently asked questions on lemon mishaps at Cooking Yoda.
How To Balance Too Much Lemon In Soup?
You can neutralize the lemon’s acidity by adding some baking soda. As long as you use it in moderation, the taste and texture will not change. If you want to mask sourness, you can add something sweet like honey or sugar.
And if you want to counteract the bitterness, you can add some salt or fat.
How To Fix Too Much Lemon Juice In Guacamole?
To fix too much lemon juice in guacamole, add more avocado. You can also add some fat like sour cream, olive oil, and Greek yogurt to help cut through the acidity.
How To Reduce Lemon Taste In Pasta?
Besides using baking soda as an acid neutralizer, you can also incorporate a bit of sugar, salt, starch, or oil to dilute the taste. And next time, make sure you use lemon zest and not juice!
How To Fix Too Much Lemon In Hummus?
You can add some fat like cheese, cream, or butter to eliminate the overpowering lemon flavor. You can also neutralize the acid content by adding a pinch of baking soda.
How To Fix Too Much Lemon Extract In Icing?
The icing will look curdled if there’s too much lemon extract. So, to fix curdled lemon frosting, start by adding ¼ cup powdered sugar and beat with a mixer.
Final Words: Too Much Lemon In Sauce?
We’ve all been there – overestimating the amount of lemon juice we need and ending up with a sour, bitter, and not-so-delicious delectable dish.
Luckily, there are a few tricks you can pull when that happens. The safest bet to save your sauce would be to add a pinch of baking soda to the sauce. It would neutralize the acid without ruining the taste or texture.
You can also add something fatty like butter, cream, and cheese.
And there’s always the option to incorporate some sugar and salt or dilute the sauce.