Bitterness is a taste sensation that most people don’t care for. Yet, some foods are known for being very bitter, while others have some bitter “notes” to them. Dandelion greens, flowery broccoli rabe (rapini), radicchio, some dark leafy greens, coffee, and dark chocolate are all known for being bitter. Sometimes, we add ingredients that may unintentionally create a bitterness in a dish. So, can we salvage the food and reduce the bitterness? Hopefully. Here is a video where I discuss this topic, followed by the suggestions in writing.
I hope this helps!
Chill it. If you want to eat a raw vegetable that can be bitter, try soaking it in very cold water for at least 30 minutes, up to a few hours. Cut the food into bite-size pieces or thin slices, then place it in a bowl of ice water. If you plan to soak it for an extended period of time, place it in the refrigerator. Then enjoy your chilled veggies as planned.
Heat it up. Heat can also mellow out bitter flavors. Searing, roasting, and braising vegetables can mellow out bitterness, and lend a deeper flavor profile to your foods.
If you don’t want to overcook bitter vegetables, try blanching them just enough to reduce the bitterness while bringing out a bright color and crisp-tender texture.
Add a little sweetener. Pair the bitter food with something sweet. Dark chocolate is a great example of how some sugar goes a long way in reducing bitterness in a food.
Add a small amount of sugar or other sweetener to tomato sauce. Such sauces can sometimes be a little bitter, and adding a little sweetener counteracts that and brings out the natural sweetness of tomatoes.
Add some acid. A little acid is a chef’s secret in reducing bitterness in foods, especially in leafy greens and other vegetables. Adding some lemon juice or vinegar at the end of cooking will reduce the bitterness and give the greens a refreshing, bright flavor.
A little red wine can also help to counter the bitterness in tomato sauce.
Add some salt. A little salt actually balances bitterness, sometimes better than sugar. If you’ve ever seen someone lightly salt a grapefruit, that’s why. Try it sometime.
Add some fat. Add some fat, whether it’s in the form of butter, oil, cheese, cream, nut butter, or some other fat. Fat tends to dull the taste buds somewhat and masks bitter flavors. Adding cream to coffee is a good example of adding fat to reduce bitterness. Adding an oil dressing to green leafy vegetable is another example.
Mix it up. Adding bitter foods with other, non-bitter foods is a good way to reduce bitterness in a dish. For example, adding some bitter greens in a green salad with other non-bitter greens will reduce the bitter sensation. Then adding an oil-based salad dressing will further dampen the bitterness.
Add a little baking soda. Just a pinch of baking soda can adjust the sour or bitter flavor in foods. For example, adding just a pinch of baking soda can reduce the bitterness in tea.
If you find that you added too much acid (such as vinegar or lemon juice) to a dish, reduce the acidity with a pinch of baking soda. (Remember…just a pinch. If you add too much baking soda, you may not be happy about it.)
Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.