It is commonly known that if your food is too acidic, you lower the acidity of the food by adding something sweet. Is this correct?

Acidity can me measured by pH. Does the sweet actually raise the pH(less acidic) or does the pH stay the same and the sweet only mask the taste of the acidity.

3 Answers 3


Yes, it is incorrect. The correct thing to say is that it reduces sourness. Sourness is a taste, and sweetness indeed reduces it, and vice versa. Coca Cola classic has the same pH as vinegar, 2.5, but the cola is sweet and the vinegar is sour, because the sugar in cola is enough to compensate the acidity and push the taste into the sweet range.

Acidity is a chemical quality of a solution, and is given by the amount of hydrogen ions freely available. It is not changed by the amount of sugar (except for very strong acids like sulfuric acid, which would react with the sugar and bind some protons in the reaction). Acidity "creates" sourness in the sense that we taste acidic food as sour, but as you can see in the sweetness example, our tongues aren't a perfect sensor and can be fooled by the presence of sweet substances, or also other things like miracle berries.

Note that sweetness really reduces sourness, and doesn't just "mask" it the way it masks bitterness or saltiness for some people.


TECHNICALLY, sweetness doesn't reduce acidity or change pH, but for practical cooking use, this is true. Sweetness changes how the food is perceived, reducing the impact of sourness or bitterness. Sourness will also reduce the impact of sweetness.

To quote On Food and Cooking, page 655 "Sweetness helps mask or balance both sourness and bitterness from other ingredients."

Interesting fact: salt will also reduce perceived bitterness. You can add a pinch of salt to reduce the impact of bitter coffee.


It's correct that adding sugar makes a food seem less acidic without actually making it less acidic.

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