I have made a tomato, onion and cannelini bean curry. I put a lot of chilli spice in it, perhaps too much. If I keep simmering it, will it get milder? I'm hoping it will cook into the (bland) beans.

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    I'd assume it could get hotter if you boil off liquid, i.e., you concentrate it.
    – Robert
    Oct 14, 2016 at 15:27
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    I am a bit concerned that this question has acquired so many "this is how you reduce the heat" answers. We already have at least one question for that - cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/1120 . If you have advice on reducing heat, please post it there (and check first if it is not already posted). This question is only about "will cooking further help". If it were about "what will help", it would have been closed as a duplicate.
    – rumtscho
    Oct 15, 2016 at 12:27

6 Answers 6


You'll sometimes hear television cooking show hosts describe what they're doing as "cooking out" the paste. What they're actually doing is altering the flavor of the chili itself, not manipulating the level of capsaicin that was introduced. If you take a typical chili paste which has been combined with garlic and other things and then saute it in a fat, you will lower the level of heat that's tasted (and possibly take some bitterness out, depending on the chili and what's in the paste), but not lower the level that's actually ingested.

If you literally want to cook it out, put some sliced chili with nothing else in a searing hot pan, but make sure no one else is home or going to be home for a while, and wear a respirator. The capsaicin has nowhere to go and vaporizes as it burns (seriously, don't do that, if you did that in my kitchen I'd throw a live crab at you).

Various kinds of fat bond well with the capsaicin, essentially creating a sort of encasement. To demonstrate how this works, grab some sriracha and some cream. Mix in about half a tablespoon of sriracha to about 300 ml of cream, taste it. Now, simmer the cream a bit (about 3 - 5 minutes), take it off the heat, let it rest a few minutes and taste it again. The level of sriracha didn't change, what happened is the cream got its hands on the capsaicin that it contained. It'll continue to get milder the longer it sits. That's why a glass of milk can rescue you from atomic hot wings and why water just broadens the pain as it makes sure your whole palate gets a chance to taste it :) Beer just makes you care less about it.

Now, sugar has the remarkable quality of helping to hide heat with its mighty right of first refusal when it comes to your palate. The heat from the chili shows up and your palate says "what? I'm too busy with this sweet, I can only listen to a little of you". To see how that works, repeat the experiment again, but this time throw a teaspoon or so of confectioner's (or castor) sugar into the cream with the sriracha, along with an additional squirt or two (around 10 ml) of sriracha. That's why coconut milk works so perfectly in a curry.

The best bet for your recipe is finding a way to get some kind of fat into it. That could be coconut milk, fatty bacon, or whatever makes sense based on how you want to serve it. Then, optionally, sweeten it up a bit (also remember that citrus helps offset sweet, handy to keep that in mind when you're 'fixing' a dish) - some raisins sound like they'd work rather well with what you're doing. Maybe go with coconut milk and raisins, and thin it out with a bit of chicken stock if needed?

I really try to encourage people to take an hour and just experiment with ways you can alter and sort of control chili, because it is a lovely thing to cook with. Just remember, whatever you put in the pan initially ends up being eaten, you're just hiding a bit of that as you cook.

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    A side note, when working with chili, I usually brush my teeth without toothpaste or mouthwash prior, and avoid any other tastes until I'm happy with what I've got. Pay special attention to your tongue and the roof of your mouth when you brush. You definitely want a fresh palate because they can be interesting in very subtle ways.
    – user293
    Oct 14, 2016 at 18:54
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    Awesome answer, and up against a lot of other great answers. Thanks.
    – S Meaden
    Oct 14, 2016 at 19:14
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    @SMeaden More in conjunction with them :) Most cooks learn about chili over a couple of years as they get bolder and bolder with it - I try to encourage people to deliberately experiment with it (just for the sake of tasting) so you get that experience in a more memorable and useful way. Almost didn't answer because the others were very good (and I reiterated quite a bit of what they said).
    – user293
    Oct 14, 2016 at 19:17
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    @Shautieh It would depend on your sensitivity and precisely how much actually went in. A little scotch bonnet is going to add a considerable amount of heat that needs to be evenly dispersed in the dish, but probably isn't going to make your next constitutional any more exciting than usual. Where you need to pay close consideration to how much you're actually using is in stuff like complicated curry pastes, sauces, etc. I've had curry made from over 10 varieties of chili, it was insanely hot, and it really upset my system. Or short answer, if you don't go too heavy handed, you should be fine.
    – user293
    Oct 15, 2016 at 16:02
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    You keep live crabs in your kitchen?!? Oct 16, 2016 at 22:33

From long cooking, the capsaicin could distribute throughout the food in a way that will make it more palatable, but the capsaicin content will not drastically change.

If this does not suffice: In a curry dish, heat is best made more palatable by mixing in an emulsified, fatty, rich component like coconut milk, cream, yoghurt (mind the proper technique here so you do not curdle the yoghurt. Also, mind acid balance.). Again, this will not reduce the capsaicin content in the pot, so if the hot food is not unpalatable but hard to digest, it is likely to stay that way.


No. It will not get milder with simmering. The nature of any spice is to seep into the dish directly proportional with the time. The more you cook it the more the intensity infused into the dish. Especially spices like chilli(any variety, and any form, whole or powder) and black pepper make the dish spicier the longer they stay in the dish, especially in water based dishes like curry or sauce. Its because they take their own time to get infused into the dish completely. So if you want to make the curry less spicy, add other ingredients proportionate to the chilli added. Like more tomatoes will work best. The tanginess goes well with the spice added , and adding a little more salt will bring the curry to a perfect balance. Definitely the spiciness will be reduced. If the curry calls for cream or milk , you can slightly increase the amount as well. The main goal is to bring harmony and balance to the dish. You know the ingredients well, so add or reduce those accordingly to achieve that. Hope it helps.


If setting it aside for a day or two happens to be an option for this curry, (keeping it refrigerated and adhering to all food-safety guidelines of course) it will likely get less chili-hot all by itself. I know it seems counter-intuitive, but my family has always noticed how, especially in bean dishes, the spicy-heat diminishes in the left-overs as compared to the way the food burned our mouths the first meal we ate it. We have speculated that the chili compounds must seep into the beans somehow, distributing themselves throughout the food and remaining less concentrated in the liquid part of the dish, so we perceive the food as "less hot" in our mouths.

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    That's interesting, in my experience it's always seemed like my leftover Thai/Indian is spicier the next day. Probably due to a different kind of spice. Oct 14, 2016 at 16:21

Exactly the opposite! Up to a point, boiling chili makes it hotter, due to the extraction of capsaicin from the grains/flakes of chili. This can happen even without boiling, such as refrigerating leftovers. You should always be cautious about letting something spicy sit, let alone cook longer.

That said, you should not boil it longer. Not only will you extract more capsaicin, you will extract other compounds (like piperine) which would contribute to it tasting even stronger. You will also reduce the overall volume, unless you continue adding water, which concentrates the flavor even more. And if you keep cooking it, it will turn to mush.

I have a few suggestions to deal with "it's too hot!":

  • Add thickener. Corn starch, flour, and bean flour are options. Bean flour would be best for Indian food.
  • Add more of whatever the bulk is. In this case, add more beans - precook them separately, get canned, whatever.
  • Add dairy products. Milk, cream, and yogurt are effective at reducing spiciness. This doesn't work for all dishes but might for certain Indian bean dishes - see Dal Makhani. It would be preferable to add such towards the end of cooking, as it could actually contribute to making it spicier if added earlier.

A related anecdote. I make a lot of alcohol extracts of herbs and spices. I made one of Balinese long pepper once. One pepper cone in a small bottle of 50% vodka. Left it for a few weeks, then sipped it. That liquid remains the second spiciest thing I have tasted. Do not underestimate the amount of flavor chemicals you usually miss by it simply not being extracted.

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    I almost hate to ask, but what was the first spiciest thing? That sip must have been like chewing a bird's eye chili until it was completely broken down, then feeling it burn its way down your throat. I am a chili head, and I can't imagine much worse than that.
    – user293
    Oct 15, 2016 at 16:04
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    @TimPost I was at Tiuana Flats (an Americanized Mexican restaurant) and one of the workers saw I liked the hottest sauce they had out, and she asked me if I wanted to try one their had in the back. It was an oil-based hot sauce. It was so hot that one drop on a chip made me hiccup and my ears tingle for about 5 minutes. I still have no idea what sauce it actually was.
    – user35824
    Oct 15, 2016 at 16:14

From my Indian cooking experience, if I put too much chilli spice I would add water and other little more other ingredient(Beans, meat etc) to match up the likeness I want.

The more you cook chilli extract will be mixed in that proportion and curry would become more hot.

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