Balancing Acid Vs Base \ alkaline confusion

Joined Jun 13, 2010
Okay so this has haunted me for quite some time, I have checked online many times and ever came to a good conclusion that I understood. Vinegar is an acid, lemon juice all citric stuff are acids, there are so many acidic foods out there and one has to find the right balance of acid \ base in a dish to help complement the flavors. I have struggled with trying to find good things to balance out high acid foods. So I turn to you folks out there on cheftalk land for some advice and help. What types of things can I use when I find a dish to acidic? For example I like to cook with hot sauce a lot all different kinds and sometimes to take it down a notch I would like some base. Also I have high cholesterol and try to stay away from oils.  But I think olive oil and extra virgin are bases.

Thanks J


Staff member
Joined Mar 29, 2002
Virtually everything we eat is acidic.

The only two common food  bases are egg whites and baking soda.

While the food should have flavor balance, it's not much about acid base balance at all.

That said, I've been known to add a bit of baking soda if a tomato sauce is too tart.
Joined Feb 26, 2007
The taste of acidic foods can quite often be balanced by addition of a little sugar.  I have no idea if it classifies as a base, but it works for my palate.  Especially with tomato sauce based dishes.  It's not unusual for sugar to be added to savoury dishes, nor salt to be added to sweet dishes.  Just start with little additions of sugar to what you are cooking if it is too acidic for you.  Once it's in there you can't get it out other than by balancing it by adding more acid such as vinegar/citrus juice.  Go by taste and doing that all the way along in the cooking process.  It's like the process of a lot of oriental cooking - balance the sweet & the sour.
Joined Oct 19, 2010
An old trick my grandmother told me was that a tsp of coffee will also take the acid in tomatoes. As for base I just use less salt or extra stock if its to strong.If this works or not i am still not sure because i still add sugar.Chef Alexander Z 
Joined Jun 13, 2010
Thanks guys that explains it a bit. I forgot to mention sugar I have used that before. So maybe it is not as much finding the right balance of acid and base but finding the right amount of acid to use. I have heard many times by chefs to add some acid to help bring out the flavors or open the pallet some more. For example wiener schnitzel a breaded fried veal cutlet is yummy, but when topped with some lemon juice it is significantly better. What is it that an acid does and why do people add acid to foods so much? Such as wine in sauces or lemon juice?

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