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Ask Dr. Gourmet

Q: Would baking soda also neutralize the acid in chili?

In the low acid tomato sauce recipe, you use baking soda to neutralize the acid in the sauce. I was wondering, is it possible to use baking soda in other things like chili to do the same thing?

Dr. Gourmet Says...

This is a difficult question to answer because the research that went into the recipe on the Dr. Gourmet web site for Low Acid Tomato Sauce was pretty extensive. I made dozens of batches of tomato sauce, testing different amounts of the baking soda for flavor (Dr. Gourmet is, after all, about the food first). After testing for taste, I then used a pH meter to find what amounts of baking soda would result in an acid neutral sauce.

The ratio that I found was 1/4 tsp. of baking soda per cup of sauce. At that point the sauce was nearly acid neutral and did not taste funny. The more baking soda that was used, the more of a soapy flavor there was.

My best recommendation for you, if you wish to try this, is to begin with less than the 1/4 tsp. of baking soda per cup and adjust upwards. Do keep in mind that using the baking soda does work as adding sodium so there is less need to add salt.

Thanks for writing,

Timothy S. Harlan, MD, FACP, CCMS
Dr. Gourmet