How to fix flavors when a recipe goes wrong!

A good meal is built on the balance of flavors with all of the ingredients - how they interact together, how they play with each other, and how they lift each other up or pull each other down.

There are six flavors that interact with one another in your recipe.

Sweet and Umami

These are usually your dominant flavors

Salty and Sour

These ingredients enhance the other flavors and brighten the dish.

Bitter and Pungent

These ingredients add depth and interest. They’re usually the ‘secret ingredient’ that makes all the difference.


If something tastes off in your dish, follow these steps to bring your flavors into balance.

1. Identify what the issue is.

It could be one of three things.

  • Either most of your ingredients have the same flavor profile (think sweet potato, butternut squash, carrots).
  • You added too much of one ingredient (salt! oops.)
  • Your flavors just aren’t melding and the dish tastes boring.

2. Adjust with ingredients already used in the recipe

Increase the quantity of ingredients that are already present in the dish. Sometimes an extra dash of chili pepper or a ½ cup more pumpkin puree is all it takes!

3. Add new ingredients

If step 2 didn’t do the trick, add new ingredients to the recipe.  Taste your dish then think about the six flavors. Think about what areas are lacking or not represented at all.


Too bitter? balance with umami or sweetness

Too sweet? balance with sourness or pungency

Too spicy? balance with sweetness or creaminess (a good dollop of sour cream can save over spiced tacos)

Too salty? balance with umami or sweetness (or water if you went waaaaay overboard)

Too sour? balance with sweetness or pungency

Too bland? increase saltiness or pungency

Need depth? increase umami or bitterness

Remember, you can add ingredients into the base of the soup or use them as a garnish at the end. A dash of hot sauce or parmesan cheese on top can not only balance the flavors, but also help the dish looks it’s best!


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