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Baking Soda to Reduce Acidity of Tomato Sauce

  • f

Has anyone used baking soda to reduce the acidity of tomatoes in either tomato sauce or tomato soup?

What was the outcome, and what proportions do you recommend?

TIA :)

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  1. I've never tried it. I recommend a small amount of sugar – to balance the acidity rather than reduce it.

    1 Reply
    1. re: GG Mora

      I agree. It's better to balance it with sweetness than to remove the acidity. I've grown tomatoes for a number of years. Some are acidic, some are sweet, but the best ones have a good balance between them.

    2. That's interesting, although I've never tried it. It would make sense to actually change the pH of the dish with baking soda. I don't have anything to add, but I hope that someone does.

      1. I've heard that in Italy, they use certain mineral waters rather than tap water to acheive the same objective, but I wouldn't know the chemical compostions of each , maybe the label would tell you?

        3 Replies
        1. re: coll

          If the mineral water you're talking about is the fizzy kind, the net effect would be adding acidity. The carbon dioxide (present as bubbles) forms carbonic acid in the water. Of course heating it would raise the pH again by driving off the CO2 but it wouldn't be raised enough to lessen the acidity of tomato sauce. There are different types of mineral water, some of which are both noncarbonated and alkaline, and that might work to reduce acidity but it seems you'd have to add a whole lot of water to your sauce to have a dramatic effect.

          I've tried adding baking soda to tomato sauce and have regretted ruining a pot of sauce both times I did it. (Fool me twice...) The baking soda didn't just neutralize the acid, it seemed to erase all the flavor as well. If you're trying to lessen the taste of the acid, I'd go with adding sugar as other posters have suggested. If you're trying to avoid heartburn, just enjoy your meal and get the Rolaids ready.

          1. re: Jenny

            The fizzy kind isn't actually mineral water. It's just seltzer or soda water mislabeled. True mineral water typically comes in large glass bottles that are bottle on site at a very deep ground spring - which is quite full of natural minerals. Drinking true mineral water, there is natural carbonation, but an incredibly small amount, and the mineral taste is very apparent, although pleasant. I used to buy it often, and love it!

            Adding sugar can balance it, but a balance isn't a fix, it's just adding more. Baking soda will work - starting at 1tbsp and going up from there. However the mineral water trick is very intriguing and has potential for great success. The reason it can be very successful is that pasta sauce is nothing more than tomato paste, water, and spices - sometimes also beef or chicken stock. I used to make about 20 gallons daily at a restaurant, so trust me on this one. This means that to neutralize the acids, simply use mineral water with the tomato paste! The minerals may accentuate the flavor of some spices as well!

            1. re: Jenny

              Yes I "just ruined a wonderful huge pot of homemade sauce made from fresh tomatoes from my garden. I did use this once before (a pinch) it worked, this time, becauce it was a "larger pot" I used maybe a tablespoon...Thing went crazy(bubbled) after 15 minutes it settled down, but "guess what? Took ALL the flavor out of my sauce I'd been simmering to perfection for 4 hours beforehand...Ruined the flavor of the Italian sausage and pork pieces and meatballs...Lots of time and money "gone"...Never again...I'll stick to my friends grand mothers "secret" of putting a whole quartered raw potatoe" in the sauce...I used that for years...By the way, sagur "doesn't always help. ", adds sweetness, but doesn't totally get rid of the acidity taste of the tomatoe. It isn't about "heartburn", its about "flavor". So, today, I start over as I was craving "gfnocchi" Yum...But, as good cooks know, "it's all about the sauce(gravy, as they say in New York)

          2. I've done this, a little trade secret I learned from my aunt-in-law in Italy. I use the tiniest pinch, and then taste. You don't want to remove all the acid. I also use a little tiny pinch of sugar, or I add a raisin or two to the sauce while it's cooking for sweetness.

            1. When I was visiting my mother a month ago, I was scanning her old copy of Simca's Cuisine by the legendary Simone Beck. The book is full of trucs (kitchen tricks) of Simca, including the suggestion to use granulated instant coffee to reduce the acidity of tomato and other acid fruit sauces.

              1. Yes, I've done that a couple of times. It worked fine after I learned that it only takes a tiny amount to achieve a significant reduction in perceived acidity - and if you go overboard I can assure you from personal experience that non-acidic tomato sauce is pretty ghastly stuff.

                1. Thanks for the tips.

                  A local TV Chef/Personality mentioned it. Sugar was not doing the trick for me, as it usually had, so I wanted to try his idea.

                  Per your suggestions, I will start with just a smidge and see what happens.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Funwithfood

                    Burke and Wells on baking powder in food. Too funny!

                    Link: http://www.burkeandwells.com/archive/...

                  2. t
                    Tinkerin' with food

                    I've been playing around with baking soda to reduce the acidity in a tomato sauce I just made. Mixed results.

                    Too much baking soda and the sauce begins to foam.

                    Just the right amount leaves the sauce flavorless.

                    The threshold between too little baking soda and too much is very small.

                    I'll stick with using sugar.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Tinkerin' with food

                      I did it on a recommendation of adding baking soda. I obviously added too much as the sauce foamed and turned somewhat brown and the sauce was flavorless. But what I did notice was that beyond a lack of flavor, it was very salty. Why? Baking soda is SODIUM bicarbonate. So with the chemical reaction, you basically get a sodium salt, water and carbon dioxide gas. My advise to anyone is don't add baking soda to your pasta, EVER.

                    2. Or you could just add a pinch of sugar like Clemenza in The Godfather. Of course, making good pasta sauce didn't keep him from being garrotted in the end.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: chocolatetartguy

                        Au contraire. He was the garroter, not the garroted. Clemenza died of natural causes, a heart attack, while cooking for his crew. He garroted Carlo Rizzi for his role in the death of Sonny Corleone.

                      2. I do it when making cream of tomato soup. And yes, the tiniest pinch goes in before I add the milk or cream. I don't salt it until after adding the baking soda and tasting it.
                        A TINY pinch.

                        1. I grate carrots to toss in the sauce (when no one is looking, of course). No one knows they are there and it balances the sauce perfectly.

                          8 Replies
                          1. re: AngelaID

                            this is the method suggested by the Italian lady from outside Milan who gave me the sauce recipe I use all the time.

                            1. re: AngelaID

                              I have also heard of putting a whole or halved (lengthwise) carrot into the simmering sauce and discarding it before serving. I didn't think it made any difference to the acidity when I tried it. I once added baking soda - maybe a tsp for 3 qts sauce. Long ago, so all I recall is that it made the sauce very flat-tasting. I added balsamic vinegar and tomato paste to rescue it.
                              I like a sweet sauce but was trying to see if I could combat the acidity without adding sugar. Nope.

                              1. re: greygarious

                                I tried the halved carrot years ago and had the same result, but a grated carrot melts into the sauce and gives a subtle sweetness. This is one of the best tips that I have learned on CH.

                                And, may I add, I love CH. Someone asked for advice on thickening their tomato sauce on Reddit recently and people were advising them to start with or add a roux or cornstarch.

                                1. re: EM23

                                  I agree -- the carrot works really, really well. My recipe called for diced, but grated is faster!

                                  I cannot. imagine. thickening a tomato sauce with roux or cornstarch. Cambell's soup comes to mind. (I love tomato soup, but not as tomato sauce, ta)

                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                    I head over to reddit on occasion, and it’s great for some things (like an IAMA with the most interesting man in the world), but a cooking board with multiple recs. for tomato sauce with a roux blew my mind, so I shall skip it from now on.
                                    As an aside, their askculinary board is inhabited by food professionals posting questions and advice, inc. Kenji from SE, so it can be worth lurking over there.

                                    Besides the carrot, any other secrets to your tomato sauce recipe, sunshine? Mine is just sautéed onions, grated carrots, whole peeled canned tomatoes (or fresh in season), salt and a splash of wine.

                                    1. re: EM23

                                      low and slow is the only other thing...if I'm making that recipe, I prefer to make it a day or two in advance, letting it simmer for several hours, then putting it into the fridge for a day or to for the flavors to marry.

                                      Mine has garlic (not a lot) -- and because she's from the north, ground or finely-chopped beef.

                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                        Ah, ha! You're talking meat sauce/ ragu. So funny the differences in meaning when it comes to tomato sauce, Bolognese, ragu, gravy, etc. It's all good, though.

                                        1. re: EM23

                                          No, I put carrots in non-meat sauce, too.

                            2. My mother taught me to do this! One night when I was first married I tried to make tomato soup using whole canned tomatos, when I added the milk it curdled! Looked like I had added cottage cheeze! Called mom and she said I had to add baking soda to reduce the acid! How much? about a tsp. to a large can of tomatos! Tsp and a half is not too much either! It does not totally eliminate the acid, just reduces it to a proper level! The tomatos will foam way up in the pot then foam back down! When tomatos are cooked down to a reduced state as in sauce or paste, the acid becomes concentrated and makes the PH just under the level of battery acid! It isn't the spices in Italian sauce, it's the acid that causes heartburn! Don't be affraid to try it! My Grandmother did it, My mom did it and I have done it for over 40 years! P.S. when you use it in you spagetti sauce, do not add sugar, as the neutralizing of the acid naturally makes the sauce sweeter! NO need for sugar! It enhances the flavor as well!

                              1. Agree with jkiel1. Just the tiniest pinch of baking soda will help tons. Do a little at a time. Was married to a woman whose entire family had owned restaurants back past her great grandfather. Using sugar will do nothing more than turn the sauce into a sweet sauce. I discourage the sugar but the baking soda really will work if used very lightly until the sauce has the desired taste.

                                1. yes, every time. the smallest pinch though. maybe between a 1/10th and a 1/20th of a teaspoon in a pint of sauce. too much and the it will taste very bland. you need to experiment to your own tastes, it's easily rescued with some white balsamic if you go too far.

                                  sugar does nothing to regulate the acidity, you merely end up creating a sweet and sour sauce.

                                  1. My mother was 3rd generation Sicilian. She was raised to use a pinch of baking soda and looked with disdain on "sweet sauce" using sugar. Her sauce was also flavored with a LOT of meat and herbs though. Not remotely marinara.

                                    1. I use baking soda to cut acidity. I use 1/4 tsp at a time. It bubbles up, I stir until bubbles are gone. I taste and continue to add 1/4 tsp at a time until I reach the taste I desire

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: tastepaste

                                        Tonight I made a tomato sauce and baking soda saved it. I'm done with dinner and cleaning up. Then I came on here to check and make sure it wasn't supposed to have used baking powder absentmindedly. I ate too much and was curious if I should be concerned about heartburn as well.

                                        I used the tomato sauce with stuffed cabbage. A recipe my mother made when we were little (I have never attempted or eaten since--she no longer cooks). Her tomato sauce recipe calls for brown sugar and Worcestershire sauce. I wasn't crazy about the flavor but at the same time I remembered cooking homemade pasta with an Italian friend who used a pinch of baking soda for acidity (After reading people's comments, I wasn't aware it took away flavor which may have been my saving grace). I added the baking soda, sprig of thyme, and bay leaf too let simmer with the stuffed cabbage...

                                        Together it was awsome.

                                        Want to say thanks for everyone's input and experience. I got a lot out of all of the comments.

                                      2. I have been using baking soda in my sauce, chili etc for over 30 yrs. I never could understand why people would add sugar or other stuff to a homemade sauce. It takes me hours to simmer my sauce and I would never want to change the flavor of the fresh herbs and love that goes into every pot!! I am Italian! It doesn't take alot, just a pinch. Let it bubble and cook out. It doesn't change the texture or the flavor where if you use sugar you end up with a sweet sauce not one with the freshness of basil, bay and on and on.