If you have ever watched a cooking show then you probably noticed that nearly every dish has an acidic ingredient added. There are several different acidic ingredients that are used to enhance or complement the existing flavors of the dish. But how do you know which acidic ingredient will work in your recipe? I am here to help steer you in the right direction!
Why are acidic ingredients used in cooking and baking?
Usually, acidic ingredients are added to a recipe to enhance or complement the flavors in the dish. But, they are also used as tenderizers for meats and leavening agents in baking.
Acidic cooking ingredients
Citrus fruit (also used in baking)
The addition of citrus fruit juice is a great way to add an acidic flavor profile to a recipe. The most common citrus fruit juices used in this way include lemon juice, lime juice, orange juice, and grapefruit juice.
Recipes that use cilantro, raw ginger, bell peppers, cauliflower, cheese, seafood or chicken are usually great pairings for citrus fruit juice as the acidic ingredient. Citrus fruit juice is also a great acidic ingredient for pastries, cakes, muffins, and other baked goods including ones that use dark chocolate.
Vinegar (also used in baking)
Vinegar is great when used in marinades, dressings, sauces, pie dough, pickling, condiments and glazing vegetables. Vinegar can also be used in some baking recipes, as well.
Tomatoes (or tomato juice)
The acidity from tomatoes is often used for sauces, marinades, and glaze. The flavor profile of tomatoes pairs well with chicken, pasta, and sausages.
Alcohol (i.e. Wine)
Wine is often an acidic ingredient used in the creation of marinades, sauces, added to a pot or pan as a cooking liquid, and simply as a flavor enhancement to the dish. Red wine compliments veal, beef, lamb, duck, and chicken very well. Several seafood recipes will call for the inclusion of white wine, though, rather than red wine.
Buttermilk (also used in baking)
Buttermilk is often included in recipes to add a level of tangy flavor to the dish. Buttermilk can be added to baked goods such as waffles, biscuits, and pancakes, it can also be used to dredge and batter chicken and other foods before frying. Buttermilk can also be used in gravy recipes.
Popular baking ingredients
Applesauce is often used in baked goods as a fat-replacement rather than for acidity. Applesauce adds flavor, moisture, and fiber to baked goods that other ingredients do not.
Cream of tartar
Cream of tartar is commonly used in baking to help stabilize eggs during the whipping process but it can also be used to activate baking soda. Cream of tartar is commonly used in cookie and cake recipes.
Baking soda is essential in most baked good recipes. It is a leavening agent that helps bread and cakes rise properly when combined with an acidic ingredient such as buttermilk.
The role of baking powder in recipes is to increase volume and create a lighter texture of the baked goods. Baking powder is also an essential component in many baking recipes.
Chocolate is quite obviously a great addition to baked good recipes in regards to the flavor profile. However, chocolate is also thought of as an acidic ingredient and can, therefore, be used in that aspect as well.
Acidic ingredients need fatty ingredients to tone down and complement the acidic flavor profile
The acidic ingredients may be complementary to the dish, but they can be overused and become overpowering to some. So, the dish requires fatty ingredients to help balance and add flavor.
Fatty ingredient options include:
- Vegetable oil
- Canola oil
- Olive oil
- Sesame oil
- Avocado oil
- Nut oils (hazelnut, pistachio)
- Bacon fat