It can happen to anyone: you are busy in the kitchen, but your dish turns out to be too salty, too sweet, too sour or too bitter.

Two taste experts give practical tips on how to solve this.

With our tongue we can perceive five basic tastes via special receptors: sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami.

"From an evolutionary point of view, these flavors help in making the right food choices", says Eke Mariën of the online platform Koken met Kennis and co-owner of Het Kookkantoor.

Sweet and umami mean sugars and proteins, which are badly needed as fuels and building materials.

You have to be careful with bitter and sour.

Mariën: "Toxic substances are often bitter and unripe fruit is sour."

'Taste professor' Peter Klosse, owner of the Academy for Gastronomy and lecturer at the Hotel Management School Maastricht, finds it intriguing how these basic flavors work together and create a certain mouthfeel.

"Moreover, certain flavors cancel each other out, and you can make good use of them in the kitchen."

Too salty

Salt is the most difficult taste to correct.

"Or start again or increase", says Mariën - so add all other ingredients extra.

With a stock this is simple: add water.

Unfortunately, with more complex dishes it is almost impossible.

Fortunately, there are tricks to restore other predominant basic tastes.

Too sweet

Sweet and sour are antagonists in the kitchen;

they cancel each other out.

"If something is too sweet, you can add something sour and vice versa," explains Klosse.

By acid he doesn't mean just lemon or vinegar, but anything that is 'tight' or 'astringent'.

"Fresh ginger or red pepper, for example.


compensates for the mouthfeel that gives fat and also sweetness."

Too sour

You can also neutralize acid in a chemical way by adding a



"In the kitchen it is

baking soda

. Simply stir some of the powder into the dish. Make sure it does not spread to the other side, then you have to add acid again", Mariën warns.

"In desserts and desserts, sugar is a better solution to mask the acid."

“A dish or drink that is too bitter can be neutralized with sour or sweet.”

Eke Mariën

Too bitter

You can neutralize a dish or drink that is too bitter with sour or sweet, in the form of sugar or lemon juice.

Klosse: "Take bitter coffee, such as espresso, for example. A small spoonful of sugar is enough to mask the bitter taste."

Too much umami

Umami is a flavor enhancer and stands for a rich and full mouthfeel.

The question is therefore whether you can ever have too much of it in one dish.

"Only in the fried rice or noodles. Too many spices don't make it tastier", says Marien.

"Here too you can dilute by adding some rice or noodles."

Either way, dry starches, such as rice, pasta, and crackers, are tried-and-true flavor masks.

"Think of a cracker with sweet jam or full-fat cheese", Klosse explains.

"The dryness of the cracker masks the fullness of the topping."

Too sweet?

Add something sour.

Too sweet?

Add something sour.

Photo: Shutterstock

Chicory with orange

Note: adding sweet and sour to chicory will reduce the bitterness.


  • juice and zest of 1 orange

  • 3 tablespoons of rice or peanut oil

  • 6 heads of chicory, 100 grams of shiitake (sliced)

  • 1-2 tablespoons oyster sauce

That's how you make it

  • Bring the orange juice to the boil with a few drops of oil and reduce by half.

  • Cut the chicory stumps into thin strips.

  • Stir fry the chicory for a few minutes and add the shiitake slices.

  • Fry together for one minute and add the orange juice and zest.

  • Stir for a few more minutes until the moisture evaporates and the sugars caramelise.

  • Mix in the oyster sauce and serve immediately.

Recipe from Keukenlab by Jan Groenewold and Eke Mariën.