Bay leaves are typically braised in dishes over long periods and infuse their flavor slowly into dishes. The cook will remove the leaves before serving the dish or when they have infused the right amount of flavor. Bay leaves are used as the ultimate background seasoning to enhance meaty flavors, and their taste is subtle enough that you might not even detect it until it is missing or there is too much. If you do go overboard, bay leaves will make dishes bitter and astringent. Here’s how to fix too much bay leaf flavor.
Table of contents
Remove the bay leaves as the first step in remedying the problem. You need to stop the infusion of flavor immediately. Take them out of the pot before any other steps to deal with excessive flavor.
Fat is a great tool for diluting a bitter taste. In a dish that has too much bay leaf, you may be able to erase much of the bitterness by adding more fat. Of course, you should do this in moderation, but it may help you to make the dish less bitter without throwing the flavor profile too far off balance.
The best way to tame any overpowering flavor in a dish is to dilute the dish. Dilution can keep you from having to throw an otherwise inedible meal in the trash. There are two ways to balance the bay leaf flavor with the first being to add more ingredients to the dish. Adding more ingredients has an obvious drawback — you now have to make more of the dish than you intended, which means greater expense. You will need to keep diluting until the bay leaf flavor has been balanced out.
If you do try dilution, you can freeze the leftovers to avoid wasting them. Simply adding more ingredients to the dish may not be worth it if you don’t have much freezer space or the bay leaf flavor is simply too concentrated. Your other option is to divide the dish in half or quarters, that way you are only working with a fraction of the original dish. You can then dilute the fraction until the bay leaf flavor is where you want it. You can do the same to the portion that you froze at a later date.
Add a sweetener
Because the main effect of too much bay leaf will be bitterness, a sweetener can help to cancel it out. Increasing sweetness is one of the more reliable ways to balance bitterness and works in many dishes. Of course, you will want to be very careful when adding sweeteners, or you might make the dish taste even worse. Your options include sugar and honey, or even fruit juice.
Add an acid
Another way to balance out bitter flavors is with another strong taste that will distract from it. Acidity can sometimes work, especially if you don’t want to take the risk of making a savory dish sweet. Most of the dishes that require bay leaves can benefit from an acidic ingredient. Your options here can range from vinegar to lemon juice or even some stewed tomatoes.
Wash off any powdered bay leaf
Bay leaves are sometimes ground into a powder for use in dishes without much liquid. If you have used too much of your ground bay leaf on a roast or meat for smoking, you can wash it off and reapply it in more moderate amounts.