Thyme is a delightful herb that can bring both depth and brightness to a dish, but only when you use it correctly. Its pungency can quickly make food unpalatable if you use it in excess. As with many other spices, you have several tricks at your disposal that you can use to correct overuse.
Remove the thyme
Thyme is one of those herbs that can stand up to long cooking times, so you are not likely to cook its flavors out of the dish. If there is too much of it in your food, longer cooking is likely to make things worse.
If the thyme in your dish is in sprig form by itself or is a part of a bouquet garni, removal is straightforward; if you used thyme leaves, it may be more difficult. With a soup, you can try using a strainer to skim leaves from the surface. If the other components of the dish are in large pieces, consider removing them from the pot and washing the herb from their surfaces. Do your best to get as much of the herb out of the dish as possible once you realize that you have added too much.
One of the first fixes to try when any flavor is too concentrated in a dish is to dilute it. You can dilute the flavor of thyme or any other herb by adding more of the other ingredients. With this method, the thyme flavor is thinned out to where it loses its bitterness and pungency.
In soups and stews, you may be able to dilute excessive thyme flavors by adding only stock or water; however, note that you also run the risk of diluting other flavors if you add too much. To correct this, you would have to cook the dish down again and this would only re-concentrate the thyme flavor.
Too much stock or water can also make the consistency of some dishes thin and unappetizing. Creamy liquids like milk, cream or coconut milk may be used to prevent this in some cases.
Add umami flavors
Strong meaty flavors can complement thyme and may also help to distract from the unpleasant notes that come from using too much of it. Your options for umami notes include Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce and fish sauce.
If your dish already has garlic, add more of it. Garlic’s strong flavor can help to mask that of thyme. You run the risk of making your dish too garlicky but its flavor is usually more palatable than thyme’s when used in excess.
Acidic notes can help to balance overly strong herbal notes. Lemon or lime juice may work in some dishes. In others, a dollop of yogurt or sour cream may provide what is needed.
Add a root vegetables
Potatoes are particularly good at soaking up unwanted flavors, but you can use other root vegetables as well. Parsnips and carrots are good at eliminating undesirable flavors.
Excess thyme’s bitterness can be countered with sweetness in some dishes. That sweetness can come in the form of wine, which is particularly effective in hearty stews. The sweetness of carrots and caramelized onions may also be good for canceling out thyme’s pungency.