Let’s talk sauces! They’re the sidekicks to every hero in your kitchen, right? Whether you’re whipping up a comforting gravy, diving into a bowl of tangy marinara, or indulging in a creamy béchamel, sauces are the magic touch that brings it all together. But let’s be real, getting that sauce thickness just right? That’s where the real kitchen magic comes in. Nobody wants a thin gravy, or a salsa so thick you can barely scoop it up. Don’t worry though, because we’ve got your back! In this blog, we’re going to tell you aaalll about how to thicken sauce like a pro.

No more sauce-related stress – just deliciousness waiting to happen! Before we get into the nitty gritty of thickening techniques, know that a sauce that’s too thin can make a dish watery and lackluster. While one that’s too thick can overpower the flavors or become gloppy.

Here’s a few methods you can use to thicken your sauces so they have the Goldilocks effect…they’re just right!

How To Thicken Sauce with a Cornstarch Slurry

The Cornstarch slurry method is probably the most common way people thicken sauces while they’re cooking. It’s simple and effective technique which you can use with sauces, soups, and gravies. It’s especially popular for those who prefer a gluten-free option or want a quick and easy way to thicken their dishes. Cornstarch, a fine powder made from the starch of corn kernels, is the primary ingredient used in this method.

Here is the simple step-by-step guide on how to thicken sauce using a cornstarch slurry:

  1. Prepare the Slurry: In a small bowl, mix cornstarch with cold water using a 1:1 ratio. Typically, you’ll use about 1 tablespoon of cornstarch for every cup of liquid in your sauce. Add the water slowly, not all at once!
  2. Stir Thoroughly: Use a whisk or fork to stir the cornstarch and water together until the mixture is smooth and free of lumps. It’s essential to ensure that the cornstarch is fully dissolved in the water to prevent any undesirable texture in your sauce. Nobody wants thick and lumpy sauce!
  3. Add to the Sauce: Once the slurry is ready, slowly pour it into your simmering sauce while stirring continuously.
  4. Cook and Thicken: Continue cooking the sauce over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it reaches the desired thickness. The cornstarch will activate and thicken the sauce as it heats up. Be sure to monitor the sauce closely to prevent it from boiling too vigorously or sticking to the bottom of the pan.

The Cornstarch Slurry method is a quick and reliable way to thicken sauces without altering their flavor profile too much. It’s a handy technique to have in your culinary toolkit, whether you’re making stir-fries, gravies, or dessert sauces. Experiment with different ratios of cornstarch to water and adjust the thickness of your sauces to suit your preferences.

The Roux Method

The Roux method is another classic and widely used technique for thickening sauces, soups, and gravies in cooking. Its similar to the slurry in that it uses starch to help, but it involves cooking equal parts of fat, (usually butter) and flour together to create a thickening agent. This method not only thickens sauces but also adds flavor and richness to them. It’s a fundamental technique in French cuisine and is used in many traditional recipes around the world.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to making a roux:

  1. Melting the Fat: Start by melting the fat (butter or rendered animal fat) in a saucepan over medium heat. Use a heavy-bottomed pan to prevent the roux from burning.
  2. Adding the Flour: Once the fat is melted and hot, gradually add the flour to the pan while stirring constantly. Use a whisk or a wooden spoon to incorporate the flour into the fat evenly.
  3. Cooking the Roux: Continue cooking the roux, stirring constantly, until it reaches your desired level of color.
  4. Incorporating the Liquid: Once the roux is ready, slowly whisk in the liquid you want to thicken, such as broth, milk, or wine. Adding the liquid gradually while stirring continuously helps prevent lumps from forming.
  5. Simmering the Sauce: Bring the sauce to a simmer and cook it until it reaches the desired consistency. The longer you cook the sauce, the thicker it will become as the flour in the roux absorbs the liquid and thickens the sauce.

The roux method is a bit more versatile than the slurry. It lets you adjust the thickness and flavor of your sauces based on your preferences and the dish you’re preparing. Whether you’re making a creamy béchamel, a velvety gravy, or a savory velouté, mastering the roux method is an essential skill for any home cook.

Using Heavy Cream to Thicken a Sauce

Heavy cream can make sauces taste richer and, well, heavier. But it can also serve as an effective sauce thickening agent. When heated and simmered, the high fat content in heavy cream helps to emulsify and thicken sauces, creating a velvety texture and rich flavor profile. It’s commonly used in both sweet and savory dishes to add creaminess and depth – like curries, rice pudding, or even pasta sauces. Heavy cream is a popular way to thicken alfredo sauce, for instance.

Start by selecting high-quality heavy cream with a fat content of 36-40% for the best thickening properties. Gradually add the heavy cream to your sauce while stirring constantly to prevent curdling and ensure a smooth consistency. When simmering the sauce, do so gently over low heat, stirring occasionally. If you boil it, the cream might separate or curdle. Lastly, remember to season the sauce appropriately – you’ll probably have to add some extra salt, pepper, or herbs to balance the richness of the cream.

Arrowroot Powder

Arrowroot powder is a popular, natural thickening agent derived from the roots of the arrowroot plant, which is native to tropical regions. When you want to use it to thicken a sauce, you’ll generally aim for 1 tablespoon of arrowroot powder for every cup of liquid you wish to thicken.

To prepare the slurry, combine the arrowroot powder with an equal amount of cold water, broth, or another liquid. Gradually stir this slurry into the hot liquid you want to thicken, continuously stirring to ensure it is evenly incorporated and cook the mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly. And just like that, within a minute or two, you will achieve perfect consistency in your sauces! So this method is pretty much the same as with cornstarch!

Pureed Vegetables

five green spinach leaves on white surface

Do you know how to thicken a sauce using pureed vegetables? It might sound like one of those ‘good on paper, bad in practice’ idea but really, it’s no different to how we thicken soup. Using pureed veggies to thicken your sauce is an excellent, natural method that enhances the flavor, texture, and nutritional value of your dishes. This technique is particularly useful for creating hearty, wholesome sauces without relying on flour or cornstarch.

Here’s an in-depth look at how to effectively use pureed vegetables to thicken sauces.

  1. Carrot Puree in Tomato-Based Sauce:
    • Ingredients: Carrots, tomatoes, onions, garlic, olive oil, vegetable broth.
    • Method: Sauté onions and garlic in olive oil. Add chopped tomatoes and simmer until soft. Blend boiled carrots into a puree and stir into the tomato mixture. Simmer until thickened.
  2. How to thicken Alfredo Sauce with Cauliflower Puree:
    • Ingredients: Cauliflower, garlic, milk (or dairy-free alternative), Parmesan cheese (optional), butter or olive oil.
    • Method: Steam cauliflower and blend until smooth. Sauté garlic in butter, add milk, and bring to a simmer. Stir in cauliflower puree and Parmesan cheese, cook until thickened.
  3. Pumpkin Puree in Curry or Coconut Sauce:
    • Ingredients: Pumpkin, coconut milk, curry spices, onions, garlic, ginger.
    • Method: Sauté onions, garlic, and ginger. Add curry spices and cook briefly. Stir in roasted pumpkin puree and coconut milk. Simmer until thickened.

You can actually most most neutrally-flavored vegetables for this method of thickening a sauce that’s too thin. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, butternut, parsnips, and zucchini are other possible choices.