7 Easy Ways to Thicken up a Sauce (2024)

Updated: Jul. 12, 2023

Did your soup turn out thin and runny? Having trouble getting gravy to the perfect consistency? Don't worry: We can teach you how to thicken sauce in all sorts of easy ways.

It happens to the best of us: You followed the recipe to a T, but it just didn’t turn out as you expected. Isn’t a gravy supposed to be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon? Shouldn’t an Alfredo sauce cling to the sides of the pasta noodles?

Professional recipe developers (including the folks in our Test Kitchen) try to anticipate everything, but sometimes other factors get in the way. Maybe you prefer your gravy a touch thicker than they do, or perhaps the amount of humidity in your kitchen affected the thickening power of your flour.

Use these tips and tricks to fix thin, runny soups and lackluster gravies without thinking twice.

1. Flour

If being gluten-free isn’t a concern, adding flour is a fantastic way to thicken dairy-based sauces, thick soups and gravies. My preferred method is to make a roux (a combination of equal parts fat and all-purpose flour) and whisk in 2 ounces for every cup of liquid. Since the flour is already cooked in the roux-making process, you won’t run the risk of the dish tasting like raw flour—or ofmaking your family sick.

Alternatively, you can add a little water directly to raw flour, using about 2 tablespoons for every cup of liquid in your recipe. Whisk the slurry into the pot and simmer it for a few minutes, or until the sauce has thickened and the taste of flour is cooked out.

Keep in mind that flour will make your sauce cloudy, so if you need to maintain clarity while increasing the viscosity, the next thickener is a better option.

2. Cornstarch or arrowroot

Arrowroot and cornstarch are gluten-free alternatives to thickening with flour. They’ll also keep your sauce clear and cloud-free. You’ll need about 1 tablespoon for every cup of liquid in the recipe. Mix the cornstarch with equal parts water to create a slurry and pour it into the pot. Whisk continuously over high heat until the cornstarch is well incorporated and the sauce starts to thicken. (Learn more about when you can eat cornstarch.)

What’s the difference between the two? In a nutshell, arrowroot is naturally GMO-free and freezes better than cornstarch. It does become slimy when combined with dairy, though, so skip it as your gravy thickener.

3. Tomato paste

The best time to add tomato paste is at the beginning of the recipe—heating it releases the essential oils and also caramelizes the sugars—but you can whisk it in near the end to help tomato-based soups and sauces bind. You could also add it to brown sauces or beef stews, but since it adds a burst of color and tomato flavor, we wouldn’t recommend it for dairy-based sauces.

4. Reduce the liquid

If you have plenty of extra time, reducing the liquid down is a great way to thicken things up. As the liquid evaporates, the other flavors will concentrate, too, which may or may not be a good thing. Since simmering a huge stockpot of sauce can take a while, you could remove a portion of the sauce to a wide saute pan to speed things up a bit. Then, just stir it back into the main pot when it’s nice and thick.

5. Swirl in a pat of butter

This method won’t add a serious amount of thickness, but it will give you an extra boost if you’re close but not quite there. Just make sure to swirl the butter into your sauce at the very end of the cooking process. The butter-infused sauce will break if it’s exposed to high heat, defeating the purpose of its thickening power.

6. Add an egg yolk

Egg yolks are a classic way to thicken salad dressings and custards, but they also work wonders for thickening rich cream sauces. To prevent the egg from scrambling, place the egg yolk in a bowl and slowly whisk in about a cup of the hot sauce. Then, add the tempered yolk mixture to the pot, whisking as you go.

The egg yolk method also works really well as a way to save a broken sauce.

7. Puree some vegetables

Starchy vegetables—like potatoes, winter squash or celeriac—are excellent thickening agents, especially if they’ve been pureed. Simply roast or boil these vegetables and pop them into the food processor until smooth. Then, stir it into the sauce, and voila: It will instantly be thicker! You could also use steamed and mashed cauliflower, or any kind of cooked beans or lentils, keeping in mind that the latter would add additional flavors to the dish.

Depending on the type of recipe you’re making, you may also be able to puree half or more of your soup or sauce to thicken it up. It would reduce the dish’s chunky consistency, but it would thicken things up without introducing any extra ingredients.

Next time your sauce is a little thin, experiment with these solutions. You’re bound to find one that works for your recipe.

Quick & Saucy Dinner Recipes

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7 Easy Ways to Thicken up a Sauce (1)

Chicken with Tarragon SauceThis is comfort food at its finest. I cook it at least once a week and usually serve it with homemade mashed potatoes and sautéed fresh green beans. —Cher Schwartz, Ellisville, MissouriGo to Recipe

Taste of Home

Tenderloin with Herb SauceTender pork is treated to a rich and creamy sauce with a slight red pepper kick. This hearty dish is very simple to prepare and is always a dinnertime winner at my home. —Monica Shipley, Tulare, California

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Chicken with Cherry Wine SauceMy dad's a chef, so I learned to cook at an early age. This saucy chicken was the first dish I made by myself. —Ben Diaz, Azusa, California

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Pork with Mustard SauceBack when I was a girl, I couldn't wait until I was grown up and could start cooking for my own family! Now that I am, I really enjoy using pork. The tender meat and the rich mustard sauce in this recipe are delectable together. —Irma Pomeroy, Enfield, Connecticut

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Pork Chops with Nectarine SauceAs a dietitian, I’m always looking for ways to make meals healthy and delicious. These juicy chops are fast, too. —Suellen Pineda, Victor, New York

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Beef Filets with Portobello SauceThese tasty steaks seem special, but they are fast enough for an everyday dinner. We enjoy the mushroom-topped filets with crusty French bread, a mixed salad and a light lemon dessert. —Christel Stein, Tampa, Florida

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Thai Pasta with Spicy Peanut SauceWe love how the whole wheat pasta and crisp, raw vegetables blend with the rich and creamy peanut sauce. The addition of fresh lime juice really brightens the flavor of the dish. Some eat it hot, but my husband and I prefer to wait until it's closer to room temperature. —Donna McCallie, Lake Park, Florida

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Taste of Home

Pork Medallions in Mustard SauceI like pork medallions with apricot preserves and wondered how else I could dress them up. I played around with different flavors until I found this combo. Wows every time. —Tahnia Fox, Trenton, Michigan

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Taste of Home

Contest-Winning Chicken with Mushroom SauceIt looks impressive, but this mouthwatering chicken and mushroom sauce comes together in no time. I think its flavor rivals that of many full-fat entrees found in fancy restaurants. —Jennifer Pemberton, Muncie, Indiana

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Grilled Shrimp with Spicy-Sweet Sauce Recipe photo by Taste of Home

Grilled Shrimp with Spicy-Sweet SauceThese finger-lickin' shrimp practically fly off the platter at my get-togethers. Play with the amount of sriracha to get the spice level just the way you like it. —Susan Harrison, Laurel, Maryland

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Cod with Hearty Tomato Sauce Recipe photo by Taste of Home

Cod with Hearty Tomato SauceMy father made up this sweet, flavorful recipe for my mother when he took over the cooking. We serve it with whole wheat pasta or brown rice. —Ann Marie Eberhart, Gig Harbor, Washington

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Taste of Home

Turkey Scallopini with Marsala SauceMy family requests this entree at least once a month. The slightly sweet Marsala sauce is yummy over the turkey slices and hot cooked noodles. —Briana Knight, Ferndale, Washington

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Jamaican Salmon with Coconut Cream SauceWe try to eat salmon a lot because it's so healthy, and I love thinking of new ways to make it different and delicious. This dazzler is easy and is my go-to meal for company. —Joni Hilton, Rocklin, California

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Taste of Home

Shrimp in Mango Chili SauceOn-hand ingredients make a tasty shrimp entree in a matter of minutes! Try the shrimp over waffles or rice for another yummy option. —Arlene Erlbach, Morton Grove, Illinois

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Taste of Home

Turkey Linguine with Tomato Cream SauceI love an easy weeknight meal! This meal comes together quickly and uses up the half block of cream cheese that always ends up in my fridge. —Amy Lents, Grand Forks, North Dakota

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Pork Chops with Blue Cheese SauceSometimes a sauce is just a sauce, but with these tender chops, it really makes the dish. If you like a little spice, mix a pinch of nutmeg with the black pepper before you sprinkle it on the meat. —Kathleen Specht, Clinton, Montana

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Chicken with Creamy Jalapeno SauceMy sister Amy came up with this recipe that makes standard chicken breasts a lot more exciting. My husband and I just love the wonderful sauce. —Molly Cappone, Lewis Center, Ohio

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Taste of Home

Grilled Pork Chops with Sticky Sweet SauceJuicy pork chops so flavorful and so easy, you might never guess the dish has just four simple ingredients. —Angela Spengler, Tampa, Florida

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Turkey with Lime Butter SauceWhen I’m in Florida, I buy Key limes for the butter sauce, but any fresh limes work just fine. If I'm using leftover turkey, I brown the meat a little so the sauce picks up the flavor. —Patricia Kile, Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania

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Taste of Home

Pesto GnocchiPerk up gnocchi and vegetables with a flavorful pesto sauce. If you don't have pine nuts to top the pesto gnocchi, skip or substitute any nut you like. —Taste of Home Test Kitchen

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Pork Tenderloin with Wine SauceHere’s a fast and easy, great-tasting meal that's as big on flavor as it is low in fat and calories. I serve it with fresh green beans and mashed potatoes. —Nancy LaVoice, Wexford, Pennsylvania

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Beef Tenderloin in Mushroom Sauce Recipe photo by Taste of Home

Beef Tenderloin in Mushroom SauceWhen our kids are visiting Grandma, I make this recipe for just my husband and myself. It's a recipe my mother-in-law has been using for more than 30 years. I especially look forward to preparing it as part of a special Valentine's Day menu. —Denise McNab, Warminster, Pennsylvania

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Taste of Home

Pork Chops with Honey-Garlic SauceThe sauce on these honey garlic pork chops is so good, I sometimes double it so there's extra for dipping whatever veggie we have on the side. —Michelle Smith, Eldersburg, Maryland

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Turkey Cutlets in Lemon Wine SauceAfter I ate something like this at a local Italian restaurant, I figured out how to make it at home for my family. Now I serve it a lot since it's so quick to make—and they're so happy I do. —Kathie Wilson, Warrenton, Virginia

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Pork Chops with Dijon SauceHere's a main course that tastes rich yet isn't high in saturated fat. It's easy for weeknights, but the creamy sauce makes it special enough for weekends. —Bonnie Brown-Watson, Houston, Texas

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Taste of Home

Chicken with Red Wine Cream SauceMy creamy chicken tastes like a five-star restaurant dish but takes only minutes and few ingredients to make. Use fresh rosemary. Trust me. —Sarah Campbell, Terre Haute, IN

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Pork Medallions with Garlic-Strawberry Sauce Recipe photo by Taste of Home

Pork Medallions with Garlic-Strawberry SauceThese crispy pork medallions are treated to a refreshing strawberry sauce that's ideal for a springtime or summer meal. —Taste of Home Test Kitchen

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Sirloin with Mushroom SauceA mouthwatering combination of rich brown mushroom sauce and tender strips of peppery steak is a wonderful way to end a busy day. It’s special enough to make for company and ready in less than 30 minutes. —Joe Elliott, West Bend, WI

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Blackberry-Sauced Pork ChopsMy family loved these chops from the first time I fixed them. They're as tasty in a skillet as they are grilled, so you can eat them all year long. The sauce is also fantastic with chicken. —Priscilla Gilbert, Indian Harbour Beach, Florida

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Taste of Home

Pork Chops and ApplesauceThese tasty, tender pork chops and applesauce are packed with sweet, smoky flavor. They're on the table in no time at all, making them perfect for hectic weeknights. —Brenda Campbell, Olympia, Washington

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7 Easy Ways to Thicken up a Sauce (2024)
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