How To Thicken BBQ Sauce?

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Having the perfect BBQ sauce to smother your favorite food in is the epitome of a summer evening barbeque. With endless homemade BBQ recipes to follow, making the perfect sauce can feel pretty intimidating; even store-bought BBQ sauces can be too runny and require a bit of work to make them a thick and sticky consistency that travels straight from your plate to mouth.

The easiest methods to thicken BBQ sauce include reduction, white flour, cornstarch, rice flour, tapioca, arrowroot, potato starch, butter, heavy cream, coconut oil or cream, tomato purée, gelatin, xanthan, guar gum, pectin, nuts, and seeds, puréed fruit, and various nightshade vegetables. 

To create a thick BBQ sauce on round one that perfectly coats your meal without sliding right off can be pretty tricky, but fortunately, there are plenty of simple thickening methods to follow, ensuring a pro BBQ sauce. Continue reading for the ins and outs of thickening BBQ sauce.

Reduction

Generally, when we thicken sauces, we often add extra ingredients; however, a reduction is a quick and easy method to thicken BBQ sauce by “removing” components.

Reduction focuses on removing the excess water or vinegar in the BBQ sauce to thicken it; this will change the consistency of the BBQ sauce and heighten its flavor without changing the taste.

  • Heat a saucepan on low or medium heat and add the BBQ sauce while stirring it continuously. Then, leaving the pan uncovered, slowly bring the heat up to medium heat, allowing the water and vinegar to evaporate, but be sure not to let the sauce boil.
  • Continuously stirring the BBQ will prevent it from boiling and burning while giving you insight into how thick the sauce is becoming. 
  • Alternatively, you can check whether your sauce is thick enough by dipping a spoon into the sauce; if the BBQ sauce coats the back of a spoon, remove it from the heat and if it runs off the spoon, cook it for a bit longer.
  • Lastly, take the saucepan off the heat once the sauce reaches the desired thickness.

Flour Slurry

A traditional way of thickening sauces that works just as well on BBQ sauce is to add a flour slurry to add more starch. In turn, the additional starch will absorb the excess liquids in the BBQ sauce, naturally giving the sauce a thicker consistency. 

Additionally, flour is tasteless, making it ideal if you do not want to play with the flavor of the BBQ sauce. However, we recommend using white flour as it contains more starch.

To make a slurry:

  • For every cup of sauce, you’ll want to combine two tbsp of flour with ¼ cup of water. 
  • Whisk the slurry mixture until it turns into a smooth paste.
  • Once you have a paste, add the slurry to your BBQ sauce. 
  • Then cook the BBQ sauce over low to medium heat, stirring continuously until the sauce thickens to your desired consistency. 

Cornstarch 

As the name suggests, cornstarch also contains starch, making it another superb way to add a bit of thickness to your BBQ sauce without changing the taste. 

Additionally, cornstarch or cornflour is an excellent gluten-free alternative that is lighter and has twice the water absorption or thickening capacity of flour. However, on the downside, sauces with high acidic sauces (like tomatoes) can break down and make it ineffective. 

To make cornstarch slurry:

  • Combine equal amounts of cornstarch and water before adding it to the BBQ sauce.
  • Stir the mixture to remove all the lumps and create a smooth paste.
  • Next, add the slurry to the BBQ sauce and cook it on low to medium heat in a shallow pan. Again, cornflour needs to undergo a heating process to activate and thicken the sauce.
  • Be sure not to over-stir the sauce as cornstarch thins out if you over-stir it.
  • Lastly, remove the pan from the stove as soon as the sauce thickens to your preferred consistency. 

Potato Starch

Before explaining how to use potato starch to thicken BBQ sauce, note that potato starch is not the same as potato flour. 

Potato flour is made by dehydrating potatoes and grinding them into powder. Whereas potato starch is made from an extraction process that solely removes the starch from the potato. Potato starch is much lighter, less dense, and is naturally gluten-free

Many home cooks prefer potato starch to flour as it remains translucent instead of clouding the sauce like flour.

  • Dissolve equal parts potato starch and cold water and mix it to form a paste.
  • Then, pour the BBQ sauce into a saucepan on medium heat and add the potato starch.
  • Be sure not to allow the sauce to boil by continuously stirring the sauce.
  • Remove the sauce from the heat once it reaches your desired consistency. 

Tapioca

Tapioca is a starch extracted from the dried root of cassava plants grown in the tropics. Additionally, tapioca starch is a gluten-free alternative with a slightly sweet flavor that can be frozen and reheated.

  • When making your slurry, you’ll want to use twice as much tapioca starch as cornstarch. 
  • Alternatively, add the tapioca powder directly to the sauce and thoroughly stir it well into the sauce.
  • Remember that tapioca will add a sweet sauce to the BBQ sauce, so be sure to consider it before mixing the two.

Arrowroot

Arrowroot works like other pure starches; however, it is a refined carb. More so, arrowroot does not weaken when it’s added to acidic sauces like cornstarch, nor is it affected by freezing. However, it doesn’t tolerate over-heating or reheating well.

Additionally, arrowroot has a neutral flavor and won’t contribute to the flavor profile of your BBQ sauce.

  • Add two teaspoons of arrowroot to ¼ cup of cold water and stir it until it forms a smooth paste.
  • Arrowroot tends to thicken at lower temperatures than flour or cornstarch, so be sure to mix it into the BBQ sauce while simmering on low heat. 
  • Continue heating the sauce and arrowroot mixture until the mixture thickens, and then remove it immediately to prevent overheating from breaking down the arrowroot’s thickening properties.

Butter

Butter is an excellent choice to slightly thicken BBQ sauce while adding a glossy and lusciousness that will enrich and round out the flavors of the sauce. 

You’ll want to use the real thing; margarine won’t provide the same consistency.

  • Add at least one tbsp butter for every cup of BBQ sauce.
  • After adding the BBQ sauce to a saucepan, gradually bring it to medium heat and continuously stir in the butter until it properly melts into the BBQ sauce.
  • Keep stirring the sauce until it gently boils, then lowers the heat.
  • Stir the sauce for about two minutes until it slowly reduces.
  • Lastly, enjoy!

Heavy Cream 

Similar to butter, heavy cream will not only add more body and thickness to your BBQ sauce, but it will give it an irresistibly rich flavor.

  • Like many other thickening processes, you’ll want to add the heavy cream once the sauce warms over medium heat.
  • Add a small amount of cream and keep stirring while the sauce simmers.
  • Once you reach the desired consistency, immediately remove the sauce from the heat as it can quickly become too thick.

Coconut Oil Or Cream

Coconut oil or coconut cream is quickly reaching the Western world with all its benefits, including changing the overall thickness of sauces while adding a creamy, velvety texture.

Additionally, coconut oil contains less saturated fat than butter. It is high in healthy cholesterol, making it a healthy and ideal way to thicken your BBQ sauce without the extra unhealthy fats.

  • Try adding a small helping of coconut oil to your rue and watch the magic happen!
  • Alternatively, add a tbsp of coconut cream or coconut oil to your sauce to thicken it, or continue adding more oil or cream until you achieve the desired consistency. 
  • Note that the coconut cream does not require cooking, so you can add it once the sauce warms up without the additional simmering.
Pork roasted, grilled spare ribs from a summer BBQ served with Vegetables, asparagus, baby carrots, fresh tomatoes and  spices. smoked ribs in white plate on stone background . top view.

Tomato Purée

Adding tomato purée or paste (not tomato sauce) is an easy and effective way to thicken and bind BBQ sauce, especially in tomato-based barbecue sauces. 

Tomato purée will encourage the BBQ sauce to reach the perfect smooth paste consistency while adding a rich tomato flavor. 

  • If you are trying a homemade BBQ sauce, you can either add the tomato purée at the start of the process or add it later to thicken the sauce.
  • Be sure to heat the BBQ sauce on the stove before adding the dollop of tomato purée.
  • Let the BBQ sauce simmer until it reaches the perfect consistency.

Food Gums

Food gums are polysaccharides sourced from lands plants or seaweed; they increase the texture and consistency of any sauce without changing the appearance or flavor.

Of the wide variety of gums available, generally, xanthan gum, guar gum, and pectin are most frequently used for sauces.

Xanthan Gum

Xantham gum is a natural, gluten-free thickener and stabilizer made via the fermentation of corn or soy — you can compare it to yeast. 

The advantage of using xanthan gum to thicken your BBQ sauce is that it is neutral in taste while adding creaminess, richness, and body to your sauce. 

Additionally, xanthan gum thickens without being heated, and a little goes a long way. 

You can lightly sprinkle the xanthan gum into the BBQ sauce; absorption will immediately begin. 

Guar Gum

Guar gum is a natural thickener that derives from the seed of the guar plant. Guar gum is carb-free and vegan friendly. Additionally, guar gum is eight times stronger than cornstarch, so you’ll want to use minimal amounts.

Guar gum is high in fiber and thicken BBQ sauce without gelling, and prevents water from separating from the sauce.

Pectin

Pectin is a powder readily available in stores; it comes from citrus rinds or apple cores. 

Pectin can quickly gel, so combine it with the BBQ sauce in the blender or mix it using salt or sugar to encourage it to dissolve quickly. 

Lastly, allow the BBQ sauce and pectin to simmer for about 30 seconds before serving it.

Nuts Or Seeds

When puréed, you can add nuts and seeds to BBQ sauce to thicken it. The nuts and seeds will lend a mildly sweet, creamy taste to the sauce while boosting the texture and nutritional value.

Of course, this is a risky option for guests who may have nut allergies. 

  • Place the nuts and seeds into a food processor or heavy-duty blender and pulse it until the nuts are roughly chopped.
  • Add the nut butter or purée to the BBQ sauce.
  • Ensure that you ask your guests if they have any nut allergies before serving the sauce.

Puréed Fruits

You can use pureed fruits to thicken your BBQ sauce if your recipe allows it. A tinge of sweetness usually compliments pork or chicken well.

You can add puréed fruits like apricots or cherries to your BBQ sauce to thicken it while enhancing it with a hint of sweetness.  

Nightshades

Last but not least, nightshades like potatoes, eggplant, or peppers are an excellent way to thicken BBQ sauce. Additionally, these heart-warming vegetables add extra flavor and nutritional value to your sauce.

  • You can either roast or boil the vegetables.
  • Next, purée the veggies in a food processor until it reaches a smooth consistency. 
  • Lastly, stir the puréed vegetables into the sauce – enjoy the instant thickness!
Pork roasted, grilled spare ribs from a summer BBQ served with Vegetables, asparagus, baby carrots, fresh tomatoes and  spices. smoked ribs on wooden cutting board  on stone background . top view.

So, How To Thicken BBQ Sauce?

BBQ sauce — parallel to the grilling version of icing on a cake — adds maximum flavor to your grilled dish!

As noted, there are endless, easy, and effective ways to contribute to the thickness of your BBQ sauce without altering the taste or, even better, adding a rich, creamy flavor to the sauce.

With the right ingredients and a hint of creativity, you’ll always have something hiding in the panty to help you thicken a sauce for your next barbeque.


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