Stuck with runny hot sauce? No worries – there are several quick and easy solutions that you can use to thicken your hot sauce without affecting its flavor!
How do you thicken hot sauce? The best way to thicken hot sauce is to first try to reduce it. Reducing the water content will automatically thicken it. You can also try adding additives like xanthan gum, cornstarch, pectin, flour, and other ingredients for the same effect.
Read below to learn more about how to properly thicken hot sauce, some basic ingredients, and clever techniques that you can use to make your favorite hot sauce even better!
How Do Thickeners Work?
Have you ever used cornstarch or flour to thicken liquid? The same concept can be applied to hot sauce too. But how do thickeners work without lessening the flavor of food?
Thickening agents can absorb water and increase the viscosity of liquid – and since they don’t have any inherent flavor of their own, they leave the underlying flavor untouched!
Most thickening agents are designed to add body and improve the stability of a liquid.
When we talk about hot sauce, most commercial and homemade varieties may already contain a thickening agent, but due to varying preferences, you will find hot sauces with many different viscosities.
Best Methods For Thickening Hot Sauce
Here are a few popular methods that you can use to thicken hot sauce at home:
The reduction method is by far the easiest way to thicken any liquid. The idea is to evaporate excess water until the liquid starts to become viscous. This is especially helpful when you are preparing homemade hot sauce.
Some liquids need to be slowly cooked until they reach the desired consistency – as is also going to be the case with typical hot sauces!
If you reduce hot sauce in a pan at high heat, then you will risk burning the liquid. Heating it at low heat and allowing it to simmer is the best way to get the most out of its consistency.
Follow these steps to reduce any hot sauce:
- Empty the contents of the hot sauce in a non-stick pan. For this method to work effectively, we recommend adding a large batch of hot sauce so that you can reduce the mixture without overcooking it.
- Turn the heat to medium and allow the mixture to simmer. Occasionally stir the mixture – make sure you scoop down the sides as the liquid reduces.
- When the mixture is near the required consistency, turn off the flame and let the reduced hot sauce rest. Do not continue cooking the hot sauce or it may over-thicken. The ambient heat and steam coming off from the sauce should be enough to finish thickening it.
This method is perhaps the go-to for many home chefs. Cornstarch is an extremely common ingredient and chances are that you already have it in your kitchen.
Make use of this powder by mixing it with your favorite hot sauce and cook it until it is thickened.
Here is how to use cornstarch to thicken hot sauce:
- In a small bowl, add 1-2 tablespoons of cornstarch and gently pour in water. Mix the water and starch mixture until well incorporated. Please make sure that there are no clumped-up pieces of starch in the mixture!
- Add hot sauce to a nonstick pan and let it come to a simmer. Now give the starch mixture a good mix and then add a few teaspoons at a time. Wait until the excess starch has been absorbed into the hot sauce.
- Keep adding more starch, one teaspoon at a time, until you reach the desired consistency. Turn off the flame and let the mixture cool down. If you feel that the mixture has become too thick then add more hot sauce or a splash of water to loosen it.
You might not have heard of this ingredient before, but chances are that you may have consumed it several times this week!
Xanthan gum is a very common commercial thickener in a lot of foods. It is usually used in sauces, dressings, and even beverages.
This white powder is made by fermenting sugar. The resulting mixture can be added as a stabilizer and powerful thickening agent.
You can purchase this ingredient online (we suggest the brand It’s Just, which you can find on Amazon) – it can also be bought by browsing through the aisle with thickening agents.
We recommend adding xanthan gum to hot sauce because there is a high chance that your favorite hot sauce might already contain this ingredient.
You can confirm by checking the back of the packaging too! Even if it doesn’t, this is an excellent natural ingredient that will blend well with the hot sauce.
Here is how to use it:
- Measure out the required proportions. You will need about 1/8th teaspoon for every cup of hot sauce.
- Gently heat the hot sauce at a low flame until the sauce is steaming. The idea here is to just “loosen” up the sauce by heating it – NOT boiling or simmering it.
- Use an immersion blender or add the hot sauce into a blender and start at medium power. Once the sauce is blending, slowly add the measured-out xanthan gum until all of it is incorporated. Make sure that you keep blending the mixture while adding the thickener.
- Avoid adding xanthan gum to “standing” or “at rest” mixtures because as soon as the gum is added it will set and may become extremely difficult and stubborn to mix.
Here is another convenient and easily accessible method for thickening hot sauce. Flour has been the best thickening agent for a range of foods.
From desserts, soups, gravies, and more. It is the perfect way to add bulk and increase the viscosity of food. If you do not have gluten sensitivity, then we highly recommend using flour!
While it does somewhat lessen the flavor of food, you can easily adjust the underlying ingredients to improve the flavor of the mixture.
To begin, use 2 tablespoons of flour with a bit of water for every cup of hot sauce. You will need to prepare this mixture in the same way as cornstarch. Make sure that there are no lumpy pieces of flour in the mixture before proceeding.
Here’s how to thicken hot sauce with flour:
- Heat the hot sauce until it is lightly simmering. Do not boil the mixture!
- Add the flour mixture, half a tablespoon at a time. Continuously whisk the mixture until all of the ingredients have been mixed. Do this until you use all of the flour.
- While slowly whisking, allow the mixture to reduce until you reach the desired consistency. Check the flavor of the sauce and turn off the heat. If the sauce tastes less intense then consider adding more hot sauce. If it is too concentrated then you may add a tablespoon or two of filtered water.
Pectin is just like gelatin – but better. It is a natural thickener and a healthier alternative to other types of thickening agents.
Pectin is naturally found in a lot of fruits and vegetables and is a key ingredient in making sauces and jams.
Pectin is usually available in powder form and can be bought from any supermarket.
The best thing about pectin is that it works like cornstarch – but is also able to provide some nutritional benefits. Oh, and it is also completely vegan and gluten-free!
Here’s how to thicken hot sauce with pectin:
- Begin by measuring out 1/8th teaspoon of pectin for every 1 cup of hot sauce. Pectin mixes well with liquids which is why we will directly be using the powder without diluting it for this method.
- Bring the hot sauce to a light boil. The hot sauce needs to have a higher temperature for this method so that the pectin can react and “activate” with the ambient heat. Whisk in small quantities of pectin and check the sauce for the desired consistency.
- It is completely okay to not use all of the powder if you have already achieved the right thickness.
- Warning: Pectin can set liquids in seconds and adding too much of it may lead to you creating hot sauce jelly!
- As the sauce starts to thicken, turn down the heat and continue gently whisking the mixture for a few minutes – then let it cool down. Check the hot sauce for consistency and bottle it up!
How To Make Your Own Hot Sauce
If you just can’t seem to make store-bought hot sauce perfect, no matter what you try, maybe it’s worth developing your own recipe that’s perfectly suited to your tastebuds!
This video from Sauce Stache on YouTube is a great place to start!
Commercial or homemade hot sauce can easily be thickened using common household ingredients or easily-sourced thickeners. Now that you know how to quickly thicken hot sauce, here are a few related questions:
Do thickeners affect the shelf life of hot sauce?
No. Most thickeners are too mild to affect the overall shelf life of hot sauce but they will likely change the texture of the stored hot sauce, especially when it is cooled in the refrigerator.
Thickened hot sauce may clump up if it is not reduced or thickened to the right consistency. Allow the mixture to thaw or microwave it to bring it back to its original thickness.
Why is my thickened hot sauce separating?
Hot sauce that has been thickened and stored for a long time may separate. This is common for homemade hot sauces that don’t have an added emulsifier.
You can simply shake the contents before using them or remove the excess separated liquid and mix the remaining hot sauce.
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