One of life’s greatest pleasures is firing up the grill in summer, cooking your favorite food, and smothering it in BBQ sauce. I am a firm believer that all the best foods are just vehicles for delicious sauces.
With summer fast approaching, you might want to learn how to make your own delicious homemade BBQ sauce. Having the perfect sauce can make or break your meal, and it’s always one of the most memorable parts of any barbecue.
While there are many types of sauce to choose from, it’s important to learn some of the basic skills required to make a perfect final result. Even some store-bought brands of sauce can be way too thin and require a little work to make them thick and sticky.
In order to create a sauce that perfectly coats whatever you’ve cooked, it needs to have the right thickness so that it doesn’t slide right off after you put it on.
There’s always going to be a little mess when BBQ sauce is involved (that’s part of the fun), but you want most of it to stay on your food.
So, what is the best way to thicken your BBQ sauce? The best methods include reducing your sauce, adding cornstarch or white flour, adding fat like butter, and using gelatin, tomato paste, or xantham gum to add thickness to your sauce.
Read on to learn about how to use these simple thickening methods, complete with measurements and recipes so you can become a sauce-making pro.
The 7 Best Ways To Thicken BBQ Sauce
There are lots of great ways that you can choose to thicken your BBQ sauce depending on what you have on hand. You will also want to consider how these different methods may impact the final flavor of your sauce.
For most of these methods, I always recommend adding a little extra salt at the very end of the cooking process just to bring all the flavors to life.
Your taste preference will vary, but I start by adding one 1/4 teaspoon, stirring it in, and adding small amounts until I get the flavor I want.
Reducing Your BBQ Sauce
Reducing your BBQ sauce is the only method on the list that doesn’t require you add anything extra to your sauce.
It is also a great option if you find the flavor isn’t quite as strong as you were hoping it would be. Reducing helps to concentrate the flavors and to create a thick, sticky sauce.
Add your BBQ sauce to a saucepan over medium heat.
Bring the sauce to a gentle boil so that small bubbles start to form on the surface. Make sure that you are stirring your sauce occasionally so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot.
Once boiling, turn the heat to medium-low and let it simmer.
The steam evaporating off the sauce is the excess liquid, so the longer you let it simmer, the thicker it will become. It will also thicken slightly as it cools, so you don’t want it to get too thick.
Check the consistency on a spoon every couple of minutes.
Remove from heat and let cool. Enjoy on your food of choice.
As you can see, this method is one of the simplest ways to thicken your sauce. However, it may end up making the flavors really strong. You might want to use a less-is-more approach when saucing your food.
Thicken BBQ Sauce With Cornstarch
Another option to thicken your BBQ sauce is to add some cornstarch. You are still going to need to heat your sauce to activate the thickening process, but it won’t take as long as it does to reduce.
The most important step in this process is combining the cornstarch with water to make a slurry before you stir it into your sauce.
If you try to add the cornstarch straight to the saucepan, it will end up clumpy and unappetizing.
Figure out how much BBQ sauce you are going to be thickening.
For every 250 ml of BBQ sauce, you will want to measure out 1 tablespoon of cornstarch and 1/4 cup of warm water.
In a small bowl, mix together the cornstarch and water until smooth. You don’t want any clumps left or these will pass into your sauce.
Add the BBQ sauce to a small saucepan and bring to a medium heat.
Stir in the cornstarch mixture until it is thoroughly combined with the BBQ sauce.
Bring the BBQ sauce to a gentle boil while you stir occasionally. Once it has boiled, turn the heat to low.
Keep stirring for two minutes as the sauce thickens. The longer you leave it on the heat, the thicker it will become.
Remove from the stove top and pour your sauce into a bowl or container. Enjoy!
Thicken BBQ Sauce With Regular Flour
The process for thickening a BBQ sauce with regular flour is same process used with cornstarch. The only slight difference is the measurements.
I recommend using white flour as opposed to whole wheat because it has more of the starch needed to thicken your sauce.
Remember that the most important step in this process is combining the flour with water to make a slurry before you stir it into your sauce to avoid any clumpiness.
Measure the amount of BBQ sauce to thicken.
Measure 2 tablespoons of flour and 1/2 cup of warm water for every 250 ml of BBQ sauce.
Mix together the flour and water in a small bowl until smooth. Mix well to ensure that no lumps remain.
Bring BBQ sauce to medium heat in a small saucepan.
Combine flour and BBQ sauce.
Stir occasionally while the BBQ sauce simmers. Once it has simmered, turn the heat to low.
Continue stirring for two minutes. The sauce will continue thickening the longer you let it cook.
Once your sauce is ready, pour your sauce into a container and enjoy!
Thicken BBQ Sauce By Adding Butter
One of my favorite ways to thicken a sauce is by adding butter. It adds a lusciousness to the sauce and can help round out the flavors.
I use salted butter because I like the taste better, but feel free to use unsalted butter if that’s what you have on hand.
Measure out your BBQ sauce beforehand.
For every 250 ml of BBQ sauce prepare at least 1 tablespoon of butter. I always use a heaping tablespoon for good measure.
After adding the BBQ sauce to a small saucepan, slowly bring it up to a medium heat.
Stir in the butter one tablespoon at a time until all of it has melted into the BBQ sauce.
Keep stirring the BBQ sauce until it comes up to a gentle boil. Once it has begun to boil, bring the heat down to low.
Keep stirring for two minutes as the sauce slowly reduces. Remember that the longer you cook your BBQ sauce the thicker it will become. Another way you can ensure the thickness you want is by adding a little more butter.
Bring your sauce off the heat and pour your sauce into a bowl or container to cool. Enjoy!
Thicken BBQ Sauce With Gelatin
Another option I like to use to thicken sauces of all kinds is gelatin. It has no flavor so it shouldn’t change the taste of your sauce too much. Plus, it creates a really lovely texture once thickened.
Just like thickening the sauce with cornstarch or flour, you are going to want to dissolve the gelatin in water before adding it to your sauce or you will end up with unappetizing clumps.
Begin by figuring out how much BBQ sauce you want to thicken.
Measure out 1 tablespoon of gelatin and 1/4 cup of cold water for every 250 ml of BBQ sauce.
In a separate bowl mix together the gelatin and water until no clumps remain.
Let it sit for a couple of minutes to bloom- this activates the gelatin. If you skip this step you won’t end up with a smooth texture in your final sauce.
In a small saucepan bring your BBQ sauce to a medium heat.
Add the gelatin mixture to the heated BBQ sauce.
Bring the BBQ sauce up to a gentle boil while occasionally stirring. Once it has reached a steady boil, bring the heat to low.
Keep stirring for an additional two minutes as the sauce thickens.
After you’re finished cooking, pour your sauce into a bowl or container and enjoy!
Thicken BBQ Sauce With Tomato Paste
This thickening method works especially well if you have a tomato-based BBQ sauce. Make sure you use tomato paste and not tomato sauce since the latter will end up thinning your BBQ sauce even more.
Begin by bringing your BBQ sauce up to medium heat in a saucepan.
Stir in about 1 tablespoon of tomato paste per cup of BBQ sauce. The measurements for this method are little less precise and there is more leeway in the process.
Begin to gently simmer the BBQ sauce as you stir it. Once it has begun boiling, turn the heat to low.
Continue to stir for two minutes as the sauce reduces.
Take off the heat and allow to cool before enjoying!
Thicken BBQ Sauce With Xantham Gum
Thickening with xantham gum is a great option because a little bit goes a long way. You don’t have to make a slurry before adding it to your sauce as well, so it cuts down on the work you need to do.
It also dissolves easily in hot or cold liquids and will give your sauce a creamy mouthfeel.
Start reducing your BBQ sauce by bringing it to medium heat in a small saucepan.
Stir in 1/4 teaspoon of xantham gum for every 1 cup of BBQ sauce.
As you stir, bring the BBQ sauce to a gentle boil. Once it has boiled, turn the heat to low.
For two minutes, continue to stir your sauce. The longer it continues to cook, the thicker it will become.
Pour your sauce into a small bowl and enjoy!
Now that you’re a pro at thickening your own BBQ sauce, you might have a few other questions to make sure you’re grilling and saucing like a pro.
How do I make my sauce stick to my food?
The process of making sure that your BBQ sauce sticks to whatever you’re grilling is twofold. First, you want to make sure you generously salt and pepper your food.
Adding these seasonings not only improves flavor but also adds texture and gives the sauce something to stick to.
You also want to hold off on adding your sauce to your meat or veggies until they are almost done, which will be about 2-4 minutes.
While your food is cooking, it is sweating moisture and that can cause your sauce to slide right off and into your grill!
Which thickener is best for a keto or low carb diet?
If you are looking to thicken your sauce without adding excess carbs, you will want to use the following methods:
- Reduce your sauce
- Thicken with gelatin or butter
- Thicken with tomato paste
- Thicken with xantham gum
Using cornstarch, flour, or any other starch to thicken your sauce is going to add more carbohydrates to the final product. So, if you’re looking for the low-carb option the above methods are your best bet.
How do I thicken BBQ sauce in a slow cooker?
To thicken your sauce in the slow cooker you can use any of the above additions. You will want to make sure that you properly combine the thickener into the sauce.
From there you can turn the slow cooker to high and let it reduce with the lid off until it reaches your desired consistency.
If you want to leave the lid on, it may take a little bit more time but should still reach the sticky consistency you’re looking for.
As you can see, there are lots of great options for thickening your BBQ sauce. Don’t be afraid to get in your kitchen and try out a couple of different methods until you find your favorite.
And remember, unless you’re reducing, add a pinch of salt at the end.
Do you have any tried and true methods for thickening your BBQ sauce? If so, let me know in the comments. Happy cooking!
If you’re interested in making a deliciously thick BBQ sauce at home, check out this video by the Kitchen Sanctuary.
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