Is your favorite hot sauce too runny? Hot sauces often include acidity, which tends to make the consistency runnier than you may want. Luckily, you have several different options to help thicken your hot sauces without sacrificing a good sauce’s full body flavor. You may even have some of these ingredients in your kitchen right now.
You can thicken your hot sauces through the process of reduction, or by adding vegetables, fruits, xanthan gum, pectin, arrowroot, flour, or even mustard.
There is a delicate balance, though, since you do not want to overwhelm the flavor of your hot sauce with the additives. The following methods are best for homemade hot sauces, but you could use them for store-bought ones too.
One of the most effective thickening agents for hot sauce is xanthan gum. It is known for its neutral flavor, meaning it won’t alter your hot sauces flavor when mixed in. My favorite brand of xanthan gum is It’s Just, they offer smaller sizes of their product which is nice for home chefs. Click the link to check the current price on Amazon.
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What to Consider When Choosing How to Thicken Your Hot Sauce
Different additions to any sauce will add a little something extra. You do not want to accidentally reduce the flavor or heat of your sauce as you thicken it.
Pay attention to how each ingredient helps thicken the hot sauce. Also, make sure you know when to add the thickening agent to the sauce. Keep in mind that you may need some specific kitchen tools on hand to get the right level of thickness you desire.
One of the easiest ways to thicken a sauce without adding anything extra is to reduce it over heat. By reducing it, you are essentially eliminating any extra moisture that might be causing the sauce to be runny. This method avoids any potential changes to the flavor since you are not introducing more ingredients.
When you are reducing the sauce, make sure to stir constantly. You are simmering the hot sauce to evaporate as much of the excess liquid as possible, so you might be simmering for a little bit, depending on how large the batch of hot sauce is.
For this method, all you need is a pot, a burner, and a wooden spoon or whisk. If you’re making your own hot sauce, this is the equipment you’ll already be working it, so no extra tools will be necessary.
What to Keep in Mind When Reducing Your Hot Sauce
The process of reduction will throw your quantities off a little since you are evaporating some of the liquid out of your hot sauce batch. Before you start making your sauce, you may want to make a little more than you planned, just so when you are reducing to a simmer, you will not sacrifice a lot of the final quantity.
You can make the reduction anytime while making this recipe. However, here is a suggested order to follow to get the best results:
- Wait until you have finished adding all of the ingredients so that the last thing on the list to do is to reduce the heat to a simmer to get it to the perfect thickness.
- Since you are turning your runny sauce into a denser sauce, this might make your hot sauce flavoring a little more concentrated.
- Just be ready with the taste tester after reaching the right amount of thickness.
Add Vegetables and Fruit
Adding different vegetables and fruits to your recipe will add thickness to your hot sauce. Depending on the vegetable or fruit added, you will add some unique flavoring to your sauce and give it some more sweetness or tanginess. Choose your fruits or vegetables wisely so that this new ingredient does not overpower but adds to the flavor of your sauce.
You can purée squash or potatoes, cauliflower, cooked beans or lentils, celery, onions, mangoes, or peaches. Taste your sauce before you add any of these flavorful options. Mangoes or peaches will add sweetness, while celery or onions will add savoriness.
You should first purée your vegetables or fruits before adding them to your sauce. Chunky pieces will not make your sauce thicker. Use one of the following kitchen tools to puree your vegetables or fruits:
- Immersion blender
- Stationary blender
- Food processor
When you add your puréed vegetables and/or fruits, reduce the heat of the pan, so it mixes well into the sauce. Stir constantly so that the sauce does not burn.
Xanthan gum is a popular cornstarch substitute that can be used to thicken sauces, stews, or soups. It is a powdery substance made from fermented sugar, and when used in hot sauce, it helps thicken or stabilize a powerful flavor.
In order to use xanthan gum, make sure you are adding the powder when you are blending the sauce ingredients together. Start with adding ⅛ teaspoon per cup of hot sauce. Keep adding ⅛ teaspoon if you desire more thickness.
Do not add the xanthan gum to the sauce that is sitting in a pan, or the gum will set. Make sure you are adding it when the sauce is being blended together. That way, the gum can integrate into the sauce.
You will need a ⅛ teaspoon, a standing blender, or immersion blender to mix the sauce and xanthan gum. You can find xanthan gum in the baking aisle of the grocery store.
Pectin is a natural, gluten-free fiber found in most fruits and is a common gelling agent. It can come in a liquid or powdered form and requires high temperatures to thicken.
Pectin acts like its unnatural cousin gelatin when heated up at very high temperatures.
In order to use this stabilizer and thickener:
- Use ⅛ teaspoon per 1 cup of hot sauce and boil for about 30 seconds
- The pectin will react to the heat and the ingredients in the hot sauce
- Do not add too much pectin, or your hot sauce will set
Be aware of how much pectin you are adding to your sauce. You do not want to end up with hot sauce jelly. Also, make sure you are boiling your pectin into your hot sauce so that your pectin is correctly reacting to the heat.
Arrowroot is another gluten-free, natural thickener and another popular cornstarch substitute. Arrowroot comes in a flavorless powder. As its name suggests, the arrowroot is made from the arrowroot plant, which is a perennial herb.
To use arrowroot as a thickening agent, mix one teaspoon of powder with two teaspoons of water for each cup of hot sauce. Gently add that mixture into your heated sauce. If you think your sauce needs to be thicker, repeat this process. Make sure you are not boiling your sauce at this point in the process. Reduce and simmer after adding the arrowroot.
Adding a simple ingredient like flour will help thicken any sauce. Whisk together two tablespoons of flour with some water for every cup of hot sauce in your recipe. Add the flour and water mixture into your sauce and reduce to a simmer.
Repeat the process if you need to in order to make the hot sauce thicker. Make sure to keep the heat on simmer so that the sauce is still reducing.
Mustard will add some tangy and acidic flavoring to you hot sauce as well as thicken it. When adding mustard to your sauce, make sure to heat up your sauce and reduce to a simmer. As you add in the mustard, make sure to keep tasting it in addition to looking at the level of thickness.
If you have a good yellow or brown mustard you think would pair well with your hot sauce and you want your already-made sauce to be thicker, go ahead and try adding the mustard. Add one teaspoon at first for every cup of hot sauce. Mix together and let simmer.
Whether your hot sauce is store-bought or homemade, you can always change the thickness of it by reducing it over heat or by adding vegetables, fruits, xanthan gum, pectin, arrowroot, flour, or even mustard to it.