How To Thicken The Sauce – BBQ Essentials

BBQ Essentials Thickening The Sauce

Imagine perfectly tender meat coated in a tangy, smoky sauce. Are you intrigued yet?

Barbecue sauce has earned its place as one of the holy grails of cooking. It has its reputation partly because of its flavor and partly because of its texture.

There are many variations of barbecue sauce. It can range from sweet to spicy, but one thing is consistent. It has to be thick enough to slowly run down the side of whatever protein you use with it. No matter what recipe you use, it will miss the mark if the sauce is too thin.

Here are some of the thickening methods you can thicken your barbecue sauce to make it next-level amazing.

How To Thicken The Sauce - Ingredients

Cornstarch Method

  • 1 tablespoon of cornstarch

Arrowroot Method

  • 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder
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    1-2 tablespoons cold water

Flour Method

  • 2 tablespoons of flour
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    ¼ cup of cold water

Roux Method

  • 2 tablespoons of butter
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    2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour


  • 1 ½ tablespoons cake flour


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    2 ½ tablespoons bread flour

The general ratio of roux is one-part flour to one part butter. However, the measurements will slightly change depending on the type of flour you use. Cake flour will result in a thicker sauce than bread flour because it has more starch in it. You can adjust the amount of flour to get the thickness you want.

Beurre Manie Method

  • 2 tablespoons of butter
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    2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour

Gelatin Method

  • Unflavored powdered gelatin
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    Cold water

Tomato Paste Method

  • Tomato paste


  • Whisk
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    Small bowl

How To Thicken The Sauce - Instructions

Before getting into the different ingredients you can add to your barbecue sauce, you should consider trying the easiest way to get the sauce to thicken. It is simply to allow the sauce to simmer.

Pour your barbecue sauce into a pan. Make sure that the pot is uncovered. Otherwise, the water will just condense and return to barbecue sauce.

Simmer it on low heat until you reach the desired consistency. This works because the heat encourages the liquids in the sauce to evaporate. Less hot liquid means thicker sauce.

The advantage of this method is that you do not have to add anything else to the sauce. The resulting flavor is also stronger because it is more concentrated.

 But, if you are in a hurry, you can try the different methods listed below.
The Same Result Different Methods

Thickening ​Sauce with Cornstarch

  • Put the cornstarch in a small bowl. You can use 1 tablespoon of starch for every cup of liquid. This means that if you have two cups of sauce, you can use two tablespoons of cornstarch.
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    Add the same amount of cold water or cooking liquid into the cornstarch. Stir until you make a smooth, lump-free paste. This is called the cornstarch slurry.

It is important to mix the cornstarch with a liquid before adding it to the sauce because it prevents the sauce from clumping.

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    Put your barbecue sauce in a pot over a low fire.
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    Slowly add the slurry into the barbecue sauce, whisking it constantly.
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    Cook on medium heat until the starchy taste is gone. Remove from the heat once you get the consistency you like. Overcooking can result in the sauce thinning out again because the starch will break down.

Cornstarch works to thicken sauce because of the starch molecules. They act like sponges and soak up water. When this happens, the molecules expand so it ends up being more viscous.

The advantage of cornstarch is that it gives the sauce a glossy sheen. However, it may not be the best method for overly acidic variations of barbecue sauce. The acid will interfere with its thickening ability.

Thickening Barbecue Sauce with Arrowroot Powder

  • Use ​arrowroot powder for every cup of barbecue sauce you want to thicken. Arrowroot powder is also known as arrowroot flour.
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    Add water or cold liquid stock to the powder to make a slurry. Mix it well.
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    Over a low fire, slowly add the slurry to the barbecue sauce. Simmer for about two minutes or until the sauce thickens.

Arrowroot powder will not affect the taste of the barbecue sauce. It can also withstand the acidity of the sauce better than cornstarch. However, if your sauce has milk or cream in the ingredients, better try another method. Arrowroot can turn the sauce slimy if it mixes with dairy.

Thickening Barbecue Sauce with Flour

  • For every 1/2 cup of barbecue sauce, use a tablespoon of flour.
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    Place the equal parts flour in a small container. Add the cups of liquid.
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    Mix the ingredients together. There should be no clumps in the slurry.
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    ​Cook the barbecue sauce over medium heat. Slowly pour in the slurry.
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    Stir continuously until the sauce starts to thicken and bubble.

Just like the other starch-based thickeners, flour thickens the sauce by absorbing the water. If you are going to use flour in the barbecue sauce, you will need to cook off the taste of the flour. The sauce will taste chalky if the flour is undercooked. Make sure you try the sauce first before you remove it from the stove.

Use Powder, Flour or Roux Effective Thickeners

Thickening Barbecue Sauce with Roux

  • Heat the butter over a low fire until it melts.
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    Whisk in a pinch of flour into the butter. The flour should bubble slightly.
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    Slowly add the rest of the flour, mixing constantly.
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    Cook for about 4-5 minutes until the flour taste cooks off. The mixture will turn slightly brown and have a thick consistency like frosting.
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    Add the barbecue sauce and mix thoroughly. Make sure that you add the sauce immediately because roux does not do well when it is reheated or taken off from the heat.

Roux can be an effective method to thicken barbecue sauce. It is a French technique, and the French have cooking methods down pat, right?

The thickening happens in two ways: first, the flour has starch in it, which will make the sauce more gelatinous. It is similar to the way oatmeal thickens because it absorbs the liquid.

The second part of the thickening process is the butter. The butter is fat, which separates the starch grains. It basically keeps the sauce smooth, instead of letting it clump.

You should know that roux will likely alter the taste of the barbecue sauce. Browned roux adds a nutty flavor to the finished product.

Thickening Barbecue Sauce with Beurre Manie

  • Start with slightly softened butter.
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    Add the flour and knead together until it forms a dough. Roll into small balls.
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    Bring the barbecue sauce to a strong simmer and drop the balls of beurre manie one at a time.
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    Continue simmering sauce until the flour taste is cooked off.

Beurre manie is the uncooked version of a roux. Its fancy name simply translates to “kneaded butter”. It also thickens the sauce the way roux does. Water is absorbed by the starch and the butter gives a smooth consistency.

Since beurre manie is not browned like a roux, its taste leans towards buttery rather than nutty and toasty. Use this method if you want a richer, creamier barbecue sauce.

Thickening Barbecue Sauce with Gelatin

  • Put about 4 tablespoons of cold water into a bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin on top of it. You can use 4 ½ teaspoons of gelatin for every cup of sauce
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    Mix the ingredients together and let it sit for a few minutes.
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    Simmer your barbecue sauce over a low fire. Pour the gelatin mixture in and mix thoroughly.
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    Before you reach the boiling point, remove the sauce from the heat. The sauce will thicken as it cools.

Gelatin might sound unusual, but it can be an effective thickener of sauces. Powdered gelatin has no flavor and will not alter the taste of the barbecue sauce. Another advantage is that it is made out of animal protein. If you are avoiding gluten or grains, then this is the thickening agent for you.

Thickening Barbecue Sauce with Tomato Paste

  • Heat the barbecue sauce over a low fire.
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    Add a dollop of tomato paste.
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    Simmer until the sauce reaches the desired consistency.

Adding tomato paste (and not tomato sauce) is an easy way to thicken the sauce. It works especially well for tomato-based barbecue sauces. Not only will it help the sauce reach the right, smooth paste consistency, it will add a deeper tomato flavor to it.

Luscious, Thick Sauce Smooth In Your Mouth


No matter what kind of thickening agent you use, you should end up with a luscious, medium thick sauce. The texture if half the battle when it comes to barbecue sauce. You want a sauce that is smooth in your mouth. Make sure to learn these cooking basics.

Also, a thick sauce is a sauce that is able to cling to the food better. If the sauce is too thin, you will likely end up with a slick of sauce at the bottom of your plate and none in your mouth.

Did you like these suggestions on how to thicken barbecue sauce or do you have your own technique? Sound off in the comments you might have your own method you would like to let others know about. You can also share this article with someone on the lookout for an improved barbecue sauce recipe.

​Frequently Asked Questions

​How Do You Make a Sauce Thicker?

​What Can You Use Instead of Cornstarch to Thicken a Sauce?

​Is Cornstarch The Same Thing as Corn Flour?

​Can You Thicken Barbecue Sauce with Gelatin?

​Should You Add Your Thickener Directly to The Sauce?

Each Share Saves a Steak From Being Cooked Well Done