A Useful Guide to Thickening Sauce with Commonly Kept Household Ingredients

Whether you’re making gravy for a holiday meal, a pan sauce to go with your chicken or steak, or a rich tomato sauce to accompany spaghetti and meatballs, there are many meals and occasions that call for a perfectly executed sauce. However, just as often, you may find yourself running into an age-old problem: a sauce that won’t thicken up enough. Fortunately, there are a few ways to thicken the sauce at home, starting with these 3 ideas.

Corn Starch

Cornstarch is a go-to when thickening sauce. It’s available at most stores, inexpensive, flavorless, and highly effective at thickening, even when used in small amounts. To thicken the sauce with cornstarch, use about 1 tablespoon per cup of sauce. Never add cornstarch directly to the sauce – you'll first need to mix the dry powder with an equal amount of cold water, then add the mixture to your food. Bring the sauce to a boil to ensure that the cornstarch has been adequately blended in.

Egg Yolk

Egg yolks might not be an obvious choice when it comes to thickening up sauces. But, due to their abundance of protein, yolks thicken sauces when heated. They also add the richness of flavor to pasta sauces, salad dressings, cream sauces, and custards. To use egg yolks in your sauce, start with one or two eggs and separate the yolks from the whites. To prevent the yolks from scrambling into the sauce, whisk a small amount of the hot sauce into the egg yolk, then add that mixture back in.


Ever find yourself cooking a pasta sauce that seems a little flat, flavor-wise? Pump up the flavor and add a little bit of thickness with butter. To be clear, butter won’t thicken up sauces quite like cornstarch or something similar would, but it’s great for adding extra richness and glossy texture to pasta and pan sauces. At the end of cooking, simply swirl a few tablespoons of cold butter into the sauce off the heat. (If it gets too hot, the sauce will break and end up greasy.)

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