Thickening Sauces with Cornstarch or Flour
Learn how to thicken a sauce with two simple ingredients—flour or cornstarch. We have guidelines for using these two ingredients as thickening agents for sauces, plus information on how to make a roux and thicken soups.
Have you ever tried to twirl a bite of pasta that, by the time it reaches your mouth, seems to have no sauce? Have you ever poured turkey gravy over meat and potatoes just to watch it spread over the entire plate? Then you've experienced the importance of learning how to thicken sauces. You want to serve up sauces that have the right viscosity to cling to the intended food, not run everywhere. Here are some tips on how to thicken sauce with items already in your pantry.
Thickening with Flour
With flour as a thickening agent:
- Use 2 tablespoons flour mixed with 1/4 cup cold water for each cup of medium-thick sauce.
Be sure to thoroughly mix the water with the flour to prevent lumps. After stirring the combined flour and water into the sauce, cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Heat one minute more to completely cook the flour.
Thickening with Cornstarch
Thickening a sauce with cornstarch is very similar to using flour, you just need different quantities.
- Use 1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon cold water for each cup of medium-thick sauce.
Be sure to thoroughly mix the cornstarch and water together, then pour into your sauce. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Heat two minutes more in order to completely cook the cornstarch.
Try our Raspberry-Rhubarb Waffle Topper to thicken sauce with cornstarch for a breakfast sauce application.
How to Make a Roux
Flour and cornstarch aren't your only options as a food thickener. You can make a roux—a mixture of flour and fat—as a soup thickener, gravy thickener, or sauce thickener. Learn how to make roux.
When it comes to thickening soup recipes, you have more options than just a flour or cornstarch thickener. Depending on the recipe you're making, you can use eggs, a roux, or a puree of some of your ingredients for a liquid thickener. The kind of soup thickener you use mainly depends on the recipe, because some thickening agents can affect the flavor of the soup.
Related: Learn more about how to thicken soups.