Skip to main content

How to Thicken Sauce for Your Pasta, Steak, and More

Some of the best recipes in the world have one thing in common;, a great sauce. A great sauce can take your favorite plate of pasta or cut of steak to the next level, and a proper sauce is at the heart of all delicious soups and stews.

Mastering the right mix for a creamy sauce is easy but no matter what you’re making, you don’t want it too thick and you definitely don’t want it too thin. Making sure you get the perfectly luscious, not too liquidy consistency can be done with a few tricks. Here are the best tips for stirring up a sensational sauce every time.

Related Videos

How to Thicken Sauce with Cornstarch

Cornstarch is the most popular option for thickening sauce — it’s super effective, flavorless, and readily available. When mixed with water and heated, it yields a thick solution. Bear in mind that you shouldn’t add it directly to your sauce — it will clump up.


Take 1 tablespoon of cornstarch and mix it with one tablespoon of cold water in a bowl. Stir the contents to ensure they blend well and form a smooth paste. Then pour the mixture into your hot sauce as you stir, and allow it to simmer until the sauce doesn’t have a starchy taste.

How to Thicken Sauce with Flour

Flour is the typical alternative for cornstarch, and it’s also a classic thickener for stew, gumbo, or gravy. It works the same way as cornstarch — it contains starch, which expands to add viscosity to your sauce.


To use flour for thickening, you’ll first need to make a roux — an equal mixture of flour and melted butter. Melt the butter in a skillet and then add the flour. Mix it well and let it cook until it turns brown. You can then add the roux to your sauce and stir the contents well while it cooks.

How to Thicken Alfredo Sauce

You don’t need to put up with an Alfredo sauce that’s too thin when you can quickly fix it. Apart from using flour and cornstarch, as explained above, there are other alternatives you can use. Your sauce will need to be hot for the thickening ingredients to work desirably.

What to Use:

  • Cream cheese
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Shredded cheese
  • Egg yolks
  • Heavy cream
  • Vegetables

Note: For the best results, be sure to use full-fat options for the dairy ingredients.


Adding cream or cheese is easy and effective — just add the cream or grated cheese to your heated sauce and let it cook.

For vegetables, it’s vital to puree them before adding them to your sauce. The best options are beet, carrot, parsnip, and cauliflower. Vegetables add taste to your sauce, of course, and some people don’t like that.

Egg yolks were popularly used to thicken custards, puddings, and salad dressings — they can work perfectly for your watery sauce, too. Mix the yolks with a little cream to create a mixture, and add it to your sauce as you stir. Keep adding the mixture and stirring until you achieve the right level of thickness.

How to Thicken Bolognese Sauce

You can use flour or cornstarch to thicken your bolognese or tomato-based spaghetti sauce using starch (flour or cornstarch). Additionally, you can reduce your sauce’s liquid content — this is also a practical option for thickening any sauce.


Basically, you’ll need to heat your sauce a little longer to reduce the liquid content. Allow your runny sauce to simmer over low heat for several minutes to allow the excess liquid to evaporate. This is just the typical boiling process, and it’s not complicated — it only takes a little more time.

How to Thicken Gravy

Your thin gravy is fixable to give it the thickness you desire for a sumptuous lunch or dinner. Thickening your gravy is a breeze using flour or cornstarch, as highlighted above. Of course, there are still different options, such as potato starch, tapioca, arrowroot, and tomato paste.


Add tomato paste to your spaghetti to increase the amount of tomato solids. This boosts the thickness of your sauce. Using mashed potatoes seems crazy, but it really just works fine. Potatoes are starch, too — just smash a bit and add to your sauce as you stir.

Arrowroot powder works similarly to flour and cornstarch. Mix two to three teaspoons of the powder with cold water in a bowl and stir to mix. Then add it to your sauce while stirring until it thickens.

How to Thicken Sauce in Slow Cooker

The critical denominator in all these processes is that you’ll need your sauce to be hot for optimal thickening. What’s better to use to heat your runny sauce than a slow cooker?

For perfect results, you’ll need to set the right heat level for your sauce — it’s not a matter of setting it and forgetting it. You’ll need to keep monitoring your sauce and reduce the heat level as needed. This is particularly true for stews, soups, and other liquid-heavy recipes.

However, there’s one downside with slow cookers — they don’t reach the much-needed high temperatures to activate starch’s thickening properties. The trick here is to prop the lid to release the built-up steam, allowing the liquid to reduce to create a velvety texture.

The problem is, allowing the steam to escape also increases your cooking time. That’s why most slow cooker recipes advise against opening the lid. Still, this delivers the right results.

Tips on How to Make Your Sauce Thicker

A runny sauce doesn’t mean you have to pour it down the garbage disposal. Whatever sauce you’re preparing, most thickening methods and ingredients will work just fine — you’ll just need to accommodate a change in taste in some cases.

Of course, you should pick a thickener that will deliver on the taste you’d prefer. When using flour thickeners, you should keep stirring your sauce until it forms the right thickness. Failure to stir can lead to lumps in your sauce, and you’ll need to strain the sauce to get rid of them.

Editors' Recommendations

The 7 best CBD-infused drinks we tried in 2023
These tasty CBD-infused drinks will have you feeling calmer in no time
Cans o RisEau cbd drinks.

Cannabidiol, or CBD, has been hot for a while now, making its way into everything from CBD teas to a variety of CBD coffee brands. If you're wondering "what is CBD?" — it's a naturally occurring compound present in cannabis plants. According to the World Health Organization, it's not addictive, has a solid safety profile, and won't get you high. In clinical trials, it's been effective in the treatment of epilepsy and shows promise in treating a number of other conditions.

In addition to CBD-infused water, tea, soda, and seltzer, another growing trend is CBD-infused nonalcoholic spirits and cocktails. The adult beverage market is flooded with CBD products promising to help you relax, sleep, destress, and mellow out, all without the hangover you'd get from booze (CBD is considered a controlled substance and can't be legally added to booze, at least not yet). We've rounded up a few of our favorite CBD-infused drinks below, from CBD cocktails to CBD water, so you can work your relaxation into your daily routine no matter where you are.

Read more
Celebrity chef Zac Young gave The Manual his Guinness Green Velvet Cake recipe, just in time for St. Patrick’s Day
Be the first to try this incredible Guinness Green Velvet Cake from Zac Young
green velvet cake recipe zac young

If you've spent more than even five minutes on The Food Network in the last several years, we're quite sure that there's no need to introduce you to Zac Young. Celebrated celebrity chef, TV host extraordinaire, and creator of all things ridiculously delicious, this chef's talents are well known to the world. Between his frequent appearances on well-loved cooking shows like Chopped, Beat Bobby Flay, and Worst Cooks in America, he somehow finds the time to showcase his immense talents by gifting to the world treasures such as the PieCaken. For that culinary contribution alone, we are eternally indebted.
Young's unbelievable holiday-themed desserts are nothing short of spectacular. His original, hugely famous Thanksgiving PieCaken — one decadent dessert encompassing pumpkin pie, pecan pie, spice cake, apple pie, cinnamon buttercream, and oat crumble all at once — snowballed into something of a sweet treat phenomenon and took the world by storm back in 2015. Since then, Young has ingeniously created a PieCaken for every season, including The Winter PieCaken, The Red, White & Blueberry PieCaken, The Valentine's Day Red Velvet PieCaken, and many, many more.

In addition to all of these remarkable PieCakens, Young is still busy developing other holiday-themed desserts, such as this Guinness Green Velvet Cake, which he has shared exclusively with The Manual.

Read more
Here’s how to make a margarita, according to top bartenders
The only margarita recipes you'll ever need
margarita tequila cocktail lime strainer

The best margaritas do not grow on trees, nor do they show up in a can (although there are some tasty canned drinks these days). No, the tastiest version of the tequila classic is made fresh, with love and care and some wisdom from a couple of top bartenders.

It's a balancing act, for sure, but when it's dialed-in, the margarita is one of the best and most refreshing cocktails ever devised. The classic mix of agave spirit, lime, salt, and a touch of sweetness is great alone or with any number of dishes, especially within Mexican cuisine (the nation where the drink was born).

Read more