Runny hot sauce, no more! If you like a rich, velvety-smooth hot sauce, there are several ways to thicken it up. In this article, I’ll teach you how to thicken hot sauce in 3 simple ways.
Keep in mind, these methods will work on almost any hot sauce. Whether it is homemade, or store bought, you can get it to the right consistency fast.
1. Simmer it down
The simplest method of thickening up hot sauce is to simply simmer it over low heat. This method is also called “reduction,” as it essentially reduces the volume of the sauce over time.
Keep in mind: This method only works if your sauce contains sugars, solid ingredients, or thickening agents. A primarily liquid-based hot sauce may not thicken up just by simmering.
By simmering the sauce, the liquids are turned into steam. It can take anywhere from 10-30+ minutes, depending on how much liquid you want to remove.
As the sauce cooks, avoid a full boil, as high temperatures can negatively impact the flavor of the hot sauce. Also, while the sauce is hot (temperature-wise), it will be thinner than when fully cooled, so try to account for this.
2. Add fresh fruits or veggies
If you made a homemade hot sauce, chances are you used plenty of solid ingredients. Popular choices are hot peppers (duh), onions, garlic, carrots, pineapple, and peaches.
Top it off with some vinegar, and you’ve got yourself some tasty hot sauce! Be careful though, because too much liquid can lead to a splashy mess.
If you don’t want to simmer your sauce to thicken it, simply add more ingredients that will compliment the flavor. A safe choice is to add sweet fruits, such as peaches or pineapple, or steam up some carrots and blend them into the sauce.
Foods to add to thicken hot sauce:
- Onion (fresh or cooked)
- Red peppers (fresh or dried)
- Garlic (fresh or roasted)
Tip: Frozen fruits are cheap, pre-chopped, and make a great addition to hot sauce.
Both the sugars and the natural pectin found in most of these fresh ingredients will help thicken up the hot sauce. Start by adding about 1/8th the volume of the sauce and blending, adding more until the right texture is reached.
Adding a touch of lemon juice can also help thicken your hot sauce. The acidic juice will lower pH and allow pectin to group together, “setting” the sauce.
3. Add a thickener
If you want a quick-fix, adding a thickener to your sauce is your answer. There are many ingredients used to accomplish this, some of which you probably have at home.
- Corn starch. Add equal parts corn starch and cold water into a small bowl and mix thoroughly. Once the roux is smooth, stir it into your sauce and heat to a simmer. For each quart of sauce that needs thickening, start with about 1-2 teaspoons of corn starch.
- Xanthan gum. Xanthan gum can be used in tiny amounts to immediately thicken sauces. It is a common ingredient used in commercial hot sauces, dressings, and even toothpaste to thicken up liquids. Get some here.
- Pectin. Jams and jellies wouldn’t be the same without pectin. This natural ingredient is found in many fruits (like strawberries, ripe peppers, and apples). You can also buy a powdered version of it to thicken up your hot sauces, jams, and puddings.
- Simple syrup. Simple syrup consists of water and sugar, boiled down to a thick consistency. If you want to sweeten your hot sauce, this may be a good option for thickening it, too.
There are other thickeners, but these are the easiest and cheapest that I know of. Keep in mind that too much thickener can cause unwanted flavors in your sauce, so start small and taste as you go until it is just right.
Hot sauce too thick? Here’s how to thin it down
Now, once in a while, we end up with the opposite problem: a hot sauce that is too thick. Goopy, gelatinous hot sauce is no fun (though it can be used to coat hot wings).
How to thin out hot sauce:
- Add vinegar. Vinegar is a common ingredient in hot sauce. It lowers pH, preserving the sauce for a long shelf life. Add your favorite type of vinegar by the teaspoon. I like using rice vinegar, apple cider vinegar, white wine vinegar, or even just plain white distilled.
- Add water. If vinegar isn’t your cup of tea, start with a bit of water. Water thins hot sauce at the same rate as vinegar, so start small. However, water may increase the overall pH of your sauce, leading to a shorter shelf life. Check the pH of your sauce after adding water to be safe (aim for pH 4.0 or lower).
I hope this article helps you learn how to thicken hot sauce and get the perfect texture. These methods work well for other types of sauce, too, including tomato sauce, gravy, and wing sauce.