If you’re working hard in the kitchen to create a rich yet delicately flavored butter sauce, it’s only natural to be a little disappointed if it turns out too thin. Thankfully, it’s not as bad as you might think. It can be rectified. But how do you change the consistency, and what do you need to do it? Well, here is everything you will need to know.
So, how do you thicken a butter sauce? The easiest approach to thicken butter sauce is by reducing – simmering the sauce over low-medium heat with constant stirring. You can also add other ingredients like flour, butter, egg yolks, or thickening agents such as corn starch or tapioca starch.
Butter alone is a water-in-fat emulsion; essentially, the water is dispersed in minute droplets throughout the fat.
When butter is stirred into a little amount of liquid, such as when making a butter sauce, a fat-in-water emulsion is formed.
It is this perfection of this emulsion that we are looking for.
But as we all know – it doesn’t always turn out that way.
Thankfully, as you can see from above, there are a variety of methods for achieving that creamy, thick, yet pourable consistency.
The method you choose is ultimately going to be down to your personal preferences, the time you have, and the added ingredients you have to hand.
Or that you can realistically quickly get.
Are you ready to learn more about how to implement these different solutions?
But first, let’s start to reason out why your butter sauce is so thin and runny to begin with.
We don’t want this to become a regular event, after all!
- 1 Why Is My Butter Sauce Thin?
- 2 How Thick Does A Butter Sauce Be?
- 3 What Can You Use To Thicken Butter Sauce?
- 4 How To Thicken Butter Sauce – All Of The Options
- 5 Other Suggestions To Avoid A Watery Butter Sauce
- 6 Lastly
Why Is My Butter Sauce Thin?
Butter sauce can turn out thin when the ratio of the ingredients used is incorrect or the roux is not cooked for a sufficient length of time. Alternatively, it could be that a lot of warm butter was added to the liquid all at once.
Adding the butter, a small piece at a time, will slow down the process even more.
It is seen that cold butter will melt slowly as compared to warm butter, and the butterfat can be broken down into tiny droplets and disseminated throughout the liquid.
So, if you add the butter too soon or too warm, the fat will coalesce into larger droplets, resulting in a weaker emulsion and, therefore, a thinner sauce.
The emulsion formed as a result is unstable and breaks easily.
The cooking time for the roux and the final sauce can make or break the deal!
Overheating your sauce can result in a broken sauce!
How Thick Does A Butter Sauce Be?
As an emulsified sauce, butter sauce should be somewhat thick, creamy, and rich in texture. It should have a light yellowish/ golden hue of cold butter.
A good butter sauce must adhere to your food but is still flowy.
It will also naturally thicken as it cools down; you must keep that in mind before completing the cooking step.
So, how can you determine if your sauce is sufficiently thick? This is where your judgment and the spoon test will come in handy.
It is safe to assume that if the sauce coats the back of your spoon, it’ll stick to your food as well.
That’s the consistency you are looking for.
Testing the sauce with a spoon is an excellent way to check the thickness because the temperature of the spoon’s surface will slightly cool the sauce, giving you an idea of how thick the sauce will be once it is removed from the hot pan and cools to the temperature at which it will be served.
What Can You Use To Thicken Butter Sauce?
If your butter sauce is thinner than usual, you can thicken it by simmering for longer to concentrate the liquid or by using other ingredients that bring about the binding effect – like roux (flour), starch (cornstarch, potato or tapioca starch), Beurre Manie’ (butter and flour) and/or egg yolks.
Thickening a butter sauce is super easy and can save you from throwing away a thin, runny product.
You must be patient!
Ensure you start slow and use the ingredients in increments.
How To Thicken Butter Sauce – All Of The Options
Below, we have provided a few different methods for thickening butter sauce, each with its own set of upsides and downsides. You must indeed pick the method that best fits your requirements.
Thickening By Reducing
Simmering your sauce over low heat allows the water in the sauce to evaporate, causing the sauce to thicken naturally.
To keep the sauce from burning, stir it frequently.
When the sauce has reached the desired thickness, remove it from the stove.
Although this method takes much longer than employing a thickening agent, it is well worth the time and effort.
Remember to season your sauce after it has been reduced, not before; otherwise, the sauce may be too salty.
A bain-marie, in simple terms, a hot water bath, can be used for simmering.
This will keep the sauce from scorching and will result in a uniformly thicker sauce.
Thickening With Flour
Chances are you have an all-purpose flour in your kitchen.
To use flour as a thickening agent, make a roux, a mixture of equal parts butter and flour.
The age of the flour used affects its ability to swell and absorb the liquid.
Melt the butter over medium-low heat, then add the flour when it begins to bubble.
Cook until the mixture is light brown. If it starts to turn dark brown, reduce the heat. At this point, it should have a nutty aroma.
Add 1 tablespoon of roux into the sauce while gently whisking the roux into the sauce.
Stir often while the sauce reduces to avoid clumping. Remove it from the heat once it has reached the appropriate consistency.
The butter from the roux will also provide extra richness to your sauce.
In this method, the flour in the ‘roux making process’ must be well cooked well but not dark brown and must not have a ‘raw floury’ flavor.
Thickening With Starch
Another approach is to simply add a thickening ingredient like cornstarch.
Other popular thickeners that can be used are potato starch and tapioca starch.
Cornstarch is generally used because it is commonly available, flavorless, and adds a light sheen to your sauce.
Either way, remember to use a starch as a slurry, so there is no clumping in your sauce.
To thicken butter sauce, make a slurry by mixing 1 part cornstarch with 1 part sauce when it’s ready.
Pour this slurry into the rest of the sauce, whisk until well combined, and then heat for a few minutes until the sauce has thickened.
Thickening With Beurre Manié
A beurre manié, nothing but a French word for “kneaded butter,” is another great method of thickening that uses flour and butter.
Make a thick paste with equal parts flour and softened butter, then roll the paste into little balls.
While the sauce is simmering, add a ball of beurre manié to the sauce, gradually increasing the amount until the sauce reaches the desired consistency.
You can make the beurre manié ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator or freezer until ready to use.
Allow your sauce to come to room temperature before using it, or refrigerate it to speed up the cooling process.
Thickening With Egg Yolks
This technique is ideal for making creamy sauces.
Separate the egg yolks from the whites and whisk the yolks until smooth.
Temper the mixture to prevent the eggs from scrambling in the hot sauce by adding a small amount of sauce to the egg yolks, then combining the mixture with the rest of the sauce.
The yolks will help thicken your sauce rapidly while also enhancing the flavor and the nutritional value of your butter sauce.
Other Suggestions To Avoid A Watery Butter Sauce
Let It Cool
Before you attempt to utilize other approaches, you must try to cool the sauce to check for the desired consistency.
Besides, it may actually reach the thickness you prefer without needing to do anything at all.
Patience & Attentiveness
To make a successful thickened butter sauce, begin with cold butter cut into small pieces, gradually add it to the liquid, and whisk constantly.
You do not have to melt the butter directly. Rather it has to dissolve in the liquid.
Allowing the sauce to get too hot can cause all the water in the butter to evaporate, resulting in a gritty and separated sauce.
Use Less Butter
Using less butter for the recipe, to begin with, can help you get a thicker product, and therefore you won’t need to add any additional ingredients.
Try using unsalted butter, though.
Correct Ingredient Ratio
The ratio of the ingredients is key here for the right texture and consistency.
Practice Makes Perfect
And remember, you might not get a thick sauce in the first go, but as you keep practicing, you will get perfect at it!
Plan & Prepare Ahead
Planning to make it ahead of time – simply transfer your butter sauce into an airtight container and keep it refrigerated until you are ready to use.
Just before serving, reheat the butter sauce with continuous stirring on low until melted.
However, if you believe the sauce needs to be thickened, simply repeat the preceding steps.
As we can see, there are several options when it comes to thickening a butter sauce.
Some are more involved than others. Some require more time, others new ingredients.
Either way, start slowly and proceed with caution to achieve a creamy and flavorful butter sauce, regardless of the method you choose.
Also, when adding any ingredients, always remember less is more!
Hi there. I’m Jeremy – a passionate food technologist with several decades in the food industry. With a love for sauces, food, and nutrition, I decided to create WeWantTheSauce. Here I share my experience, knowledge, and recommendations; from ingredients and recipes to storage all the way through to nutrition for every sauce imaginable.