You are excited about the freshly prepared batch of hot sauce you just took off the stove! Or, you’ve invested in a new brand and have begun to pour. But you’ve noticed a problem. It’s not as thick as you would like it. Now, you’re troubleshooting and wondering what to do, right? Thankfully, there’s still hope; you have come to the right place! Here is all you need to do and consider when thickening your spicy condiment.
So how do you thicken hot sauce? A simple way to thicken hot sauce is by shrinking the volume by letting it cook on a gentle heat. The other options include the use of thickening agents – xanthan gum, pectin, arrowroot, fruits, and vegetables, or potato starch are ideal here.
The approach is to get a full-bodied hot sauce without crushing the flavor, so you need to maintain that delicate balance.
And here’s the good news; you can use these methods for either homemade or store-bought hot sauces.
The only downside is that it will come with a little bit of practice, playing with the ingredients, and mastering the cooking temperatures to get that perfect consistency.
Which method you choose will largely depend on the time you have available, how soon you want your hot sauce, the ingredients you have already, and of course, your preferences.
Are you ready to go ahead to see how these methods can work for you?
But first, let’s discover why your hot sauce is thin, to begin with. That way, you can prevent this from happening again!
- 1 Why Is My Hot Sauce Thin?
- 2 How Thick Should A Hot Sauce Be?
- 3 What Can You Use To Thicken Hot Sauce?
- 4 How To Thicken Hot Sauce – Step by Step
- 5 Other Suggestions To Avoid A Watery Hot Sauce
- 6 Finally
Why Is My Hot Sauce Thin?
Hot sauce can turn out thin or runny because of the type of hot peppers you have used; some contain higher moisture. Or it could be the liquid ingredients like vinegar; citrus juice etc. were poured in excess. The sauce could also be thin due to the incorrect cooking time.
Also, do consider that when hot sauce is strained, it removes all the pulp – and this will leave a thinner liquid behind.
So, always start with small quantities.
It’s easier to dilute a thicker sauce later than having to deal with a thin sauce.
A runny hot sauce can be fixed with one of the several options; you simply need to increase the body of the hot sauce.
How Thick Should A Hot Sauce Be?
The consistency of a hot sauce varies a lot depending on the style of sauce. It has a wide range – from thin to thick. It can be liquidy, pasty, granular, chunky, silky, or smooth based on regional variations, formulation, and brand.
If you enjoy hot sauce and have tried a variety of brands, you may have noticed that Tabasco is thinner than the popular Sriracha, which is thicker and more ketchup-like due to the ingredients used.
However, most individuals like both sauces equally.
But how do you know your hot sauce is thick enough?
If you have been making your own, you probably know what a good hot sauce looks like – or how you want yours to be.
Maybe even the recipe suggests a consistency.
Otherwise, if you are new to this hot sauce-making game, you can use a spoon to test the thickness of the sauce.
The sauce is supposed to coat the back of the spoon when you lower the spoon in the sauce.
The desired consistency also depends on the application of the sauce and your personal preferences.
What Can You Use To Thicken Hot Sauce?
If your hot sauce is thinner than what you would like it to be, you can easily concentrate it in one of the many ways. Reduction is the simplest method without the addition of any ingredients. Secondly, you could add thickeners and other ingredients to bring the thickening effect. A few ingredients that come in handy are- xanthan gum, Pectin, Arrowroot, fruits and vegetables, Potato Starch.
Hot sauces are slightly different in composition from other sauces as they are acidic in nature, and this acidity interferes with the thickening ability of the thickeners used.
And therefore, only specific ingredients work effectively for thickening a hot sauce.
The objective here is to increase the concentration of the sauce by reducing the liquid.
You can learn in the next section how each ingredient will aid in thickening the sauce.
Need some of the ingredients? My recommendations from Amazon are below 👇
How To Thicken Hot Sauce – Step by Step
These methods have worked well for me personally, and I hope one of these will be a good choice for you.
Just take into account that thickening a hot sauce is slightly tricky. The usual thickening techniques are not as effective, unfortunately.
So you might need a few experiments to get that perfect consistency.
Spoon test and Taste-testing at each stage will give a sense of the final thickness you are after.
Nevertheless, onto the techniques:
Thickening With Reduction
Reducing the liquid is by far the best way to thicken a hot sauce naturally without the addition of any thickening agents.
The reduction happens slowly, and you need to keep an eye on it to ensure the sauce doesn’t burn. The steps you need to take:
- Simmering– By simmering on a gentle flame, the liquid in the sauce evaporates, thereby thickening it. It’s worth noting that the sauce is kept on a low heat setting.
- Stirring– Continually stir your sauce with a wooden spoon as it reduces at regular intervals until it thickens. You need to watch it closely as the sauce burns easily.
- Testing the thickness– Once the sauce has thickened enough per your liking, check the thickness by doing the spoon test.
Make sure you have enough quantity of sauce if using this technique as the reduction process will change the final quantity.
Use a wide pan if you are working with larger quantities. This will cut the simmering time.
Remember, this sauce will thicken further on sitting.
You can stop reducing the sauce just a little before the final consistency is desired.
Thickening With Xanthan Gum
You will find this ingredient listed on the ingredient list of the Nutritional label for most of the store-bought sauces.
As the name refers, it is a gum-like by-product obtained from the sugar fermentation process of grains.
This is a specialty ingredient that thickens and stabilizes your spicy sauce while having no effect on the flavor.
Make sure the xanthan gum is from a reputable brand. The steps you need to follow:
- Use a small quantity; ¼ of a teaspoon per cup of hot sauce is good to start.
- Toss the xanthan gum into your sauce.
- Blend the sauce in a blender/food processor till the contents are well combined.
- Check for the desired consistency and adjust if you require more thickening.
This is a no-cook technique that gives you instant results.
The main thing to remember here is that you add it only when blending.
The addition of xanthan gum in the stationary sauce can give you a lumpy, solidified sauce.
Thickening With Pectin
If you ever tried making jams and jellies previously, you are aware of what pectin is.
It is a complex starch that occurs naturally in fruits and vegetables and is a great option to use as a thickener.
Pectin comes in powder form and is easy to incorporate. Want to know how to do it:
- Pour the hot sauce into a pan.
- Keep the sauce on simmer, over gentle heat.
- Add 1/8 teaspoon of pectin into the sauce.
- Stir/ whisk it in until well combined.
- Give it a quick boil and turn off the heat.
The pectin will need some time for activation – around 30 seconds.
Be conservative with the quantity; else, you will get a hot pepper jelly!
It is worth noting that pectin also serves as a stabilizer and prevents the contents of the sauce from separating.
Thickening With Arrowroot
Cornstarch is usually the most likely used thickening agent, but for hot sauce, we use arrowroot.
Arrowroot can be easily substituted for cornstarch and does not impact the taste of the hot sauce.
Want to know how? Arrowroot is a powder obtained from tubers, performs better in an acidic medium, and does not separate, unlike cornstarch. See the steps below:
- Add a 1:2 ratio of arrowroot and liquid (cold water or vegetable broth) in a bowl.
- Mix until it forms a smooth slurry
- Pour this slurry into the sauce, stirring along.
- Cook over a gentle heat, stirring continually
- Check for the consistency
If you need a thicker consistency, then you can increase the amount of slurry but ensure to start with smaller quantities.
Arrowroot enhances the appearance by providing a nice gloss to the sauce.
Arrowroot doesn’t like high heat, so you must be very careful with the cooking temperatures.
Thickening With Fruits and Vegetables
Another preferred method is to use fruits and vegetables for thickening hot sauce. This will help the sauce to bulk up and enhance its flavor and character.
But remember that the flavor profile will be altered and may even take on the notes given by the fruits and vegetables.
If you use fruits, it will not only give a sweetish taste to your sauce but also balance out the heat if the sauce is too spicy.
To do this:
- Pick a fruit or vegetables of your choice
- Blend in a blender to make a puree
- Add to the sauce, mix well
- Simmer the sauce while stirring it on a low flame.
You can use any puree– tomato, carrot, cauliflower, celery, pineapple, mango, peach, etc., depending on the flavor profile you are after – sweet or savory.
Doing the taste test before adding fruits and vegetables is important, so you don’t change the flavor drastically.
This technique works well with reduction.
Thickening With Potato Starch
Starch is a commonly used thickener. We recommend you use potato starch. Some commercially made hot sauces use this.
Potato starch is formed into a slurry before adding to hot sauce. This will prevent lumping. The steps you need to follow:
- Add a 1:1 ratio of potato starch and cold water in a bowl.
- Mix until it becomes a smooth slurry
- Pour this slurry into your sauce while stirring.
- Simmer over low heat and remove from heat once it begins to thicken.
Do not add all the slurry at once. Your sauce will be full of lumps.
Potato starch is neutral tasting and will not affect the flavor of the hot sauce.
Other Suggestions To Avoid A Watery Hot Sauce
Suppose your hot sauce is still too thin. Don’t get worked up! Check the recipe and if you measured your ingredients accurately and followed the instructions to the ‘T.’
Only fresh and good-quality ingredients must be used.
One great option that you can try is to roast the hot peppers before making the hot sauce.
This will not only reduce the heat of the sauce but will pull out excess water from the peppers and thereby aid in thickening the sauce.
You need to also be sure of the time you add the thickening agent to the sauce.
Straining the hot sauce gives you a thinner sauce. You must simmer the sauce after straining to adjust the consistency.
Hot sauces can be thin.
In fact, some brands purposefully make it this way.
But if you prefer a thicker consistency, then thankfully, you can certainly make that a reality.
Whether it’s a sauce you bought at the store or a homemade one, you can easily change the consistency by using one or more of the methods discussed above.
Reduction is the simplest method, but you must be alert and watch for the sauce so that it doesn’t burn.
Xanthan gum takes the top spot for thickening, and it gives fantastic results right away. This is why it is used in Sriracha.
Check the ingredient label on any bottle of Sriracha. You’ll see it listed; I can guarantee it.
Want to learn how to thicken other sauces? Then go ahead and check out my other related guides:
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.