Arianna Foster
Published by Arianna Foster
Last Updated On: February 24, 2023

Meat and BBQ sauce - a perfect match! When the barbecue season starts, you also need to make a good barbecue sauce, as it is one of the  “must-have” ingredients for the tastiest grilling experience.

The best barbecue sauce should be - a little sweet, a little spicy, and so thick that it can be spread on meat or any food, for that matter. We tried several times to make a sauce like this, but it did not have the required density.

If you have the same problem and your sauce is too runny, try the tricks below - they saved us time and gave excellent results.

5 Steps to Thicken Barbecue Sauce

If your BBQ sauce is too watery, here are 5 easy thickening methods that will help you to make the barbecue sauce tasty every time.

1. Use Flour To Thicken Your Sauce

preparing flour

The most common way to thicken BBQ sauce is by adding starch. One of the most popular elements for this is flour, as everyone has it at home.

You can thicken barbecue sauce by mixing the flour with 1 cup of water and then adding this mixture to the sauce.

The best flour to use is the one for all purposes, as it is higher in starch than other types of wheat flour.

Make sure to stir flour in cold water first before adding to the hot sauce.

The flour should be mixed with water in a ratio of 1: 3. Add this mixture gradually to the sauce and wait until it's boiled.

Do not put flour directly into the sauce, as you will end up with lumps. This is happening because the flour expands very fast in contact with hot water, forming a waterproof membrane.

The membrane prevents the flour from melting and leaves lumps instead. The right way to make the sauce thicken is to mix the flour in a bowl until you get the right consistency and then add it to a sauce.

Flour and water mix is considered more healthy than the flour with butter mix as it does not contain unnecessary fats.

2. Add a Little Cornstarch To Make the Sauce Thickener

cornstarch on a plate

Another option is to use cornstarch as a thickening agent for a barbecue sauce. Corn starch has no taste, but it will increase your meal's total calories, so make sure to use it right.

There is no need to heat corn starch before you add it to the sauce. How much corn starch you will put depends on how much you want to thicken BBQ sauce.

First, prepare a slurry – mix 1 tbsp of cornstarch with 1 tbsp of cold water in a small bowl. Always put the equal parts of liquid and corn stretch. Stir until you get the desired consistency.

Add this mix to the barbecue sauce and let it boil while continuing to stir. If it is as thick as you want it to be, the job is done.

Don’t put cornstarch directly into the sauce as it will clump up. If the barbeque sauce has lumps, make sure to strain it through a strainer to achieve a good consistency.

A similar version to cornstarch is the one made from arrowroot, a tropical plant. According to research (1) its texture is almost the same as corn starch, but it thickens at a lower temperature and is gluten-free.

3. Cook the Barbecue Sauce More to Remove Water

lady stirring to thicken BBQ sauce

Cooking BBQ sauce to remove water is a popular method for thickening sauces.

It is considered more healthy compared to others because you will just heat the water to evaporate.

You are not adding any caloric ingredients for concentration and not changing the sauce recipe.

That’s why this method can be suitable for making BBQ sauce outside, like camping, for example, where you won’t have any other ingredients available.

To thicken the sauce, cook it over medium heat, stirring it often until about 1/3 or half of the water evaporates.

Do not let the sauce boil. This method works well with sauces based on a tomato paste because as it heats up, the water will evaporate and leave a more concentrated and thicker product.

However, you must be careful with spices. Losing water can change the flavor, so the sauce can be much saltier or spicier than before cooking.

4. Add Fats as Thickening Agent

pouring butter

Adding some of the tasty thickeners like oils, creams, or brown sugar will increase the calories in the sauce, but it will help reach the flavor you want and make it taste better.

Add a Little Butter

Butter does not cause strong thickening, but the sauce is nicely shiny and has a pleasant spicy taste to it. Boil the sauce over low heat, add a piece of butter (1 tbsp -2 tbsp), and stir constantly.

To thicken the sauce, even more, you can also use a combination of butter and flour in the amount of 1:1. Fry the flour in butter slowly on low heat, let it turn light brown, and add it to the sauce.

Thicken Barbecue Sauce by Using Heavy Cream

Heavy cream is usually made from cow's milk or goat's milk. By adding it in a BBQ sauce, you will first get the richness and thickness of a mixture and desired consistency and a delicious result.

Coconut Oil for a Nice Flavor

Adding coconut oil or coconut cream in the sauce has never crossed your mind?

Indeed, these are not typical BBQ related ingredients, but they can improve the texture and the flavor of your homemade BBQ sauce.

Coconut cream is an even better option - by adding it, BBQ sauce reaches the desired consistency. Putting coconut oil or cream is not only an excellent way for thickening sauce. It is also a solution for making a plant-based barbecue sauce for those who prefer vegan options.

Besides these ingredients, you can also add brown sugar or onion powder in the sauce. Using brown sugar or onion powder is a good way to thicken barbecue sauce, but it will also give your sauce a nice flavor.

5. Add Puree from Vegetables

slicing potatoes

Potatoes and some other vegetables are a very good way to thicken your sauce.

Because of the starch they contain, using vegetables as a sauce thickener is preferred in many kitchens.

Put one potato in the pot first. Cut it in half, add a cup of cold water and cook it on medium heat.

When it is boiled, take it out of the pot, add 1 cup of water, and use a fork to mash the potatoes.

Then, put mashed potatoes in a pot with sauce, cook by stirring gently, and take it off from the heat when the sauce gets the right texture.

Potatoes will not change the final taste, making them one of the preferred ways to thicken the sauce. In addition to potatoes, you can use other vegetables, like carrots, for example.

You can also use the dehydrated mashed potatoes in the packages as a thickener for the sauce.

This is a quick thickening method, and the flake quantity will depend more on the taste you want to achieve rather than on the exact measurement.

“ Like music, cooking more specifically barbecuing is one of my greatest passions and my sauce is a celebration of these simple pleasures in life. “

- Michael Anthony, Musician

Related Recipe: Mop Sauce Recipe

Why Do You Need To Thicken Your BBQ Sauce?

There are a number of reasons why you would want to thicken BBQ sauce. Some of them are related to its overall taste, and some are more related to its texture.

  • Texture of the sauce should be creamy

One of the main characteristics of the barbeque sauce is that it should be thick. BBQ sauce doesn't moisten the meat but leaves the flavor which goes perfectly well with this protein.

That is why its texture should be creamy, good for dipping or placing on the top.

  • Sauces should bind well

There is a golden rule that sauces based on tomato paste should not be used during grilling, as they will caramelize due to the high baking temperature.

It will also burn the surface of the meat. So If your sauce is liquid or runny, the mixture might not bind so well to the meat or any food you would like to slather it on.

  • More liquids will change the taste

During your barbecue session, a cup of sauce can be added to the meat but also placed as a side dip at the table. If the sauce has more liquid, it will not taste the same. Its specific sweet-and-sour flavor requires the right quantity of ingredients.

If you see it is runny, that means that it doesn’t have a proper mixture of ingredients and desired thickness, so you should find a way for liquids to go.

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FAQ how to thicken BBQ sauce

Can I thicken barbecue sauce without flour or cornstarch?

Yes. You can use things other than flour or cornstarch to thicken BBQ sauce. Try to simply cook it over low heat so the liquids will evaporate.

You can also thicken the sauce by adding vegetable puree. Because of the starch these ingredients contain, you will have a thick sauce as a result.

What method causes a sauce to thicken?

Molecules in flour and cornstarch are like sponges. When you put them in liquids, they extend in their size. That leaves less water in sauce and makes it thicken.

Can I use Beurre Manié to thicken BBQ sauce?

Yes. “Beurre manié” means squeezed butter in French. You may use this technique to mix butter and flour and thicken bbq sauce. Put the same amount of flour and butter in a bowl. Using a fork or your fingers, mix the flour and butter until they become a dough, which you will add to a barbecue sauce.


Thickening barbecue sauce may be way more challenging that one thinks, but don’t give up. Following our suggestions will thicken BBQ sauce to make it just as tasty as you want it.

If you want a good and thick sauce, let the liquids go! Select the right ingredients to thicken BBQ sauce and try to improve your recipe every time you cook.

No matter which method from the above you will use, an optimal mixture of thickening ingredients will give a desired flavor to your barbeque sauce making it more tasty than the store-bought versions.


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