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How to make a Thicker BBQ Sauce (10 Ways)

Perfectly cooked and delicious ribs, chicken, burgers, pork chops, and even fries deserve nothing but the best, perfectly textured BBQ sauce. But let’s say the disaster strikes at the most inopportune time, and your BBQ sauce turns too thin or runny. To thicken BBQ sauce, you can let the sauce simmer, use cornstarch or flour, or even add ingredients like tomato paste. If it’s a solution you desire, I’ve got several ways how to thicken BBQ sauce!

Ways to Thicken BBQ Sauce

Using Flour

We can’t start off the list without one of the most popular and effective methods of patching a runny sauce. Flour is one of the most common thickening agents that works by absorbing the liquid and expanding. But it does contain gluten, which is something you’ll wanna keep an eye on. It’ll even add a nutty and buttery flavor to the sauce while creating a smooth and consistent texture.

The process of using it involves making a roux by mixing flour and melted butter or oil in a saucepan over medium heat until it turns a light brown color. It can then be slowly added to heated BBQ sauce while whisking continuously until it thickens to the desired consistency.

Using Cornstarch

Cornstarch is a great gluten-free thickening agent that, much like flour, forms a gel-like substance that absorbs the liquid and expands, resulting in a thicker texture. It also doesn’t add any taste and can be easily made into a slurry by mixing it with cold water in a separate bowl. 

Applying it to your sauce needs only for the BBQ sauce to be heated in a saucepan over medium heat until it simmers. Slowly add the cornstarch slurry to the sauce while whisking continuously. Then, just continue whisking until the sauce thickens to how you like it.

Adding Fats

If you’re feeling up to it, you can even add fats to BBQ sauce to thicken it. The fats in the sauce increase its viscosity, effectively coating the particles and creating a thicker and smoother texture. It even helps to add a richer and creamier taste while nullifying an over-spiced flavor.

All you need to do is heat the sauce in a saucepan over medium heat. Once heated, add a small dollop of butter, oil, or another fat to the sauce and whisk it until fully melted and incorporated. Continue adding small amounts of fat and whisking until the sauce reaches a thickness you’re happy with.

Saucepan Reduction

Even reduction is a technique often reserved to thicken sauces by simmering them over low heat to evaporate the liquid and concentrate the flavors. This process removes excess water and requires no additional thickeners or ingredients.

Simply simmer the sauce over low heat for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, to create a rich and thicker sauce. When the sauce is finished reducing, you can strain it through a fine-mesh sieve to remove any lumps or bits of cooked ingredients. This will give the sauce a smoother texture and a more desirable appearance.

Also, make sure to use a saucepan that’s the appropriate size for the amount of sauce you are reducing. You don’t want it to boil over and make a mess on your stovetop.


Butter is a great natural emulsifier that coats the other ingredients, preventing the sauce from separating or becoming watery. It can thicken a sauce while also enhancing its flavor and texture.

Simply melt a few tablespoons of butter in a saucepan over low heat and whisk in the BBQ sauce. The butter will create a smooth, creamy texture and add richness to the sauce. The result is a flavorful BBQ sauce that’s perfect for dipping, basting, or slathering on your favorite meats.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is another top-notch natural thickening agent that can help to create a richer and creamier texture. When heated, coconut oil melts and blends easily with other ingredients.

It’s also rich in healthy fats and is gluten-free, all the while providing a subtle sweetness that complements the smokey and tangy flavors of traditional BBQ sauces. To use it, melt a small amount of coconut oil in a saucepan over low heat, then whisk it into the sauce until it reaches the desired consistency.

Heavy Cream

Heavy cream is especially useful if you have a BBQ sauce that’s just too thin or runny and you want to make it substantially thicker. Start by heating the BBQ sauce in a saucepan over medium heat. Once the sauce is heated through, add a small amount of heavy cream and stir it in well to thicken the sauce immediately. 

Be sure to stir it in thoroughly to avoid any lumps or clumps. You can also continue to add heavy cream in small amounts until you get a thickness you’re happy with, but be careful not to add too much cream, as this can make the sauce too thick and heavy.

Tomato Purée

Tomato puree is certainly a unique way to thicken up your sauce and give it a richer but more tomatoey flavor. This option is made by blending fresh tomatoes and using its natural pectin to thicken the sauce.

Heat the sauce in a saucepan over medium heat, add a small amount of tomato puree, and stir well to prevent lumps or clumps. Just like heavy cream, you should keep adding small amounts of puree until you’re happy with its consistency, but don’t overdo it.


Tapioca, derived from the cassava plant’s roots, can serve as an excellent way to thicken BBQ sauce. It offers a denser texture compared to other alternatives. It’s also Ideal for coating meats and vegetables, imparting a mildly sweet and chewy quality. To employ this method, begin by creating a slurry through the combination of a small amount of tapioca with water.

Once prepared, integrate the slurry into the BBQ sauce, ensuring thorough mixing to prevent lumps or clumps. Gradually add the tapioca mixture to achieve the desired thickness, exercising caution to avoid excessive additions that may result in an overly thick and gummy sauce.

Xanthan Gum

Xanthan gum is another fantastic natural, gluten-free, and popular thickening agent used in the food industry to improve the texture and consistency of varying sauces and dressings. It can also vastly improve the stability and shelf life of sauces and dressings, enhancing their flavor and texture. 

It’s produced by fermenting sugar with a specific type of bacteria and has several unique properties that make it an ideal thickener for BBQ sauce. Adding xanthan gum to BBQ sauce can definitely create a thicker and more substantial sauce, but it should be used in moderation as it’s a powerful thickener.


Should BBQ sauce be thick?

Yes, BBQ sauce should be thick enough to coat your food and add flavor without being too runny. However, the thickness of BBQ sauce can vary depending on personal preference and the type of dish it is being used with.

Will BBQ sauce thicken as it cools?

No, BBQ sauce will not thicken as it cools. If you want to thicken BBQ sauce, you will need to use a thickening agent such as cornstarch or flour.

How do you thicken Korean BBQ sauce?

Korean BBQ sauce can be thickened using the same methods as regular BBQ sauce. One popular way to thicken Korean BBQ sauce is to use cornstarch. Mix a small amount of cornstarch with water to create a slurry, then stir it into the sauce. Heat the sauce gently as you stir to prevent lumps from forming.

How do you make BBQ sauce more watery?

If you find that your BBQ sauce is too thick, you can make it more watery by adding liquid. The type of liquid you use will depend on the flavor profile of your sauce. For example, you can add water, apple cider vinegar, or even beer to thin out your BBQ sauce.

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