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How to Thicken Watery Hot Sauce

Tame your watery hot sauce! These are the best methods to get it to the right consistency.

Americans’ love for hot sauces: it seems like an ever-growing obsession. Recently, we at the Home Cook World editorial team decided to join the masses by trying to make our own.

What we ended up with was a hot concoction that smelled and tasted great, but was a little too watery for our taste. So we frantically started researching for a solution: how can watery hot sauce be thickened?

The easiest and simplest way to thicken watery hot sauce is by reducing it down in a pan on the stove. Alternatively, you can thicken hot sauce by adding all-purpose flour, powdered arrowroot, pectin, and xanthan gum.

Whichever method you choose (we will help you do so in a moment), remember to taste-test your hot sauce occasionally with a spoon to know exactly when it has reached the desired consistency.

Perhaps you’re one of those hot sauce fans who make up half of the American population. Let’s say your previous self-experiments weren’t so successful.

In that case, we encourage you to try again, as we have the perfect solution for turning runny hot sauce into a delectable spicy condiment with the perfect consistency.

The Easiest Ways to Thicken Hot Sauce

The simplest, easiest, and cheapest way to thicken hot sauce is by cooking it down. This process might take a while if you have a substantial amount of sauce; also, keep in mind that you will end up with less sauce than you originally started off with.

Tomato-based hot sauces are perfect for cooking, as starches like flour and cornstarch often don’t give the desired effect when mixed with the acid in tomatoes.

The most important thing about this method is that once the sauce is boiled down, it tastes more cooked. Just as tomato paste not only has a thicker consistency, but also a deeper, more intense flavor than tomato sauce.

How to reduce your hot sauce:

Reducing is one of the oldest methods for thickening hot sauce. It also makes its aroma richer and its flavor more saturated.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Place your sauce in a wide pan on the stovetop;
  • Ensure that you start off with medium-high heat, stirring;
  • As soon as the bubbles get larger, turn down the heat dial to low;
  • Continuously stir and taste until your hot sauce ‘reduction’ has reached the desired taste and thickness.

The key is patience and time, as this is where the magic happens. 

Need to simmer down a lot of sauce? Use two separate pots to speed up the reduction process.

Suppose you don’t have that much hot sauce at hand, and reducing it is not an option. Below are the various other ways in which you can thicken it.

Thickening Hot Sauce by Adding Powdered Arrowroot

Apart from reducing your hot sauce to thicken it, another alternative is to use powdered arrowroot.

Powdered arrowroot, the tuberous root of various South American plants, is packed with nutritional benefits. In addition, it’s also gluten-free and grain-free.

It’s an even better alternative to thickening sauces than cornstarch and flour because it thickens faster and more efficiently.

How to thicken your hot sauce by using powdered arrowroot:

For light thickening, mix 1 teaspoon arrowroot with 2 teaspoons water. For a thicker sauce, use 2 teaspoons arrowroot mixed with 4 teaspoons water:

  • Make a slurry by following the measurements above;
  • Add this slurry to 1 cup hot sauce;
  • Heat it gently on a low setting until your hot sauce reaches the desired consistency.

Pro Tip: Powdered arrowroot and high heat don’t get along well. If you’ve turned up the heat too much, your hot sauce will thicken up—but just as quickly thin out again.

Thickening Hot Sauce by Adding Pectin

Pectin is another tried and tested solution to thickening hot sauce. This starch, derived from citrus fruit’s inner peels, is mainly used for giving jellies and jams their semi-solid texture.

Pectin comes in different varieties: classic, high methoxyl, low methoxyl, and MCP. If you want to use this ingredient to thicken up your hot sauce, you need to look for low methoxyl readily available in most supermarkets.

How to thicken your hot sauce by using pectin:

  • Add 1/8 tsp per cup of soup;
  • Let it simmer on a low setting for about 30 seconds;
  • Stir regularly until your hot sauce has reached its desired thickness.

Pro Tip: Don’t add more pectin than the quantity provided above, as too much pectin will result in your hot sauce setting like gelatin.

Thickening Hot Sauce by Adding Xanthan Gum

Xanthan gum is used in most commercial hot sauces. It acts not only as a stabilizer but also as a thickener.

Interestingly, this ingredient is made from pulling bacteria from various different plants. It is also found in a wide variety of foods—even oils, cosmetics, and toothpaste.

The other great thing about xanthan gum is that it is completely tasteless. If you’re a fan of sauces like Ninja Squirrel and Taco Bell, then keep it close to home and use xanthan gum to thicken your watery hot sauce.

How to thicken your hot sauce by using xanthan gum:

  • Place your hot sauce in a blender;
  • Turn on the blender;
  • Add 1/8 tsp of xanthan gum for each cup of sauce while blending.

Pro Tip: Always add xanthan gum while the sauce is busy blending. Adding it to a stationery sauce will result in the xanthan gum instantly solidifying. The result will be a lumpy sauce.

How to Check If Your Hot Sauce Needs Thickening

We’re not all master chefs, so sometimes, you might be a bit unsure whether or not your hot sauce needs to have a thicker consistency.

So, before reducing it or blindly adding powdered arrowroot, pectin, or xanthan gum, there’s a simple test you can perform in deciding whether your sauce even needs thickening.

It’s this simple spoon test:

  • Take a spoon and dip it into your sauce;
  • If the sauce coats the spoon, it will also coat your dish;
  • If the sauce runs off the spoon without coating it, you’re in trouble ’cause your hot sauce needs thickening.


You don’t need to run to the shops anymore when your shelves at home are depleted of your favorite hot sauces. Grab those chili peppers and start cooking! You don’t even need to be afraid of your concoction turning out too runny.

The simple process of reduction or the addition of powdered arrowroot, pectin, or xanthan gum will transform any watery hot sauce into a thick mouthwatering taste explosion.