how to thicken cream sauce

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Recipes sometimes don’t turn out as expected, probably due to a missed step in the recipe or a change in the humidity in your kitchen. Such factors significantly affect the cream sauces’ consistency, and you end up with a runny sauce that lacks the richness we all anticipate. So, do you understand how to thicken cream sauce in cases of such mishaps?

Well, there’s no need to worry. There are ways you can incorporate so that your cream sauce coats the back of your spoon and cling to foods perfectly. You can correct a runny cream sauce by simply reducing the liquid in your sauce or adding some pantry ingredients like cornstarch.

So let’s understand further how we can thicken the cream sauce.

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How to thicken cream sauce for pasta

The art of mastering how to mix creamy sauce perfectly can transform a simple meal to top-notch. But it’s not the same case with runny sauces. The ideal pasta cream sauce should have the perfect lusciousness; not too thin or thick. So, let us understand how you can correct a runny cream sauce for your pasta.

Thickening with cornstarch

You will find cornstarch in almost every kitchen. This flavorless and effective ingredient has been used to thicken sauces for long. So, to use it for your cream sauce, just add some cornstarch and water in a pan and mix well, then pour into the sauce. Adding the cornstarch directly into the cream sauce will clump up and spoil the sauce.

  1. Measure a tablespoon of cornstarch and a tablespoon of cold water.
  2. Add the cornstarch and water toa bowl and stir them till you achieve a smooth mixture.
  3. Add the mixture into your sauce while stirring.
  4. Let the cream sauce simmer under low heat to eliminate the starchy taste.

Thickening with flour

If you have no cornstarch left in your kitchen, do not worry; flour is a super effective alternative. The starches in the flour helps thicken the sauce. The starch expands and changes the viscosity of your cream sauce.

  1. Melt butter in a pan; a tablespoon will do.
  2. Add a tablespoon of flour in the butter and mix well till it attains a brown color.
  3. You can then add it to the cream sauce.       

How to thicken cream sauce step by step?

You can incorporate thickeners in your runny cream sauce if you are in a rush. Other methods, like liquid reduction in the sauce, work best, but not if you hurry.

Thicken cream sauce by reducing the liquid on a stovetop

Check out how you can reduce the cream sauce on your stovetop.

  1. Simmer the cream sauce

This is one easy way to thicken your cream sauce. By simmering under low heat, the liquid in the sauce evaporates, making it thicken. Be keen on heat settings by ensuring that the sauce stays at a low heat as it simmers.

  1. Heating the cream sauce

Never allow the cream sauce to boil at any cost as high temperatures tamper with the texture. The sauce should simmer without boiling. If it starts to boil, reduce the heat or turn it off if it has the desired consistency. Note that high heat might also interfere with the taste of your sauce, something I know you wouldn’t want.

  1. Stirring the cream sauce

Keep stirring the cream sauce with a wooden spoon as it reduces in regular intervals until it thickens. You will need to be extra cautious as cream sauce burns quickly.

  1. Testing the thickness

The time needed for the cream sauce to thicken is determined by the sauce and one’s preferences. The sauce usually takes 10 to 30 minutes to thicken. Keep testing the sauces’ thickness in 10-minutes intervals. Testing reduces the risk of overcooking the sauce.

Thicken the cream sauce using egg yolk

So, if reducing the liquid on your stovetop doesn’t give you the desired thickness, then you might want to add in an egg yolk. Egg yolks work best if the cream sauce contains an egg, such as hollandaise sauce. But how do you do that?

  1. Crack your egg into a bowl and separate the yolk from the egg whites.
  2. Temper the egg yolk with some cream milk to prevent it from curdling from the heat in the cream sauce.
  3. Whisk the yolk into the cream sauce, pouring little by little until you get the desired consistency.
  4. Now simmer the cream sauce under low heat

You necessarily, do not have to use all the liquid egg yolk to thicken the cream. You can add a little of it as long as it will help get the results you desire in your cream sauce.

Thicken cream sauce using roux

Roux. Which is a fat-flour mixture, is the most common thickener used in cream sauces.

  1. Measure butter and flour in equal portions.
  2. Place a pan on the stovetop, add in butter, and let it melt.
  3. Add the flour into the butter and stir to a smooth paste.
  4. Whisk the roux in your cream sauce little by little to your desired thickness.
  5. If you want the roux to taste significant in the sauce, cook it longer before adding it to the sauce.

4. Thicken cream sauce using kneaded butter

Adding butter alone into cream sauce might not thicken it nicely, but it gives a thicker consistency. But with some flour added into the butter, you surely will love the thickness it brings to your sauce.

  1. Add butter into a bowl, then add in flour.
  2. Use a fork to mash the butter-flour mixture until it becomes a thick paste.
  3. Use the paste to roll in a small ball and drop it into the sauce.
  4. Ensure you stir the sauce until it thickens to your liking. If one ball is not enough, add in another after the first has fully melted out in the sauce.

Thicken cream sauce by pureeing vegetables

Vegetables containing starch are perfect thickeners. Examples include potatoes, cauliflower, and winter squash. Puree half of the vegetable or even whole depending on how thick you want your sauce to be. Here is how to prepare the vegetable puree:

  1. Boil the vegetable in a pan.
  2. Remove the vegetable after boiling and allow it to cool.
  3. Toss the vegetable into a food processor and blend until they smoothen.
  4. After smoothening, add the paste into your cream sauce.

Thicken cream sauce using tomato paste

Tomato paste thickens your cream sauce like pasta sauce. Just add some tomato paste into your cream sauce bits by bits till you get the thickness you desire. There are other ingredients that you can add into the sauce for the PERFECT consistency, like:

  • Heavy cream

Heavy cream helps n thickening your sauce and adds a rich, silky feel to your mouth.

  • Breadcrumbs

Even though breadcrumbs give a grainy texture to your cream sauce, they are perfect for thickening. You can make some at home or get them from the nearest store.

  • Meat

Ground meat does thicken your tomato-based sauces while still adding a delicious flavor.

  • Oil

Olive oil added tothe cream sauce helps in achieving thicker consistency. Just add some oil to an immersion-style blender. The emulsion created adds a smooth texture that you will love.

  • Cheese

Cheese is one famous addition to your sandwich and pizzas and can help thicken your sauce. Just grate it into the sauce.

Thicken cream sauce with powdered gelatin

Gelatin is made from animal collagen and is used in thickening sauces. Unlike other starch-based thickeners that thicken the sauce as it heats, gelatin thickens the sauce as it cools.

  1. Add 2 tablespoons of cold water to a small bowl and sprinkle 1 ½ teaspoon gelatin powder into it.
  2. Whisk water and gelatin mixture together and leave the mixture to sit for a while so the gelatin powder hydrates.
  3. Pour the mixture into the cream sauce and stir. Do not boil the mixture.
  4. Remove the cream sauce from heat and leave it cool at room temperature. As it cools, the sauce thickens. You can also stir until it cools.

Thicken cream sauce with lentils

Lentils are a healthy addition to your cream sauce and helps thicken it. Note that the cream sauce will absorb the flavor of the lentils.

  1. First, cook the lentils till soft and add them into a blender.
  2. Blend the lentils to a paste. You can even pour in some water for an easy blend.
  3. Add the lentils paste into your cream sauce till it thickens.

Thicken cream sauce using beans

You will thicken your cream sauce using beans in the same way as lentils. When blending, add some water if you will be using canned beans and then pour it into your cream sauce. Other beans like kidney beans or red beans should be soaked overnight before being cooked the following day in salty water. Once ready, blend and add them in cream sauce.

Thicken cream sauce using onions

Perfectly fried onions fried till soft, are perfect thickeners. Ensure you use a ton of them to get the best results. Also, they should caramelize adequately. The trick for perfect caramelization is adding in some salt and some little water now and then. After onions are ready, blend them and add them into the cream sauce for a silky sweet and caramelized flavor.

Using arrowroots powder

Arrow roots powder is just like cornstarch and used in the same way as it. This powder thickens at room temperatures and is made from the arrowroot tuber. Arrow root powder gives the sauce a smooth, clear, and shinier look.

Using xanthan gum

This additive adds a glue-like consistency to sauces. It is pretty famous for gluten-free dieting.


After reading this post, you do not have to pour out that runny cream sauce in the garbage ever again. The majority of the above methods give perfect results though some might give your sauce new flavors altogether. If you are okay with the flavors, it shouldn’t be a cause of worry.

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