How to Thicken BBQ Sauce (7 Easy Ways)


Fix thin or watery condiments with our seven easy and effective ways to thicken BBQ sauce. From using flour to cornstarch, here are the best ways to make it thick and sticky.

How to Thicken BBQ Sauce

We all have our own favorite go-to BBQ sauce, whether it be a store bought sauce or your own homemade version. It comes in such a range of flavors and spice levels that there’s a version out there for everyone.

One of the best things about it is that if you’re a BBQ sauce mega fan like me, it can go with anything. Burgers, sandwiches, pizza, fries… even soup.

What I really find unpleasant though is a sauce that’s too thin. I can tolerate almost any flavor or spice level, but if I pour sauce on my food I want it to be sauce… Not just spice water.

Luckily though this is really easy to get around, and there a number of ways to thicken it. Here are 7 of the best.

preparing bbq with sauce

Saucepan Reduction

This first one is really quick and simple.

With cooking when we talk about thickening things, we often talk about adding ingredients like cornstarch or flour to try to beef it up. Not with this first method.

Instead, what we’re going to do is remove ingredients.

This method focuses on taking away any excess water or vinegar that’s found its way into the sauce.

Simply heat up a small saucepan on a low heat and add your sauce to it, stirring continuously. Slowly bring up the heat, not allowing it to boil, allowing the water to start to evaporate.

With the water evaporating, your sauce will have thickened. Just note that it will continue to evaporate for a minute or so after you remove it from the heat, so try to stop heating the sauce as it’s approaching your desired thickness rather than wait until it’s too late.


The next two ways to thicken BBQ sauce use types of starch.

In general, store bought starched are white, tasteless powders. When these are added to liquids like sauces, they absorb the liquid, helping to thicken them.

This makes them perfect for thickening BBQ sauce because they can help give us the texture we need without imparting any unwanted flavor on them or reducing the levels of spice that we love.

For every cup of sauce that you want to thicken, you want to use the ingredients below to create a thickening solution.

Flour thickening solution

  • 2 tbsp flour
  • ¼ cup of water

Combine the two ingredients well in a small bowl, making sure that it’s consistent and doesn’t contain any lumps. Once well combined set to one side.

Heat up a small saucepan on a medium heat and add your BBQ sauce. Bring up the temperature to a simmer, but be careful not to let it boil. Once it is simmering, add the flour and water mix and stir in well. Stir continuously with a spoon, and allow to simmer for 1-2 minutes, or until the sauce has reached your desired consistency.


Very similar to flour, we can use cornstarch to thicken BBQ sauce. In fact, if you are going to use your sauce on ribs then this might be the best way to go. Cornstarch can help create a glossy sheen across whatever we apply it too, which is exactly the kind of aesthetic that goes so well with BBQ ribs.

bbq sauce presented next to sweet potato fries

It’s actually a far better thickening agent than flour, but what can let it down is that it can sometimes be broken down by ingredients like tomatoes, which can be present in a lot of BBQ sauces.

For every one cup of BBQ sauce, you need to create a mix of 1 tablespoon of cornstarch and 1 tablespoon of water. Just like with the flour mix, combine the cornstarch and water well in a small bowl, getting rid of any lumps. Once its achieved a good consistency, mix it in with your BBQ sauce and combine well.

Not that with both flour and cornstarch, you can add them directly to the sauce if you wish, but I find that the best way to ensure you don’t get a buildup of lumps is to make the flour or cornstarch mix first with water to help smoothen it out, before then adding to your sauce.


Now, hear me out here. Butter can act as a superb thickener while also adding a beautiful creamy taste to your sauce.

If you decide to go for butter then be sure only to get organic, grass-fed butter. Don’t opt for margarine.

Coconut Oil

This one might be a little surprising, but coconut oil’s uses seem to grow by the year. From cooking oil substitute, to coffee creamer, to now being a BBQ sauce thickener.

If you are vegan then you might prefer this option over heavy cream or butter.

Heavy Cream

Much like butter, this will not only add more thickness and body to your sauce, but will also give it a very rich flavor. Add it while simmering your sauce, but be very careful not to allow it to overthicken.

Tomato Purée

A lot of vegetables in pureed form add a beautiful level of fiber to a sauce, allowing to thicken while also giving it a bit of a shot in the arm in terms of nutritional value.

Tomato puree will add a lovely smooth body to your sauce while also thickening it, and should match the flavor profiles of most BBQ sauces already.

About the Author

Ben Isham-Smith

A BBQ obsessive, Ben is behind 250+ of The Online Grill’s recipes, as well as countless barbecue guides to help barbecue newbies get to grips with the world’s best form of cooking.

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