The question of how to thicken hot sauce can be a tricky due to the fact that many recipes contain high levels of acid. Acids can cause some thickeners to lose their thickening properties. Even so, there are quite a few options for giving your sauce more body without affecting its flavor.
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If you want to know how to thicken hot sauce in the simplest possible way, this is it. Reduction means simmering it until moisture evaporates. The result will be a more concentrated and flavorful version of the sauce. It does not require any additional ingredients and is easy to control.
Use a gentle flame when reducing your hot sauce and constantly stir to ensure that it does not burn. Keep in mind that you will be lessening the quantity of the sauce when you do this, so you may want to make a bigger batch to ensure that you wind up with the right amount.
Fruits/Vegetables and a blender
The addition of fruits and vegetables can greatly enhance a hot sauce. Mangos and peaches can add a little sweetness and fruitiness to complement the heat, while celery and onion can add savory notes. You can pour the vegetables into a regular stationary blender or use an immersion blender. This method works well when used along with the reduction method.
Pectin is a carbohydrate derived from fruits. It comes from the skin and core of fruits and turns into a gel when cooked. If you have made jams or jellies in the past, you may be familiar with it as it is commonly used to set preserves. Pectin is useful for thickening other foods as well, including hot sauce. In addition to its thickening benefits, it stabilizes. As a stabilizer, it will keep your sauce from separating.
For thickening, you will use about 1/8 teaspoon for each cup of hot sauce and boil for about 30 seconds. Note that using too much pectin will cause your sauce to set like a jam.
Xanthan gum is made from grain that has been fermented with a particular strain of bacteria. It is the thickener used in commercial hot sauces that contain thickeners. Xanthan gum can act as both a thickener and stabilizer for your hot sauce and has a completely neutral taste. In addition, it has the benefit of providing you with near-instant results. No heat will be needed to alter your sauce’s texture.
To use xanthan gum, you will need to add it to the sauce while it is being blended. Avoid adding to a stationary liquid, or it will solidify instantly and give you a lumpy sauce. Use 1/8 teaspoon per cup of hot sauce for light thickening and 1/4 teaspoon for heavier thickening.
While xanthan gum is very effective, note that it may not be the easiest product to find in a brick-and-mortar store; you will most likely have to purchase it online.
An effective substitute for cornstarch, arrowroot is derived from a tropical tuber. As with the other thickeners above, it will make your hot sauce thicker without affecting its flavor. It will also give it a glossy sheen that may make it more visually appealing.
To use arrowroot, make a slurry with it and add it to your sauce, then heat gently. For light thickening, mix one teaspoon with two teaspoons of water for each cup of hot sauce. For a thicker sauce, simply double the quantities of both the arrowroot and the water.
Note that while arrowroot does not break down in acidic liquids the way that cornstarch can, it does not stand up to heat very well. Too much heat will cause your hot sauce to thin back out.