How To Thicken Soups, Stews & Sauces


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How To Thicken Curries, Soups, Stews & Sauces. The ultimate guide to thickening your food naturally without flour, gravy granules, cornflour or other add ins. This is exactly how us Milner’s thicken our soup, stew, sauce, curries, casseroles and gravy.

how to thicken anything stews soups curries sauces gravy
how to thicken

How To Thicken Your Recipes

British born, I was raised on cornflour, Bisto gravy granules, OXO stock cubes and plenty of plain flour.

It never occurred to me that any of these products were unhealthy and that there was another way to flavour my food and thicken my meals.

When I moved in with my husband Dominic, I loaded our kitchen cupboard with gravy granules. I remember having Bisto chicken, beef, lamb, and vegetable.

After all, that is what everyone else had.

However, after becoming a fan of paleo, the Whole30 and eating a lot more whole foods, I knew the gravy granules had to go.

Instead, I spent a long time coming up with great easy ways to thicken foods and this blog post today, is how I now do it.

All methods are totally gluten free and healthy and offer a great way to add hidden veggies into your meals.

They are also fantastic for when cooking one pot meals in your instant pot or slow cooker.

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Cornflour Alternative

As well as an alternative to Bisto gravy granules, our thickener ideas also work perfectly as a cornflour alternative.

I hate cornflour and have rarely used in the last 10 years but still have delicious thick soups, stews, and casseroles.

Plus, how much money do you currently spend on thickeners for your food when you can use what you already have to hand.

How To Thicken Curry?

Let’s start with how to thicken curry sauce. When I make a batch of curry, I will make sure I am adding in hidden vegetables, that when I blend the curry sauce will make it much thicker.

Carrots and butternut squash are fantastic for thickening up your curry and when you load your ingredients into the slow cooker or instant pot, make sure carrots and butternut squash are included.

Here is an example of our curry sauce made with vegetables and zero cornflour.

Or when you are making a vegetable curry in the slow cooker take out 25% of the vegetables once cooked.

Transfer these to your blender, blend and stir back into your curry. You will have naturally thickened up your curry and you will think it’s got cream in it as it will be that creamy.

You can also hold a hand blender over the pot of curry and then blitz a small area of it and then stir.

Here are some more thick curries and curry sauces to check out:

How To Thicken Sauce?

Have you ever tried my flourless cheese sauce or my Slimming World cheese sauce?

Both focus on cheese sauces made without any flour and you STILL have a rich creamy cheese sauce that would amaze you by how good it tastes.

My favourite though is the flourless cheese sauce. It is loaded with hidden cauliflower and cauliflower and garlic are the base for the sauce.

Cheese and milk are then added to it. The cauliflower is steamed in the instant pot pressure cooker and its one of the fastest ways to make a cheese sauce too.

If you want to thicken a sauce (of any kind) then add in cauliflower. Its amazing what a good job it does of thickening up your food and tastes rather good too.

Imagine you wanted to make chicken in a creamy sauce. Cook cauliflower at the same time, then blend the cauliflower and add it back into the chicken dish.

How To Thicken Soup?

When I want to thicken a soup, I will make sure the soup contains plenty of potatoes or vegetables that are naturally thick when blended.

Such as my instant pot corn chowder or my soup maker cauliflower cheese soup.

Think potatoes, cauliflower, swede, carrots, turnip, or broccoli are all fantastic for thickening up your soup.

Just think about when you make soup maker broccoli soup. It’s so thick I often add extra milk.

But if you just blended a little bit of broccoli within your soup, then it would be incredible for a soup that is overly watery.

How To Thicken Stew?

When I want to thicken stew I always focus on the potatoes. My stews nearly always contain meat, potatoes, carrots and then maybe some other vegetables.

I will then hold the hand blender over a section of the stew that has carrots and potatoes visible.

Then blend those and stir. That tiny bit of blended potatoes and carrots do an amazing job.

Or even better, blend a tiny bit of the meat too and this will improve the stock and make it so much thicker.

Here are some yummy thick stews for you to try:

How To Thicken A Casserole?

When it comes to cooking casseroles, especially those in the instant pot, I often end up with an excess of liquid in the instant pot.

Those times when you need a decent amount of stock to cook the food, but when you have finished cooking, there is loads leftover.

I will do one of two things:

  • Ladle out the leftover stock into another bowl and then stir. The idea here is that you are reducing how much liquid in the instant pot. Then you can stir and be amazed by how much thicker it becomes.
  • Thicken the casserole before cooking. Instead of using just a watery stock in the recipe I will use a thick sauce made from previous leftovers.

How To Thicken Gravy Without Flour?

I do it simple when it comes to making gravy. I make the gravy just from the juices and fat from the meat, along with any potatoes and vegetables I have cooked the meat with.

Think of those times you cook a roasting joint in the instant pot pressure cooker. Add some potatoes and vegetables below the meat and let the meat sit on them.

Then when the cook time is over sieve all the leftover vegetables:

how to thicken with leftover vegetables

Then load into the blender with the spare meat juices. Blend until smooth and you have a yummy gravy.

Or use a hand blender and do it directly in the slow cooker on instant pot:

how to thicken gravy

Of course, if there is a lot of stock left like you see below:

how to thicken gravy leftover stock

Then you don’t want to load all this into the blender as it will produce a watery gravy. This can then be saved for another recipe and you have a good starter stock.

Or what I do is make a good batch of leftover gravy and freeze it for another day.

leftover gravy for the freezer

Here are some example recipes where we have thickened gravy without cornflour and just used meat, potatoes, and vegetables:

How To Thicken – In Summary

Here is the quick list of ways to thicken up your food in case you are in a rush and don’t have time to read all my examples:

  • How to thicken curry sauce? Add carrots or butternut squash to the ingredients list and it will be much thicker and ideal for a creamy curry sauce.
  • How to thicken up a curry? Use your hand blender on about 25% of the curry and stir. Your blended vegetables will now work as a thickener.
  • How to make gravy thicker? Cook for meat with potatoes and carrots. Then mix together the juices from the meat with potatoes and carrots. It will make an amazing thick gravy.
  • How to make sauce thicker? Add cauliflower! When you blend cauliflower into the base of your sauce it will be beautifully creamy and so yummy.
  • What can I use instead of cornflour? Swap cornflour for hidden vegetables in your cooking. Then blend those vegetables and you will be amazed by how thick it will become.
  • How to make soup thicker? Focus on vegetables (or lentils) that are naturally thick when cooked. Then partially blend them just before serving your soup.
  • How to thicken up stew? Blend a small amount of potatoes and carrots from within the stew and then stir it. You will be amazed by the difference it makes to the thickness of your stew.

How To Thicken – #1 Bonus Trick

A have a million different ideas floating around in my head about how I thicken our dinners. Even though I have mentioned lots of great beginner ways above, there is one more that is worthy of a mention.

Red Lentils – Not only are red lentils nutritious and ideal for a healthy diet, but they are also fantastic for thickening your recipes. When I am making an Instant Pot Red Thai Curry Soup, I will include a small amount of red lentils. As the curry soup cooks it naturally thickens from the lentils.

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