How to Thicken Sauce Without Flour: Low Carb, Keto, and Gluten Free Sauce Thickeners


low carb paleo thickenerDear Mark,

I’m trying to stay strictly primal/paleo, but I always run into problems when I need to thicken sauces or soups. I grew up learning to use flour/cornstarch like everyone else, but is there a good low-carb/primal alternative?


I received this email a while ago, but it wasn’t the first. A number of readers have expressed their confusion when it comes to thickening sauces, gravies, or soups without using traditional floury methods. The question of thickening sauces is one of the hurdles I face every time I put up a recipe post – it’s become a bit of an internal struggle (as seen with last week’s beef and broccoli stir fry recipe, in which I hesitatingly called for a teaspoon of flour as a thickener) because while adding a bit of flour or cornstarch to a larger recipe may not drastically impact the carb count, it does complicate the consistently Primal message I try to convey. This post, I hope, will resolve that struggle.

There are plenty of ways to thicken a sauce without resorting to refined starches. In fact, thickening a sauce using Primal methods can produce a richer, more satisfying meal.

Carbs in Cornstarch

There are 7g of carbs in 1 tablespoon of cornstarch. Since you only use a tablespoon or two in a whole recipe that serves four or more people, cornstarch won’t send your carb count through the roof.

A lot of people who follow paleo, Primal, or keto will want to avoid corn and its derivatives because of its naturally-occurring sugar and starch, and because it is not a nutrient-dense food.

Make a Reduction

The most rewarding way to thicken a sauce is by reduction. Indeed, learning how to reduce a sauce is important for any cook – home or professional. It’s quite simple, actually, but it’s an integral step in the thickening of any sauce or soup (whether you keep it Primal or use starches). Reduce the moisture content of a potential sauce by simmering over low heat and letting evaporation take over. The water goes, but the flavors stay. If you reduce too much, be prepared for incredibly potent flavors. Adding fats toward the end of the reduction process can complete the thickening process (more later).

Add Fat

Ah, the epic battle between fats and carbohydrates rages on. Fats can make effective thickeners, especially butter and especially with reductions. Say you’ve just seared a garlic-and-shallot-studded steak in your cast-iron pan. See those browned bits and bubbles of delicious beef fat and juices left behind? Keep the heat low and add some red wine. Scrape the good stuff off the bottom and let the wine reduce Toward the end, add a pat of cold butter and whisk it all together until smooth and creamy and viscous. Drizzle over your finished steak and veggies.

Heavy cream works well, too, especially for white sauces and soups. Again, the key is reduce, reduce, reduce.

Rendered duck, bacon, beef, or chicken fat can act like butter, if you want to avoid dairy altogether or add a different flavor profile. Just make sure you add the fat towards the end in its solid (cold) state. If you want to thicken without adding flavor, a neutral-tasting oil like avocado oil will work.

If you’re not sure which fat will work best, download your free Guide to Cooking Fats and Oils.

Gluten Free Roux

A roux is a sauce starter or thickener that involves whisking flour into a pan containing heated fat. I’ve found that arrowroot flour is a great substitute for flour in most, if not all applications that call for a roux.

Here’s my favorite turkey gravy recipe that uses arrowroot.

Can you make a roux with almond flour?

Almonds do not have any starch, and starch is what adds structure to the cooking liquid. So, almond flour will not make a good roux.

Keto Roux

If you want a gravy-like consistency but you don’t want the carbs of arrowroot or cassava, opt for recipes that use a small amount of xanthan gum.

Pureed Veggies

Adding a few scoops of pureed vegetables is another option, especially to thicken soups. Almost any acceptably Primal veggie will work: squash, carrot, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, or mushrooms, just to name a few. Simply steam or soften the vegetables and then throw them in a food processor or otherwise pulverize them. Canned tomato paste works well, too. If you’re already cooking a vegetable-filled stew or soup for hours, this might happen on its own as the veggies break down and add density to the broth.

Primal Flours

You already know how much we love almond meal around here, and the other nut meals/flours can work as sauce thickeners. Unlike traditional flours, these don’t really clump when added directly to a sauce, but they can add flavors you might not expect or really want in your sauce, so be careful. You can also use nut butters – a little bit goes a long way.

I’ve heard good things about defatted coconut flour. Never used it myself, but it is an effectively low-carb (high in fiber, though). Anyone tried coconut flour?

Vegetable Gums

Vegetable gums sound a bit unappetizing, but they’re used in a lot of Asian cooking. Essentially pure fiber that absorbs moisture to form a gel, the most popular of the vegetable gums are xanthan gum and guar gum. Sprinkle over sauces while whisking to thicken, but be cautious – a little bit goes a long, long way, and too much will make your sauce “gummy” and “gooey” rather than creamy.

Vegetable gums can be a bit tricky to use properly, but there are products that make it easier. I’m interested to hear what your favorites are if you’ve used them.

Is Xanthan Gum Keto?

There are 7g of carbs per tablespoon of xanthan gum. A little bit goes a long way, and most recipes call for a tiny amount of xanthan gum – a pinch or a fraction of a teaspoon or less. Therefore, xanthan gum can be considered keto and works well as a thickener.

Some people experience gastrointestinal symptoms with gums like xanthan gum. Experiment for yourself and see how you feel.


I’d say reduction is the most purely Primal way to thicken a sauce, but it’s not exactly the quickest or the easiest. It remains my favorite (excepting, of course, the fact that I haven’t tried the gums) because it produces the richest flavors and textures, especially with some sort of animal fat as a thickener. The nut flours work well enough, but the resultant textures will never completely compare to those of traditional flour thickeners; nuts are just too coarse and non-absorbent. Vegetable purees are delicious, nutritious thickeners, but they have limited use (mainly in soups and stews). As for the vegetable gums, I suppose these are technically PB-friendly – they come from natural sources and they’re definitely low-carb – but I’m not sure I’d want to rely on them completely, and I’m skeptical of “low-carb”packaging. Of course, I plan on trying them at some point, and I’d love to hear your experiences with them.

Oh, and for the broccoli beef recipe? I think a vegetable gum would be your best bet. I don’t know how well butter or cream would compliment the flavors, and I doubt nut flours would blend seamlessly into the sauce; with this one, you’re just going for texture alone, and the gums would probably achieve that without compromising flavor or cooking time.

Further Reading

Guide to Fats and Oils

8 Primal-friendly Flours

Keto Bread Recipe

TAGS:  dear mark

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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105 thoughts on “How to Thicken Sauce Without Flour: Low Carb, Keto, and Gluten Free Sauce Thickeners”

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  1. I have been struggling with thickening sauces for a while now. Thank you for all of this info. I am goning to give coconut flour a whirl I think and see how that goes.

    The SoG

    1. Are you hip to COCONUT CREAM? It’s gluten-free, low-carb & a great thickener for almost any dish. Not to be confused with that awful, canned sludge used to make yucky blender drinks, Coconut Cream is made by mixing fresh, shredded coconut meat with hot water, the squeezing out the water. After 2 years of spending a pretty penny for a fancy ‘coconut cream concentrate’ from Tropical Traditions (a good quality product but it’s too dry & hard to work with, IMO), I had to start cutting corners in my grocery budget in order to keep buying grassfed beef. So I went old-school, found a Carribean grocery store (which is acutally owned by Koreans) & went back to buying CKI PURE CREAMED COCONUT. Imported from Sri Lanka, a 6 oz. (170gm) block sells for 99 cents. (There’s NOTHING healthy you can buy to eat in American for 99 cents anymore!) Look for the red box with blue & white lettering. Open it up, remove the blue outer wrapping & the block of coconut cream will be inside the second clear plastic wrapping. Along the edge of the block you’ll find a layer of pure coconut oil (assuming it’s been kept below room temp). Coconut products (except fresh coconut milk) don’t spoil, but during warm weather, you’ll want to store coconut cream in the fridge to keep the oil from leaking. If you snip off the corner of the wrapper, you can squeeze out the coconut oil & use it for something else. What you’ll have left will be dense, thick, slightly sweet coconut cream.

      A Tbsp. of coconut cream mixed with half a cup of hot water (he way you’d make a slurry) & added to stock or soup will thicken a large bowl of whatever you’re cooking. Use a whisk to blend coconut cream slurry into sauces to give them a silky texture. For you dairy-free folks, a bit of coconut cream whisked into tomato soup gives it the that richness & sheen you normally get from adding butter right before serving. The coconut cream’s natural sweetness tames the acidicty of tomato soup or sauce just enough. As for the numbers:
      Serving size: 1oz
      Servings per containe (box): 6
      Calories: 200
      Calories from fat: 170
      Total fat: 19gm
      Saturated fat: 14gm
      Cholesterol: 0mg
      Sodium: 10mg
      Total Carbs: 2gm
      Dietary fibre: 1gm
      Protein: 3gm
      Natural sucrose: 2gm

      – RC

  2. I use Arrowroot to thicken sauces. You can find it by the spices at the grocery store. It works much like corn starch. I mix a teaspoon or so with a little bit of cold water (to reduce clumping), and then put it in whatever I’m making.

    I try to use the reduction method as well, but am way too impatient.

    1. Arrow root also freezes well, unlike corn starch. It thickens about the same and gives the same velvety sheen to the sauce.

    2. I use Arrowroot as well. It does the job quite well. But, does Arrowroot have more carbs than cornstarch etc?

  3. I use konjac flour. Carb free, calorie free, gluten free and high in soluble fiber. Works better than cornstarch, has no taste of its own, so takes on the taste of whatever it’s stirred into. What more could one ask for?

      1. While true those are highly unlikely to apply at the level required to thicken a sauce.
        It’s only going to happen when people take it at supplement levels.

  4. Xanthan gum come from metabolism of corn sugars by the bacteia Xanthomonas. So not strictly plant based. The end product is a film/goo produced by the bacteria.

    Anyway, I use Xgum a lot. Be careful people, you need A LOT LESS than you would think to thicken sauces and soups. A teaspoon would do for a big pot of soup! Just mix it in a jar and poor it in like you would cornstarch (so it does not clump). Its great for hot and cold things too, and neednt boil to be effective. I love it.

    1. I have tried xgum for thickening and can’t dissolve it in water, watch the trick?

  5. Egg yolks work really well, used them for years! This is a really old trick. My grandma learned it from her ma, etc.

  6. A subject near and dear to my heart. I typically thicken 2-3 sauses per week and have become pretty adept at it.

    I agree with Mark: reduction is the best way to go, but caution: this adds two levels of added difficulty which you’ll easily manage with experience:

    1. Quantity. You need to get good at having enough to go around once reduced to desired consistency. It may surprise you.

    2. Time. It can often take a lot longer than you think. I like to get my sauces started way before anything else. If you get done ahead of time, just cover and let sit off heat and then touch it up a medium a few minutes before serving.

    Here’s a couple of other thickeners I use with regularity:

    1. Full fat coconut milk. Thai curries are mostly coconut milk and they require very little reduction, if any. It’s got your fat & fiber backed right into the cake. Ready to go. And, if you use the right spices and flavors, it does not come out tasting like coconut.

    2. Crushed blueberries and cranberries. Now, depending on the amount you use, this will impart a flavor. But, let me tell you: just try it on a roast. Tri tip is particularly great. You can experiment with leaving in the fruit skins and with straining through a wire mesh. I do both.

    Oh, and sour cream is a good alternative.

    Careful about using bullion or demi glace and such as your starter stock. Most of them have some wheat (often labelled as roux — which is butter and flour).

    Finally, save all your bones, scraps of meat, and vegetable ends and scraps (even the outside brown skin of onions). Put ’em in a big bag in the freezer and when full, dump it all into a crock pot with a teaspoon or two of vinegar, and let it go for 24 hours. Once the vegetables are soft, mash them up. This gets their starches out. Strain it, and I use a combination of ice trays, silicon cupcake trays, and ziplock plastic ware to store various sizes in the freezer.

    The smaller ones I use for sauces for steaks for the wife & I. A couple of the cupcake sizes makes for a good soup base, and the larger ones do a great job for braising some meat for chili or stew.

    Once you start making your own stock, you’ll never go back and you’ll be forever houding people to save their bones and meat scraps for you.

    Some of my sauce (and chili and stew) exploits can be seen in my “Food Porn” category.

  7. Awesome tips and suggestions, Richard. Thank you for sharing your wealth of experience on MDA. (BTW – the site redesign is just about complete, and (this is the first time I’ve mentioned this publicly) the new site WILL have a forum, so I hope I can count on you chiming in from time to time. Your comments are always appreciated. Cheers!

  8. Why no mention of arrowroot? It’s great, it works mostly like cornstarch without ANY flavor change, and you don’t need to have the sauce wicked hot to use it.
    I’ve only baked with coconut flour, and from that experience I would say don’t use it for thickening!

  9. Coconut flour for me was a definate no no, I tried to thicken gravy with it and while it worked it had a weird texture. Just my two cents 🙂

  10. The coconut milk works wonderfully. It will be the consistency of a Thai curry dish and you can get it less or more thick, easily. No lumps, clumps, or weird consistency.

    Here’s a tip for a great sauce for roasts. Start with your beef stock, then add about 1/2 tsp each of rosemary and sage (a little less sage is fine — some people are really sensitive to the taste), savory also, if you like, 2 cloves crushed & chopped garlic, and then for the finale: 1/3 to a full small fresh jalapeno pepper, chopped finely, with the seeds. I suggest chop the whole thing, add at least 1/3, then taste after 10 minutes or so, keeping in mind it will likely weaken even with the reduction, and it’s going to be eaten with a roast (I do it with steak, too). Reduce or add in some coconut milk (tbsp at a time), or do both.

    With practice, you’ll be amazed. This is by far my most popular sauce. I’ve tried it with the red chili seeds and though it’s OK, there’s nothing like the fresh jalapeno. Goes with all beef; steaks, roasts, baked or grilled.

    Good luck, all.

  11. I’ve used the Xanthan gum a number of times and have gotten used to it. Definitely need to watch the amount and it can be gel-like. I need to plan ahead better and work on the reductions.

    Sometimes though its just easier to use a tablespoon of flour or cornstarch. Falls into the 5% of my diet that’s not good. The other 4% being whiskey…

  12. My favorite low-carb thickener is ThickenThin not/Starch. I found pure xanthan gum to be too slimy and coconut fiber too gritty.

    Sometimes I make a quick barbecue sauce for venison steak by deglazing the pan with authentic Japanese mirin (sweet rice wine) and adding chipotle pepper powder. In this case, the chipotle acts as a thickener.

  13. Coconut flour works well if you miss baked goods. You can use it to make all sorts of quick breads that have pretty decent textures — muffins, pancakes, etc. But it’s not a good thickener at all.

    I personally use a combination of arrowroot powder & reduction for most sauces.

    And I second Richard’s advice about making your own stock. If you slow cook it for 24-48 hours, it’s incredibly nutrient dense as all the minerals and vitamins leach out of the marrow in the bones.

    I would only add that it’s REALLY important to make stock from bones from grass-fed/pastured/wild animals. Antibiotics, toxins, and hormones are all concentrated and stored in the fats & marrow of animals (including us), so you don’t want to make a stock from unclean animals.

    (AKA FoodRenegade)

  14. I think FoodRenegade is correct about the coconut flour. It’s great for adding coconut flavor and can serve other purposes, but not very useful as a thickening agent (after all it’s just tiny shavings of coconut that are hardly more absorbant than a nut flour).

    Her recommended combo of arrowroot flour and reduction is probably the best advice. That darn arrowroot’s so expensive you gotta make it stretch.

  15. Yea, I’ll chime in too– coconut flour does not work well as a thickener.

    A forum?!? Woohoo! Yippee!

  16. Hello, I’ve been reading your blog for a few months. It’s very informative and I appreciate all your hard work to bring us this information.

    Regarding the arrowroot being so expensive. It is very expensive purchased in small jars in the spice section. If you have a Whole Foods type store that sells in bulk it is much cheaper.


  17. Ellen –

    I hope to unveil the new site in the next few weeks. It will have just about every feature readers asked for back in September and then some. The book will be hot on the heels of the site’s release. Thanks for asking!

  18. Less water is definitely a great way to thicken sauce. When i make a soup with meat,veggies, tomato paste works so well to thicken it up. I always cook my soups with V-8 and no water, adding tomato paste just gives it a bold taste, which i like.

  19. Gelatin,

    Next time you are making a meat flavoured sauce throw in some bones and let them stew. the gelatin will thicken (its a protein as well) and the bone will enrichen the sauce

  20. I think the coconut flour works fine but I make a roux out of it. My mum used to do this to thicken stews, casseroles all the time. She would always add paprika spice to it aswell. (You don’t have to add paprika).

  21. Another vote for xanthan gum! I just blogged about thickening chocolate pudding with it. Going to link back to the post, Mark!

  22. Great ideas all! Yes xanthan gum needs treating with respect, the result can resemble anything from recycled spittle to Araldite.

    Good points about the peanut butter and coconut also, especially Thai-type recipes benefit: I get blocks of “creamed coconut” or solidified coconut milk which I grate up and which go well with hot chillies.

    Be careful when buying duck fat, mispronounce it and you can get ejected from the shop . . .

  23. I thicken sauces in my crockpot recipes with a little guar gum, puddings with glucomannan powder (Konjac flour) or chia seeds, and cook with coconut flour, flaxmeal, nut meals, and chia seeds.

    Thankfully, there are a lot of very low carb things we can sub for grains. I’m a diabetic and my BGLs won’t handle them.

  24. Kuzu root also works as a thickener agent. Kuzu root is made from kudzu and look like white clumpy powder. It is imported from Japan, I believe. It can be used to thicken like arrowroot and also has healing properties – it is alkalizing to the body.

    There is a great anti-stress formula that combines 2 tbsp kuzu, 1 cup apple juice (i know, not primal), and a smidge of vanilla extract. cook until thickened, stirring all the time. Swirl in 1 tbsp of tahini (primal!) and eat hot or cold. This may fall into the category of a decent vice, but it’s great after a tough day.

  25. Homemade stock, reduced, is a great thickener, and it’s very mineral-rich, plus the gelatin is very soothing on the digestive tract. It’s a great source of easily digestible calcium, plus the other minerals that have leached out of the bones.

  26. ThickenThin not/Starch is a great product! Easy to use with great results. However, there are no instructions as far as how much to use in relation to the amount of liquid you have and how thick you want to get it so go easy and just add a bit at a time until you get the results you want. You also do not have to mix it with water first…you can just sprinkle on any liquid hot or cold.

  27. Okra. Yeah, I know. Slimy, right? I spent 40 years arguing with my Dad about how disgusting Okra was, only to find out that I actually liked it. And if you slice it think (1/4 in) and add a small amount (like 1/4 cup to a 2 quart dish), it thickens very nicely. I tried it in my Thai green curry recipe and it was really wonderful. The flavor just seems to support and enrich the base flavor of the sauce and it thickens without simmering for an hour.

  28. Extremely helpful post and comments. I have just starting thinking about reducing carbs in my cooking. One of my first questions was what to use in place of corn starch… luckily I love coconut milk. Arrow root sounds interesting so I will look for that where I buy my bulk goods. This week I will also be making my first chicken stock. I love the idea of freezing it and using to prepare future sauces, Thanks Richard 🙂

  29. I’m surprised that no one mentioned agar-agar. It is a common vegetarian alternative to gelatin, but it can be purchased in flake and powder forms and used to thicken soups, gelatins (Jell-O alternative?), jellies (homemade jellies with fresh fruit or alternative sweeteners, anyone?), and ice creams (probably great for non-custard ice creams that use minimal or artificial sweeteners).
    It comes from red algae, is almost 80% fiber, has a small amount of protein, and supplies a significant amount of iodine. The amount of thickening power depends on the amount of of agar added, but I’ve cooked with it, and I found it very easy to work with and very effective as a sauce thickener.

  30. I agree that coconut flour is a total waste for thickening. I can’t wait to try some of these other options as my children have difficulty waiting for a reduction. Has anyone tried just adding packaged gelatin or is there a reason that’s a bad idea?

  31. I’m surprised that nobody mentioned blood. It does thicken nicely, even if it’s usable only in dark sauces.

  32. Ha! Blood WILL thicken things, but I worked for several years at a steakhouse where we would occasionally make special order dishes with blood, and I’ve made a lot of cajun food (sausages, in particular) that uses blood. Blood tends to get grainy and congeal, and most people find it revolting if it’s not done EXACTLY right. Plus, it separates after a short period of time (before you cook with it). So, I wouldn’t suggest blood, despite the iron, protein, and other useful nutrients that it supplies.

    On a completely different note, Richard mentioned sour cream a long time ago, but there was no more discussion. Sour cream is great, when you want to make a cream-like sauce, starting with very thin liquid or juice. I’ve used it to take the juice from vegetables, added a bit of water or vegetable juice to make a full cup of liquid, then added about 1/2-2/3 cup of sour cream to make a very thick sauce. This is great over thinly sliced meat or something like spaghetti squash, if you aren’t eating pasta, or you want a stroganoff or primavera-type dish. In fact, I know a couple of restaurants that do this and add parmigiano-reggiano with the cream to make a primavera alfredo dish that’s all vegetables.

  33. I recently tried xantham gum myself, for a chicken stir fry (vice cornstarch). When I mixed it in with a cup of the soy sauce and other ingredients, I used half a teaspoon. This proved to be too much, and I had little pieces of soy sauce chewing gum on my hands. Actually it looked like pieces of prune. Xanthum Gum is expensive and potent, but it’s pure fiber and definitely works.

  34. Update: ThickenThin not/Starch thickener has been discontinued by Manufacturer. I loved using this product. So sad.

  35. Has anyone tried beef gelatine? Seems like an inexpensive and simple solution.

  36. you can also buy glucomannan (same stuff that shirataki noodles are made of) in powdered form. It’s a little tough to get the hang of since is thickens SO much… But it works a lot like cornstarch as a thickener.

    Start with VERY LITTLE in water!

  37. Mark, I’ve had some success doing a cheese sauce with coconut flour. It’s pretty ad hoc so I don’t have a definite recipe yet, but in a heavy stainless 2-cup measuring cup (or small saucepan) I melt butter or ghee, stir in some coconut flour, cream, grated cheese, and Frontier brand nutritional yeast at the end. We’ve enjoyed it on broccoli etc. You can also stir in an egg yolk (being careful to temper it). The thing to remember about coconut flour is that a little goes a long way, it absorbs much more liquid than wheat flour does, so think it terms of a spoonful or so to start. And if you bake with it you need egg to hold it together. I’ve also used guar and xantham gums in making gluten-free crackers. They seem to help the dough hold together somewhat but aren’t as powerful as in a sauce.

    1. Oh, and I like a little almond butter in my cheese sauce as well. I have fun experimenting, am not so good about writing it down.

  38. I use potato flour – which I notice hasn’t been mentioned at all in any of the posts. It thickens like flour, and doesn’t add flavor to the sauce/gravy. Specialty stores might carry it as it is used in some European breadmaking, but I make my own. Cook and mash potatoes (use water, not cream or butter if you need liquid), spread on a drying sheet and put in dehydrator (or spread on a cookie sheet and dry on low heat in oven with door slightly open). When dry, put thru the blender (or use mortar and pestal like I do) until powdered. Will keep pretty much indefinately in an airtight jar in the cupboard – just like flour. Pumpkin powder, made the same way, is also good.

  39. I am on the GAPS diet (similar to Paleo) and tonight I made sweedish meatballs. I made my own soy sauce and thickened the sauce to go over the meatballs using ground sesame seeds. It worked great and tastes amazing!

  40. My sister is allergic to wheat, so we’ve been using arrowroot for at least 20 years. You mix it with a little water (or other cool liquid) and then pour it in the pan and stir. Works exactly the same as cornstarch. You can find it in the spice section of any supermarket.

  41. Heylah 🙂 greatly informative site!
    Further to thickeners; ever tried Kudzu root? Superb thickener NO CARBS! Plus many health benefits – can be found in a health shop…bon apetite 🙂

  42. Canned pumpkin puree works great for thickening sauces if you don’t mind a pumpkin flavor

  43. just made a chicken curry with marcona almonds to thicken it. Put it in the blender with ginger-garlic-tomato.

    1. I think the issue is not the carb count (since you use so little of it), but that arrowroot is made from an herb vs. cornstarch from a grain.

  44. I’ve just recently started to use a little arrowroot while making homemade yogurt…seems to thicken it nicely.

  45. Help! I’m trying to do the Primal diet. I’ve been doing it for 2 weeks and have had some success. Prior to starting the diet, I was drinking 3 Starbucks bottled Frappucinos a day (I know – please don’t preach). I was able to cut it down to one a day but really want to get off of them completely. I’ve googled healthy recipes for them, but the texture is always off. Do you think adding arrowroot or pectin would thicken the iced frappucinos? Would this be a healthy alternative? I cannot sacrifice the fraps completely because I crave the caffeine. Thanks for any suggestions.

    1. You need to whip some cream, baby! That’s how you get a frap.

  46. the thick and thin for making gravies and sauces thicker is no longer available on the market. I searched and searched and that was what i finally found out. No longer made.

  47. Hi
    I use potato flour. It is a gluten free version of maisenna but made of potato. Like Aquevit! (I´m from Norway and the potato is used for all kinds of stuff) I used potato flour instead of arrowroot when I baked a pumpkin bread and when I was making brown sause for the lamb roast. Good results.


  48. I use roasted onions for savory gravies. 2 large sweet (Vidalia) in 2 cups of bone broth/water dilution to taste.

  49. I need a thickener for gluten-free friends! I tried coconut flour once as a thickener; it thickened my stir-fry but my husband would not eat it due to the gritty texture. I strongly suggest NOT using coconut flour.

  50. I have made vegan gravies that call for almonds or cashews and process together until creamy in blender; then cook and you will have a nice thick gravy consistency… add tamari for a nice brown color, onions, garlic, herbs, etc for flavor! Awesome!!

  51. Where did these cave folks get their processed xanthan and guar gum? Amazon, or …?


  52. I make a lot of sauces and have experimented with several thickeners. Most thickeners won’t work for me as I can my sauces in jars or bottles. The veggie gums work well but they are not Paleo! I am experimenting now with beef gelatin as a thickener which is paleo. Any comments for gelatin?

  53. Have you tried Great Lakes gelatin? So healthy. A bit pricey, but goes a long way.

  54. One thickener that can be used is Glucomannan powder. It is from Konjac root. Also assists with digestion.

  55. I’m curious how to thicken baked goods that call for xanthan gum, for example pizza.

    Is guar gum a healthy alternative to xanthan? I prefer to be at the pinnacle of health, which is why I avoid xanthan. I’ve read that it causes digestive issues. Or am I just being too paranoid?

  56. I made a chicken broth after cooking chicken breast in coconut oil. To thicken I fork blended in egg yolk while warm(which helped mix the oil and juices), nuked it for 15 seconds, then finished by blending in done coconut flour… Just a little and add a lurks more until it’s the texture you want.

  57. I made a chicken pot pie filling used skins flour which did not thicken well so added 1/3 cup brown rice ( precooked) then 2T) seems arrowroot worked best. I have used coconut flour to thicken but it takes a long time to work.

  58. Thank you to everyone who steered my away from coconut flour as a thickener. I was seeking something other than arrowroot because while I was sleuthing the net for answers, I read reheating a sauce thickend with arrowroot will tend to be runny or more liquid. I’m curious though about ground chia seed as a thickener… ? I will go arrowroot and reduction.

  59. I just fell into this. Mashed cauliflower is absolutely the best thickener. I came by it by mistake when having some steak with mashed cauliflower as an alternative to mashed potato. The juices from the steak mixed in with the mashed cauliflower and it became almost like a beef sauce. I just tried it for lunch with shrimp, water chestnuts and onions over cauliflower rice. All you do is take pre-made mashed cauliflower made in your blender and add a couple of Scoops to the juices in the pan while all the onions shrimp and water chestnuts are cooking. It was delicious! And really so easy.

  60. I made a cheese sauce last night using potato starch as thickener. It is carby once cooked but I didn’t use much to make a good thick sauce helped by the melted cheese.
    I used the roux method – melted butter, stir in enogh potato starch to soak up all the butter, cook for a couple of minutes then gradually add liquid, seasonings, mustard, cheese, I add fish sauce and a couple of drops of tabasco. It’s good.

  61. Another option is to use sauces that NEED NO THICKENER!!! I am thinking of two of my favorites: mayonnaise, and hollandaise!
    Homemade hollandaise is to die for… Though it can be tough to make without a real lesson. You need to melt butter, beat the snot out of egg yolks in a large bowl over boiling water, and then drizzle the butter into the egg yolks while whisking, then season it lightly with salt, white pepper, and a bit of lemon juice. A PITA, perhaps, but SO delicious! And you can add chopped herbs and vinegar instead of the lemon juice for bearnaise…
    Mayonnaise is the cold cousin of hollandaise… You beat the oil into the egg yolks without heat, and season with S&P, vinegar, and mustard.

    1. Not much better than fresh mayo. I could eat it with a spoon like pudding. Hated mayo all my life til I made it myself.

  62. I use tapioca (cassava) flour. Only need about half the amount of cornstarch for the same thickening power. I use it for alfredo, gravy, etc. A little goes a long way, use too much and you get a gloppy glue instead.

    You can use 2 tbsp olive oil heated in a pan, add 1 tbsp tapioca to make the roux, and then 1 cup coconut milk as a substitute for cream soup in recipes that call for it. Got it off Too bad that blog has been abandoned, there’s a lot of great stuff there.

  63. i use ultra-sperse 3 – it’s a pre-gelatinized tapioca starch that you can buy online. gluten free, flavor free, and it dissolves instantly and is easy to dose by feel since it’s very fluffy. ultimately, this means i end up using a less of it than I would with something like corn starch. with starches that are harder to dissolve, I end up using more than I really needed to.

    1. Hi, I just read your comment on ultra-sperse 3. I just purchased some but cannot find guidance anywhere on how much to use per cup of liquid? Would you be able to tell me what works for you? Thank you very much!

  64. As per Tania Teschke’s The Bordeaux Kitchen, I have used chestnut flour (see her Beouf Bourgignon recipe) which is especially good with beef. 20 grams carbs per 1/4 cup (2 oz).

    1. 20 grams of carbs per 2 oz. isn’t low-carb. Not a problem if you are only doing gluten-free and aren’t concerned about carb content. For many of us it wouldn’t be a great idea.

  65. I made hamburger gravy a few nights ago, thickened it with a bit of cream cheese and whipping cream. Next time I’ll just use the whipping cream, it was Fabulous!

  66. If I’m just cooking for myself and don’t care about perfection, I have a half almond flour/half coconut flour mix at the ready. The texture isn’t perfect, but its prettt good. If I’m cooking for others and want it to be more impressive, I’ll use tapioca starch (mixed with water, poured on as a slurry). It works pretty much just like corn starch, and like Mark said, I’m not worried about the few carbs it adds to an otherwise keto meal.

  67. I rarely thicken anything beyond reducing the liquid and stirring in some cold butter (as Mark indicates above). It makes a creamy European-style sauce that’s full of flavor but only slightly thickened. A lot of us grew up with thick, goopy, flour-heavy gravy because that’s just the way some people cook. But gravies and sauces don’t need to be thick in order to taste good.

  68. When cooking Indian, I always use onions, cabbage, carrots, & peppers to thicken the sauce, pureed of course. Toasted coconut (& onions) go into my Chettinad. It did occur to me that these would work for other sauces/gravies but I’ve yet to try it.

    However, for Thanksgiving I stick to the traditional gravy my mom made other than mine is made with stock/juices from organic free range turkeys.

  69. Arrowroot and/or tapioca starch are perfect substitutions for cornstarch. You need to make a dirty with them and you have to add them at the end of the cooking time because if you overcook them, they break down. I’ve only ever used arrowroot as a slurry (a la Julia Child). I’ve never tried it as a roux. I’ll have to try!

  70. Don’t forget glucomanan. It’s is what the shiratake noodles are made from. It is a seaweed/plant derivative that thickens very nicely.

  71. What about resistant starch? Potato starch works like a dream and has been recommended by Mark in numerous other posts.

  72. What about resistant starch? Potato starch works like a dream and has been recommended by Mark in numerous other posts. Thanks!

  73. I think Jacques Pepin used ketchup to thicken some of his sauces, and you’d think a keto-friendly ketchup would work just as well.

  74. Heath care worker brought “Thick-It” for my mother when swallowing was difficult due to Parkinsons. 2 ingredients, maltodextrin and modified food starch. 4 carbs per tbs. Clearly not a “natural” product but it seems to work well.

  75. I’ve had pretty good luck using tapioca/cassava flour as a thickener. Seems to work pretty similarly to corn starch — you dissolve a little bit of it into some water or other liquid, then add toward the end of cooking. I mostly use it for stir-fries and that sort of thing to get a little bit of a saucy coating happening with the liquid that pools in the middle of the wok. When I’m making an actual sauce, on purpose, I’m all about the butter and cream! The other night I did one with butter, cream, shallots, sun-dried tomatoes and fresh basil and put it over some wild-caught Sitka king salmon, and it was like heaven on earth. Reducing a butter-and-cream sauce can happen quicker than you expect, leaving you no choice but to add more cream (oh, the horror), so don’t assume it’s a complicated process that takes a lot of time. Mine was perfect within probably 5 minutes.

  76. I made an amazing keto gravy last weekend for an early Thanksgiving dinner using every keto thickener I know about: gelatin, egg yolks, and Xanthan Gum. The latter is tricky, as it needs to be mixed with cold ingredients to avoid clumping. In a jar, I shook 1/2 t of Xanthan gum with 1/4 C cold water before adding to my broth. There were a few clumps that cooked out within a few minutes. I only used 1 egg yolk but next time, I might try 2 and skip the Xanthan gum. It was the thickest keto gravy I’ve ever made, and it was delicious. In the past, I have used cream cheese, but we had dairy restrictions to consider last week.

  77. Mark, thanks for a great site!

    The boxed coconut cream is also one of my staples, and heavily used in my Asian and Caribbean recipes, but a Colombian friend taught me a trick for thickening soups. She adds two tablespoons of rolled oats, crushed into a paste with some hot water, to the pot, imparting a pleasant umami richness.

    A smaller quantity of this paste or even a light sprinkle of oat flour might work well as keto-friendly sauce thickener. Be aware that using too much could result in too slimy a texture – think oatmeal porridge.

    Good luck, and please keep us posted 🙂

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