Home Foods How To Thicken Stew: 5 Hacks That Actually Work

How To Thicken Stew: 5 Hacks That Actually Work

by Gina Elizabeth
How to thicken stew

How to Thicken Stew with Flour, Cornstarch, and 3 Other Methods

Learn how to thicken stew with items already in your pantry. We have guidelines for using these ingredients so you’ll know how to thicken stew in no time.

#UltimateStew

How to Thicken Stew

Winter sucks, but at least hearty stew doesn’t.

1. How to Thicken Stew with Flour

There are several other ways to use flour to thicken stew. Here we’ll go over the different options.

Flour Slurry

In a separate bowl, whisk a teaspoon of flour with a teaspoon of cold water to make a flour slurry. When the slurry is smooth, slowly stir into the stew and boil (uncovered) until the flour taste is cooked out. Do not add dry flour directly to stew as it may cause clumping.

Hot Flour Slurry

You can also mix hot liquid from your stew with flour. In a separate bowl, add 1 tablespoon of flour to 1/2 cup of hot liquid from the stew. Whisk thoroughly, then add the mixture back into the pot and stir. Uncover and simmer until it your stew thickens. Do not add flour directly to your stew or the flour may clump.

More Flour Thickening Methods

Beurre Manié

Beurre manié is French for kneaded butter, because you knead the butter and flour together.

  1. Place equal parts flour and butter in a bowl.
  2. Using a fork or your fingers, knead the flour and butter together until a smooth paste or dough is formed.
  3. Roll the dough into teaspoon-sized balls.
  4. Add individual balls to simmering stew and whisk one at a time. For every ball you add, allow the stew to simmer for at least one minute before adding another ball.
  5. Add balls of beurre manié until your stew reaches the desired thickness.

Roux

A roux (pronounced “roo”) is also French and describes the paste created equal parts fat with flour.

  1. Place butter into a sauce pan over medium heat. Use between one and three tablespoons of butter plus equal amounts of flour per cup of liquid.
  2. Stir in equal parts flour to the sauce pan. Depending on how much fat you used, add the equivalent in flour to your butter.
  3. Stir while cooking. For a basic white roux for thickening, cook the flour and butter together for a few minutes, until they are fully incorporated and start to froth.
  4. Remove from heat. When the roux is cooked, let it cool.
  5. Whisk the cooled roux into your stew. Bring to a simmer (uncovered) and cook for at least 20 minutes.
  6. Adjust seasonings as needed.

[READ: How To Cook A Turkey For The First Time]

2. How to Thicken Stew with Cornstarch

Thickening stew with cornstarch is very similar to using flour, you just need different quantities.

To thicken stew mix 1 tablespoon of corn starch and 1 tablespoon of water. Gradually add the mixture to the stew and cook for 2 minutes, or until the corn starch slurry dissolves completely. Do not add dry cornstarch directly to the stew as this will cause clumping.

You can also substitute a corn flour, cornmeal, polenta, or masa harina slurry for corn starch.

Tip: Do not use coarse-grind cornmeal, it won’t dissolve properly in the stew. Cornmeal should be added gradually, a little at a time. Corn based starches can dilute the meat flavor of your stew if you add too much.

Tip: Stir frequently to avoid scorching your stew. Or don’t. Some people enjoy scorching the bottom as it adds flavor — this is known as a fond in French culinary terms.

3. How to Thicken Stew with Reduction

If you want to thicken stew without flour simply cook it until the liquid evaporates (aka reduction).

Remove the lid, and simmer your stew over a low heat for 20-30 minutes until the extra liquid reduces. Stir frequently to avoid scorching your stew. This will thicken your stew without adding extra ingredients. Note that the flavor may be more concentrated.

Tip: Use a thick-bottomed or heavy gauge pot to avoid scorching your stew while simmering.

Stew will thicken slightly as it cools. To prevent reintroducing moisture, keep your stew uncovered after you remove your pot from the stove. This will allow steam to vent.

4. How to Thicken Stew with Vegetables

Mashing or pureeing some of your vegetables is another classic choice for easily thickening your stew. Simply add the mashed veggies (including potatoes) to the pot, combine thoroughly, and simmer (without a lid) until the liquid reduces.

  • Mashing vegetables releases their natural starches and helps thicken your stew, while not changing the flavor.
  • If it isn’t thick enough, simply simmer longer to further thicken your stew.

5. How to Thicken Stew with Other Ingredients

If you don’t mind altering your recipe, you can try adding the following ingredients to thicken your stew fast!

Quick Oats

Quick oats are cheap, fast, and work great in a pinch to thicken stew. Oats are also nutritious and rich in fiber.

Oats absorb extra liquid in stew quickly so add conservatively. Cook quick oats in your (uncovered) dish for at least 3 minutes.

Regular oats can also be used but may take up to 30 minutes to cook.

Start with a teaspoon of oats and stir well. You should see results instantly. Just keep adding more and stirring until you’ve achieve your desired thickness.

Tip: It’s okay to use a combination of starches, but it will affect the taste of the stew slightly. However, adding starches is a great way to make stew less spicy and salty.

Raw Broccoli

Raw broccoli soaks up a lot of liquid as it cooks.

  • Use raw broccoli (not frozen) and only the florets.
  • Chop the broccoli very finely.
  • The broccoli cooks down — after about an hour — and shrinks to the point you can hardly see it anymore.

The broccoli takes on the flavor of the stew and tastes great.

Mushrooms

You can also add fresh mushrooms to your stew. Do not use canned or frozen mushrooms.

  • Stir fry finely chopped mushrooms before adding to the stew
  • Or add them directly to the stew and hour before it is done

Cream Cheese

Creamy, super savory, and extra hearty.

  • Get some hot liquid from the stew
  • Add cream cheese (room temperature)
  • Mix until smooth
  • Pour the mixture into the stew
  • Let it simmer for about 15 minutes or until it reaches desired thickness

Uncooked Noodles

Couldn’t be easier.

If the stew is not chunky enough. Add uncooked noodles to simmering stew to soak up extra liquid. Most pasta cooks in 8 to 12 minutes. Test for doneness after about 4 minutes of cooking by testing it.

Elbow macaroni or small pasta shells are a great choice of pasta for stew.

Ground Seeds

Ground seeds = game changing.

Whenever you need to thicken stew or soup, add ground pumpkin or chia seeds. They don’t have a lot of flavor and the chia seeds will get a gel coating on the outside after a bit.

Quinoa

That is a giant bowl of happiness.

Red quinoa blends into the stew. Add a 1/4 cup an hour before stew is done. Quinoa soaks up excess liquid and makes stew more hearty.

Important! Quinoa is a “high risk” gluten-free grain for people with celiac disease. It is often grown and harvested with wheat, barley and rye.

The following plant based ingredients will add extra nutrition and thicken your stew without changing the flavor:

Sour Cream or Mozzarella Cheese

So. Much. Flavor.

Try sour cream or a low-sodium cheese like fresh mozzarella, Swiss, goat, and ricotta are great fixes. Cook uncovered until the cheese melts and mixes with the stew.

Kuzu Root Starch

Not your classic stew thickening ingredient.

Also known as Japanese Arrow Root, it comes in rock-like granules.

  • Mix 1 tablespoon of kuzu root starch with 1 tablespoon of water, then add to simmering stew until thickened.
  • No change in flavor or texture

Tomato paste

Most of the time, tomato paste is used as a basic ingredient in making stew. Mix the tomato paste just before serving, in the final half hour of your cooking.

Add the tomato paste, a little at a time, stirring and checking the thickness to ensure that you achieve your desired thickness level. Tomato paste works wonders in thickening stews and soups.

Thicken Stew Upon Serving

If you want to thicken stew after it has been served, simply add these ready to eat thickeners as toppings or mix-ins. If you want to stay low-carb, add cheese instead.

  • Crackers. Crumble a few saltine crackers and stir them into your individual serving of stew. Start with 3 or 4 crackers, adding more to bring the dish to your desired thickness.
  • Cornbread. Add crumbled cornbread or corn muffin to your stew serving and mix well. The cornbread thickens by absorbing some of the liquid.
  • Potato Flakes. Sprinkle 1 to 2 tablespoons of dried mashed potato flakes into a large individual serving of stew. Stir thoroughly. Potato flakes lighten the color and flavor slightly.
  • White Bread. Thickens so quickly! Stir in pieces white bread into the stew, then give it time to soak in the extra liquid. Check the consistency after a few minutes and add more if needed.
  • Bread crumbs. Use fresh, dried, or frozen bread crumbs. If your stew is still too watery, add more.
  • Cheese. Stir in shredded cheddar or grated Parmesan cheese. Mix thoroughly into your stew and simmer until the cheese melts and the liquid reduces.
  • French’s Fried Onions. Sprinkle a handful into a large individual serving of stew. Stir thoroughly.

Sooo good!

Did you know?

Stews are similar to soups. Generally, stews have less liquid than soups, are much thicker. While soups are almost always served in a bowl, stews may be thick enough to be served on a plate over the solid ingredients. – Wikipedia

Stew Q&A

How do I thicken stew gluten free?

How to Thicken Stew with Gluten-Free Starches:

  1. Reduction: Simmer (without a lid) until liquid reduces
  2. Cooking collagen powder
  3. Remove some of the veggies and beans. Mash or blend them, then add back to the stew
  4. Arrow root powder or kuzu root starch (Japanese arrow root)
  5. Any corn based thickener like cornstarch, masa harina, tortilla chips, polenta…
  6. Finely chopped raw broccoli or raw mushrooms
  7. Nutritional yeast, potato flakes, chia seeds, oats
  8. Gluten-free dry noodles while stew is cooking
  9. Precooked onion, corn, okra, drained tomatoes to make the stew chunkier
  10. Grated parmesan or cheddar cheese
  11. Tomato paste
  12. Xanthan gum or lecithin (sparingly)

Should I cook stew covered or uncovered?

Bring stew to a boil and then simmer for 2 or more hours. Alternating between covered and uncovered will control how thick the stew turns out. Stir your stew while cooking to avoid scorching.

What is the best pasta to use for adding bulk to stew?

  • Elbow macaroni
  • Small shells
  • Curly spirals (fusilli and rotini)
  • Penne
  • Ziti

How is stew served?

Stew is most commonly served as a main dish or side dish in the United States.

How do you thin stew that’s too thick?

  1. Add about 1/4 cup of beef/chicken broth or tomato juice for each 1 cup of stew. A little at a time.
  2. Stir the stew to evenly distribute the new liquid.
  3. Cover the pot with a lid to avoid evaporation.
  4. Re-season if desired.
  5. Keep adding liquid a quarter cup at a time until it reaches the right consistency.

How to I thicken my keto stew?

  • Reduction: Simmer (without a lid) until liquid reduces
  • Cooking collagen powder
  • Remove some of the veggies. Mash or blend them, then add back to the stew. The starches in veggies will help thicken the stew.
  • Arrow root powder
  • Finely chopped raw broccoli or raw mushrooms
  • Chia seeds
  • Add precooked cauliflower to make the stew chunkier
  • Grated parmesan or cheddar cheese
  • Xanthan gum (sparingly)

Can I use xanthan gum to thicken my stew?

Xanthan gum can create lumps if you apply it directly to your stew, so mix with a little cold water first before incorporating it into your pot of stew. This thickener should be added sparingly due to the health risks associated with it’s usage.

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