How to Thicken Stew

Опубликовал Admin
3-10-2016, 20:15
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A watery stew is never appealing as it suggests a lack of flavor and texture. If your stew has more liquid than substance, there are a number of fixes to improve it by using food that combines reasonably neutrally and thickens the liquid at the same time. Breadcrumbs are an easy-to-use and readily absorbent food that won't disturb the flavor of the stew. If you have some oats handy, you may be surprised to know that these can stew down and almost hide within the stew, adding bulk but not altering the flavor too much. If you have a can of beans, the juice surrounding the beans can actually help to thicken watery stew. Just be aware that the oligosaccharides that can increase the chances of flatulence caused by beans tend to reside in the bean juice, so this is a last resort measure that isn't always ideal!

Thickening with breadcrumbs

  1. Sprinkle a small amount of breadcrumbs into the stew liquid. Stir to mix well.
    • Use dried or frozen breadcrumbs.
  2. Allow for a little more cooking, then check to see if the stew has thickened adequately. If not, repeat with another sprinkling of breadcrumbs.
  3. Stop adding breadcrumbs when you're happy with the consistency.

Thickening with flour

  1. Make a roux (a butter and flour sauce). This basic sauce is the trick to adding flour to a stew to thicken it without creating lumps. Mix equal amounts of butter and flour together in a separate pan. Heat the roux to thicken into a smooth paste-like sauce.
    • Add the roux bit by bit to the stew, stirring constantly. Doing this gradually is as important as making the roux with care, to avoid creating lumps. The stew will soon thicken and the flavor will be enhanced rather than changed.
      • Vegetable oil can be substituted for the butter if preferred.
  2. Use cornflour or cornstarch. Mix a tablespoon of cornflour or cornstarch per cup of stew liquid with enough water to make a paste. Stir thoroughly until a smooth paste forms. Add gradually, stirring constantly, until the stew thickens up enough. Make sure that each addition is fully integrated, if you add too much the sauce will turn into a paste.
    • Arrowroot can be substituted for cornflour or cornstarch. It has a more neutral flavor than cornstarch and can be used at varying temperatures without losing its ability to thicken foods. It tolerates acidic ingredients better than cornstarch and it can be cooked for a longer length of time.

Thickening with potato

  1. Boil some older potatoes. This is a good way to use them up! When they're boiled enough, mash them.
    • Add dollops of mashed potato to the stew. Potato is nice and bland, so it won't wreck the flavor of the stew.
    • Keep adding until enough of the liquid has been soaked up and the consistency of the stew is pleasing.
  2. If you already have potatoes in the stew, remove them whole and mash them. Then restore the mashed potato to the stew. This will help to soak up some of the liquid better.
    • You can also mash other vegetables like carrots and parsnips and return them to the stew. The mash will absorb the liquid better than whole vegetables can do.
  3. Speed things up with instant mashed potato. Add a tablespoon of instant mashed potato and mix it around.
    • See how much the liquid thickens, stirring to help the thickening.
    • Add more in gradual amounts if needed. Always add gradually, to avoid overdoing the potato, as it does alter both flavor and texture.

Thickening with oats

  1. Add a tablespoon of oats at a time to the liquid. Stir to distribute evenly. Allow for a few minutes cooking to see how much liquid is soaked up.
    • Use fresh oats. If the oats are stale, this stale flavor will transfer to the stew, spoiling it.
    • Ground oats/oatmeal can also be used for a less obvious addition.
    • Add more oats if needed. Always err on the side of using as less as possible to achieve thickening, to avoid making oat stew. If too many oats are added, they will be too obvious in terms of both texture and taste, and may spoil the stew.

Thickening with canned bean juice

  1. Open the can of beans.
  2. Tip the liquid into your stew. Set the beans aside and either refrigerate or freeze for later use. (You might even toss them into the stew if you think they'll match the flavors; if so, consider mashing them for best effect.)
  3. Stir to help thicken the stew.

Increasing heat to boil off the liquid

  1. Remove the lid from the stew.
  2. Bring to a gentle boil. Boil off the liquid while keeping a careful eye on the stew. Stir occasionally to keep the food from burning onto the base of the pan.
  3. Reduce the heat or remove the stew when the liquid has boiled down.


  • Avoid adding flour straight to the stew. You'll create lumps and unless you're willing to pass these off as deformed dumplings, it'll spoil the stew.
  • Uncooked small pasta pieces, barley grains or rice will soak up that liquid as they cook. The only downside to using these is that they will change the texture and alter the original recipe considerably from what was intended, so be sure you don't mind having these elements in the stew before trying them. Also, if you do add such things, watch the cooking like a hawk; it doesn't take much to go from too much liquid to none and having everything burn.
  • Rice, coconut, tapioca or almond flours can be made into a roux for the gluten-intolerant who can't use wheat flour.
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