While a slow cooker can whip up some tasty, flavorful meals, it also has a bad reputation for making runny soups that can take away from some homestyle recipes. Slow cooker aficionados will tell you that thickening a soup when using a slow cooker isn’t rocket science. So how can you thicken stews, sauces, and soups in a slow cooker?
To thicken stews, sauces, and soups in a slow cooker, you can dredge the meat in flour, add one tablespoon of cornstarch for every cup of liquid, or infuse pureed vegetables. You can also remove the lid and crank up the heat near the end or use a toothpick to prop the lid open and let the steam out.
Want to learn how to thicken your soupy sauces and stews? If so, then you couldn’t be in a better place. Read on for an in-depth guide on how to make thick meals when using a slow cooker.
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Use Flour to Thicken Stews, Sauces & Soups
All-purpose flour is a handy ingredient when looking to thicken your liquid sauces and soups. However, before you try this method with your slow cooker, it’s important to remember that it can turn sauces or soup cloudy, so the meal may not look like it normally does!
Below are some of the ways to use flour to thicken your sauces when using a slow cooker.
Dredge Your Pieces of Meat in Flour
This method is ideal as long as you aren’t on a gluten-free diet. To do this:
- Take the well-cut (depending on the recipe) piece of meat and toss it in the flour.
- Then, you have a few options for how to dredge the meat. You can either place the flour on a plate and carefully roll the meat in the flour or place it in a plastic bag with flour.
- Once you finish coating the meat, shake it gently to remove excess flour.
Make a Slurry With Two Tablespoons of Flour
This technique will work well if your dish is still soupy towards the end. To achieve the perfect consistency:
- Scoop a small amount of the cooking liquid and place it in a separate bowl.
- Take about two tablespoons of flour and place them inside the separated cooking liquid.
- Stir the mixture and whisk it back into the pot.
- Allow the mixture to simmer until the taste of raw flour disappears.
- After this, you’ll need to extend the cooking time a little bit.
Make a Cornstarch Slurry By Mixing With Water
Cornstarch is a wonderful alternative to flour when looking to thicken soups and sauces while using a slow cooker. Not only is cornstarch gluten-free, but using it also results in a glossy, clear sauce that’s more appealing to the eye.
When using cornstarch to thicken stews and soups, the trick is to make a slurry by whisking together equal parts of water and cornstarch. Be careful not to use too much cornstarch, as it can make the sauce excessively gloopy, which might ruin your recipe.
Try using one tablespoon of cornstarch for every cup of liquid. Stir the mixture until it’s consistent before whisking it into the pot. Cook the sauce until it thickens, and remember to extend the timer.
Compared to flour, cornstarch is a healthier way to thicken soups because it doesn’t add excess calories to your meal. Remember to use cornstarch in small amounts to avoid ruining your recipe.
Add a Vegetable Puree to the Mix
Vegetables can also come in extra handy when looking to thicken stews made by slow cookers. The trick is to remove some of the overcooked veggies from the pot and puree them separately using a blender. Once that finishes up, return the puree to the cooking stew and watch it thicken in no time. You can also use an immersion blender (if you have one), as it’ll allow you to make the puree directly in your slow cooker.
Related read 15 amazing ways to thicken recipes using Vegan and plant-based ingredients.
Infuse Diced or Grated Potatoes
Potatoes are well-known as thickening ingredients, especially when broken down after overcooking. Adding several diced or grated potatoes to a slow cooker slightly before you want to serve the meal can help thicken the stew or soup without changing too much of the initial taste. Alternatively, you can also use instant potato flakes to achieve the thickness you desire, assuming you stir repeatedly.
Include Arrowroot in Your Recipe
You can also use arrowroot to give your stew that much-desired thickness. Arrowroot has many health benefits and doesn’t contain gluten or excess calories like flour, making it a healthy, reliable soup and stew thickener. Be careful when using arrowroot, as it more often than not develops a slimy texture once mixed with various types of dairy products.
Remove the Lid With 30-40 Minutes Left
Removing the lid is never a good idea when cooking using a slow cooker. However, removing the lid towards the end of cooking won’t do much harm to your food. On the contrary, it can help give your stew that thick consistency you so badly desire. If you attempt this method, try to do so with around thirty to forty minutes of cooking left. Increase the heat and extend the cooking time by about half an hour.
Waiting until the last few minutes to remove the lid is ideal because it ensures your food has already been cooked and is almost ready to eat. Increasing the heat will allow some of the excess soup to evaporate, thus reducing the overall amount of soup in the food.
Use Less Liquid
Reducing the amount of liquid used is a surefire way to make your stews and sauces thicker when cooking with a slow cooker. However, you’ll need to be careful not to remove too much liquid, as it can also make the food sticky, especially once the pot gets hot enough.
The main reason for soupy stews when using slow cookers is usually condensation. This is because, unlike conventional cooking techniques, the evaporated liquids can’t escape courtesy of the lid that comes with all slow cookers. Therefore, by factoring in the inevitable condensation, you can avoid overwatering your food when preparing meals using slow cookers.
Check out this article where I deep dive into Uses for Leftover Liquid From a Slow Cooker
Set Slow Cooker to High & Use a Toothpick To Let Steam Out
When using slow cookers to prepare meals, you can also improvise by propping the lid open once the cooker is set to high. A toothpick should be enough to allow steam to escape on the sides, reducing the overall amount of liquid remaining in the food. This will also help reduce condensation, leaving you with a thick sauce or stew.
If you use this method, you need to also increase the cooking time to accommodate the changes made to the slow cooker’s working mechanism. That’s because slow cookers rely heavily on trapped heat to prepare meals, and by propping the lid open, you’ll be letting some of the heat out, which means the food will need more time to cook properly.
To Finish – Thicken Stews, Sauces, and Soups in a Slow Cooker
Although slow cookers are notorious for making meals excessively soupy, you can thicken your stews by using some of the strategies we’ve mentioned. Consider using flour to thicken your meat stews if you don’t mind eating gluten or excess calories. Cornstarch can also come in handy in creating thick, clear soups.
Making a vegetable puree or adding grated potatoes can also make your soups thicker. The trick to thickening soups is adding some thickening ingredients or reducing the amount of liquid used in meal preparation.
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