How To Thicken Fermented Hot Sauce

Have you spent days or weeks preparing a fermented hot sauce, only to strain it at the end to remove the chunks or seeds and end up with a hot sauce that’s just too thin? Or maybe you used too much water or vinegar and now your hot sauce is too thin?

Here I’ll talk about how to thicken fermented hot sauce and also give you some tips on how to prevent your fermented hot sauce from going too thin in future batches. The best thing you can do is use more fermented vegetables from the beginning or add more vegetables to an already too thin hot sauce. Thickening agents, such as xanthan gum, also work pretty well. Let’s get into the details.

jar of red chilis, bottle of corn starch, bottle of hot sauce

What To Use To Thicken a Hot Sauce

If you have a batch of fermented hot sauce that turned out too thin and are trying to salvage it, try using a thickening agent.

Before getting into the thickeners you can use in your thin fermented hot sauce, let me note a couple of things.

Firstly, fruit (banana, mango, apple, etc.) isn’t ideal because its sugar content will kickstart the fermentation process again. In short, the bacteria that conduct fermentation feed on the sugars in fruits and vegetables to carry out the process (click here to learn more). You don’t want fermentation to continue past a certain point because it can really change the flavor, color, and cause gas build-up that leads to spills and exploding jars.

Secondly, acid is a common cause of hot sauce that’s too thin and can cancel out the action of some thickening agents. So if you’ve finished your fermented hot sauce with a lot of vinegar to stop further fermentation, be prepared to add a bit more thickener than usual.

Now let’s get into the types of thickening agents you can use.

Fermented Vegetables

If you already have a separate batch of peppers or other vegetables fermenting or have the time to ferment some separately, adding these additional vegetables can act as a thickener when blended into the hot sauce mixture.

Many fermenters often use carrots, especially with very hot peppers like Scotch bonnets and habaneros. They add a touch of sweetness and a nice, buttery flavor.

sliced carrots on cutting board

Xanthan Gum

Xanthan gum is an excellent and very commonly used thickening agent. It’s made by the process of fermentation itself—the fermentation of sugar by bacteria to be exact.

Xanthan gum comes in powder form. You can get it in a grocery store, usually located in the baking aisle, and you can also find it on Amazon.

When using xanthan gum, note that a little goes a long way. Add about ⅛ teaspoon at a time, blending with a hand blender in-between, to your fermented hot sauce until it reaches your desired consistency.

As an added bonus, xanthan gum also acts as a stabilizer, maintaining proper emulsion (in other words, it helps keep the sauce from separating, which can happen when it’s sitting out over time).

bag of xanthan gum

Cornstarch or Arrowroot

Cornstarch or arrowroot are also commonly used to thicken hot sauces. Arrowroot powder is a starch that comes from the tropical tuber, arrowroot. It’s a commonly used alternative to cornstarch.

To properly mix cornstarch or arrowroot flour into your fermented hot sauce mixture and prevent any clumping, you need to add heat.

Place your hot sauce in a pan on the stove and bring to a simmer. Take a spoon of cornstarch or arrowroot and mix it in a glass with some water. Stir vigorously to make a slurry and then add it to your simmering hot sauce. It should simmer for a few minutes. Repeat as necessary until you reach your desired consistency.

bag of arrowroot flour

Chia Seeds or Chia Seed Powder

Chia seeds and chia seed powder are other pretty effective thickeners.

When using chia seeds, you want to use about 3 tablespoons of chia seeds per ¾ cup of fermented hot sauce. Mixing the seeds in should thicken up your hot sauce pretty nicely.

Next, you’ll want to deal with the seeds. You can either blend the seeds into your hot sauce with a blender, food processor, or hand blender, or you can strain the seeds out.

Using chia seed powder is much simpler compared to using the seeds. You can just sprinkle in a small spoon at a time until your fermented hot sauce reaches your desired thickness.

One thing to note about chia seed is that it has a bit of a nutty flavor to it. Though this flavor is pretty subtle, it’s something to keep in mind when considering the overall taste of your fermented hot sauce. You can always test out a small batch and see how it tastes.

bag of chia powder

How To Prevent Hot Sauce That’s Too Thin

Now that you know what you can do to thicken up your fermented hot sauce, let me give you some tips on how to prevent it from turning out too thin when you go to make your next batch.

Use More Fermented Vegetables

Using more fermented vegetables from the beginning (either more peppers or any other vegetable you’d like to use based on your desired flavor) is one of the easiest things you can do to make sure:

  • Your fermented hot sauce has the right thickness
  • You don’t have to use a thickener

The vegetables themselves will act as your thickener, and you’ll just be making your fermented hot sauce even more flavorful and palatable!

Use Less Water

Using less water is a pretty simple step you can take to prevent your fermented hot sauce from turning out too thin.

Using too much will water it down and give it more of a liquid consistency. Be sure to track how much water you use to make each batch, so you can narrow it down to the perfect amount.

Use the Right Type of Blender

Food processors almost always leave you with chunks that you have to strain out. So instead of a food processor, invest in a high powered blender instead.

This will give you a smooth consistency. However, I should note that this isn’t an ideal option if you don’t want a perfect puree and prefer something with more texture.

black vitamix high power blender

Use the Right Type of Strainer

The straining step is down to personal choice. Some people like a smoother hot sauce, while others like something with more chunks and/or texture.

Using a cheesecloth will remove all of the fiber, and your hot sauce almost certainly will turn out too thin. Instead, make sure you use a wire mesh strainer (one that’s not too fine) and a spoon to scrape the hot sauce through to strain the seeds, chunks, and large fibers. The microfibers will be small enough to pass through the strainer and will be sufficient to add body and thickness to your fermented hot sauce.

In Summary

Hopefully this article gave you some good tips on how to thicken fermented hot sauce.

My preferred method is to add more vegetables because it will only enhance the flavor, but xanthan gum or chia seed are good thickening agents. I don’t like to use cornstarch or arrowroot because you have to heat up the mixture, which can mess with your final product.

As far as prevention methods go for your next batch, again, just use more vegetables and also watch how much water you add!