Probably the hardest part of a stir fry to get right is the sauce. Stir fries are such popular dishes because they’re so easy to make.
Throwing rice, noodles, egg, veggies, and meat together in a frying pan or wok with light oil and cooking it all is no big deal. Even people with few cooking skills can tell when most of these foods are ready to come out of the pan and be eaten.
It’s the sauce that can give people a lot of trouble. When your stir fry sauce comes out kind of thin, you may need to thicken it. How to thicken stir fry sauce if you’re not quite happy with it?
You have a few options, and which one you ought to go with and which one would be the preferred method will probably depend on how you want your sauce to taste or look.
Some of the methods you could use may affect the taste a little bit, and I’ll share with you several methods so you can pick from them to find what works best for your situation.
How to Thicken Stir Fry Sauce with Flour
Probably the simplest way for most cooks to thicken stir fry sauce is to use flour. Add just a teaspoon at a time to your sauce and stir it until the flour is completely dissolved. If you add too much accidentally, you can increase the water, soy sauce or other liquid in your stir fry sauce to thin it out some more.
Flour works very well as a thickening agent, but the problem with it is that it’s very bland and can rob your sauce of some flavor. You may need to add some seasonings to compensate for the added flour. You may also prefer a different thickening method because of what flour does to your sauce.
If you add just a little at a time, you should be able to easily thicken your sauce to the right consistency. If you are warming the sauce as you thicken it with flour, you should know that the sauce may thicken more as it cools. Be careful about adding too much flour while you’re cooking your stir fry sauce.
This is probably the simplest method for how to thicken stir fry sauce without cornstarch, but I think cornstarch is a better option. I’ll tell you why as you keep reading.
How to Thicken Stir Fry Sauce with Cornstarch
Cornstarch is my thickening agent of choice because it does a great job of thickening any kind of sauce, it thickens very evenly, and it doesn’t clump when next properly.
While it’s not a tasty, flavorful thickening agent, cornstarch also doesn’t really have much flavor to offer. So, it won’t mess up the flavor you have in your sauce.
If you want to use something other than cornstarch that works similarly, you can try rice starch.
There’s a trick to adding cornstarch to any sauce when you’re using it as a thickening agent. Don’t just add the cornstarch to your sauce. Instead, mix it with some water separately from the sauce.
Once the cornstarch has completely dissolved and you don’t see any more cornstarch powder in your mixture, then you can add it slowly to your sauce. This can be added to a sauce while it is heating up or after it has cooled.
Cornstarch is an excellent thickening agent, and it may thicken your sauce more than you think. That’s why you only want to use a little bit of cornstarch at once. Add it to your sauce and allow the sauce to cool to see how a thickens before you add more cornstarch.
Cornstarch also goes by the name of corn flour, and both of these are the same thing and will thicken the same way.
How much cornstarch should you mix with how much water when you’re trying to make a slurry to thicken your stir fry sauce? Use the same amount of cornstarch as water, so you can mix together one teaspoon of cornstarch or one teaspoon of water.
Remember to mix these in a bowl separately from your sauce and continue mixing until a slurry is formed. Then, add that to the sauce and mix it in.
I find that using your fingers to mix the cornstarch works best to give you even, well mixed results. If you try using a spoon or a whisk, you may have trouble getting all of the cornstarch to mix in.
One tip I want to share with you about using a cornstarch slurry in your sauces is that you can’t mix it up ahead of time.
The cornstarch and water will separate pretty fast, so you can’t make a big batch, store it in the fridge, and expect it to be usable the next time you’re ready for some cornstarch slurry. Instead, make it up fresh every time you need it, only preparing as much as you need.
If you want your sauce to be a little thicker, you can change up the recipe when you make it initially. Instead of using water in your sauce, use broth collect chicken, vegetable, or bone broth for added flavor.
All of the thickening alternatives I want to share with you offer that same benefit- added flavor and something that is naturally thicker than water.
You can use miso and thin it with water a little bit, if it might be too thick for your sauce. Vinegar works as well, including different varieties of vinegar like rice vinegar and apple cider vinegar. Try using ponzu or soy sauce instead of water when you make your stir fry sauce.
Any of these will add a lot of flavor to your stir fry and make it tastier than if you were to just use water. If the recipe you’re using calls for water, you can use one of these alternatives instead, keeping the same amounts.