Skip to main content

Q: Can I use tapioca starch to thicken BBQ or hot sauce?

A: No. To make barbecue (BBQ) or hot sauces, tomatoes are combined with spices, vinegar, and various other ingredients and blended until smooth. The mixture is simmered to reduce the volume and thicken the product which takes about 1½ to 2 hours with frequent stirring. You may want to skip the lengthy simmering step and use a thickener instead. Unfortunately, thickening home-canned or jarred sauces with tapioca, cornstarch, or flour, may be a safety risk.

The use of tapioca, cornstarch or flour as the thickener in home-canned or jarred sauces is an outdated and risky method. Botulism is not a major risk with BBQ or hot sauces because of the high acid content. However, using cornstarch, flour or tapioca may cause the sauce to be too thick for the heat to penetrate to the center of the jar and kill spoilage organisms throughout the product, which is a food safety issue. 

There is a safe alternative to thicken home-canned or jarred sauces called Clear Jel®. Regular Clear Jel® is made to withstand the high temperatures of canning or hot-fill methods. Clear Jel® is a modified cornstarch that works well with acidic ingredients, tolerates high temperatures, doesn’t cause thickened foods to “weep” during storage, and doesn’t begin thickening until the liquid begins to cool allowing heat to penetrate all the way through without breaking down.

Clear Jel® isn’t readily available in retail stores can be found online. One tablespoon of Clear Jel® (mixed with 1 tablespoon cold water) thickens 1 cup of liquid.

BBQ and hot sauce makers, check out these additional resources:

Print Friendly and PDF