The Gluten-Free Ingredient You Should Use To Thicken Up Sauces

The right sauce can turn an average meal into something exceptional, but perfecting sauces can be tricky. The word "sauce" is derived from the Latin word "salsus," which is Latin for the basic flavoring used in homes and restaurants around the world: salt (via Cookist). As detailed in What's Cooking America, Romans began to slather sauces onto their foods as early as 200 A.D. in an attempt to add texture and flavor to dishes. Yet as most home chefs know, striking the right balance between a salty, runny mess and a thick, gelatinous spread can be a delicate matter.

While cornstarch is often used as the go-to thickening agent for sauces, clumping and discoloration have sent cooks searching for alternatives. Baking powder also thickens but can change the taste, and beurre manié and roux add extra flour that gluten-free chefs want to avoid. For those following a gluten-free diet, finding creative substitutes to replace hidden glutens can be a challenge. Gluten is found in anything made from wheat, many grains, and is responsible for that satisfying doughy-stretchy texture that is difficult to replicate.

An easy and surprising addition

In the early 1960s, Canadian food scientist Edward Asselbergs discovered a new way to preserve potatoes: dehydrated potato flakes (via My Recipes). Since that time, potato flakes have become one of those easy, unexpected shortcuts that are so helpful in the kitchen. From breading to baking, potato flakes can turn simple home recipes into creamy, comforting creations (via Taste of Home).

The best part of adding potato flakes to a sauce is the consistency: dehydrated flakes dissolve easily and can be finely ground to make extra-velvety sauces (via Epicurious). So the next time you're needing to turn a watery liquid into something more satisfying, reach for the potato flakes and add one spoonful at a time. Watch your work closely, however, as this hack works quickly. Add more as needed until your sauce reaches desired consistency. Before serving, give your concoction a taste; you may need to add a bit more seasoning to account for the added ingredient.