Simple Sauces

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Our unit's do-it-yourself (DIY) series has come to a close. So many classes, so many great activities, and in the case of classes I taught, so many recipes! The last in the series was making sauces – cheese sauce, barbecue, and tomato.

Food Sciences and Sauces

  • Rouxes and slurries are starting points for thickened sauces.
  • A roux is made by combining equal parts fat and starch, such as flour. This mixture is cooked to different points before adding liquid. Cooking time creates white, blond, or brown sauces. Brown sauces are cooked longer before liquid is added and have less thickening power.
    • A slurry is made by combining starch with a cool liquid. This mixture is added to a hot recipe and begins to thicken as starch is heated. Since the starch is not cooked long, recipes with a slurry may have a slightly starchy taste.
  • Lumps occur when starch is not completely distributed before being added to a recipe. If added to a hot liquid without being distributed, proteins in the starch coagulate and prevent water from entering the granules. To prevent this, in a roux, make sure starch is completely mixed into the fat. In a slurry, starch should be fully dissolved into liquid.

Thickened Sauces

Some sauces are thickened with a starch. Cornstarch is the most common thickener, giving a shiny appearance to sauces. Flour is also used, and gives a more opaque look.

  • White sauces includes butter, flour, milk, salt, and pepper. Cheese sauces are a variation of a white sauce with added cheese. Dessert sauces (caramel, butterscotch, etc.) can be variations of a white sauce.
  • Custard sauce includes eggs, milk, and seasonings.
  • Gravy includes meat stock with added flour.

Unthickened Sauces

Unthickened sauces can be purposely thin or may made thicker by evaporating water.

  • Barbecue sauce includes ketchup, onion, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and seasonings.
  • Butter sauce includes butter, lemon juice, and chopped parsley.
  • Fruit sauce include mashed berries and sugar. Some recipes may add egg white, butter, and/or cornstarch. If adding cornstarch, the sauce is considered thickened.
  • Gravy is considered unthickened when made with just meat juices. Boiling the juices evaporates water to thicken the mixture.


  • Brown, Amy. Understanding Food: Principles and Preparation. Belmont: Thomson-Wadsworth, 2008.

Low-Sodium BBQ Sauce (Makes 1-1/2 cups, Serves 12)

Looking for a barbecue sauce without all the sodium? Use on your favorite meat, or eat dipped in French fries like our class did.

1/2 cup no-added salt ketchup
1/2 cup no-added salt tomato sauce
3 Tbsp brown sugar
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup molasses
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon dried mustard
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

1. Mix all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Refrigerate any sauce not being immediately used.

Nutrition Facts per 2 Tbsp serving: 60 calories, 0g fat, 10mg sodium, 14g carbohydrate, 0g fiber, 0g protein

Source: Food and Nutrition Services at Memorial Medical Center, Springfield, 2015

Today's post was written by Caitlin Huth. Caitlin Huth, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian and Nutrition & Wellness Educator serving DeWitt, Macon, and Piatt Counties. She teaches nutrition- and food-based lessons around heart health, food safety, diabetes, and others. In all classes, she encourages trying new foods, gaining confidence in healthy eating, and getting back into our kitchens.