Making your own homemade gluten-free sauces can be really easy, or a bit tricky. I'm here to take the mystery out of sauce making and give you a few simple steps and easy recipes so you'll have the confidence to make your own gluten-free sauces.
A sauce is a thickened liquid that we add to our food to improve the texture, add moisture, and to enhance the flavor. Without sauce our food would be just a little blander and a little drier and who wants that? We deserve to enjoy our food.
You already know what foods are gluten-free. The best choices are the ones that are naturally gluten-free like fruits, vegetables, fresh cuts of meat and fresh dairy and eggs. It’s when we go to dress up those things with a sauce that we run into trouble. That’s because many sauces are either thickened with flour or they contain an ingredient that has gluten. If you can eliminate those ingredients then you have a gluten-free sauce.
A gluten free sauce, in fact any sauce has just two main components:
That's it. Simple right? Let's take it a but further.
Liquids that make up most sauces are:
There are just a few ways to thicken a sauce. These may be used on their own or in combination:
If you're on a keto diet, you're avoiding flours and starches. That's okay. You can still make your favorite gluten-free sauces just by using the right thickening technique.
Purees, reduction and emulsifying are keto friendly methods of thickening your sauces. In the case of purees, just make sure you are using keto friendly vegetables.
To replace flour or starches, you can use xanthan gum or guar gum. Both are much stronger thickeners than flour and starch so start with a very little bit then add more if needed.
To replace one tbsp of cornstarch, start with 1/8 tsp of xanthan or guar gum. Sprinkle it over your sauce then whisk to combine. Add more if needed.
You can make a roux with xanthan gum and guar gum similar to how your would with flour but with much less. To replace 3 tbsp of flour in your roux, start with 1/2 tsp of xanthan or guar gum. If the sauce isn't thick enough whisk in a bit more.
Unlike for baking, you don’t need a combination of different flours to thicken a sauce. If you have a gluten-free all purpose flour blend in your pantry that’s perfect, or you can just use rice flour or any other gluten-free flour.
There is no limit to what you can use to flavor a sauce.
Herbs and spices are the most common, and depending on the cuisine, different herbs and spices will play a lead role. A common combination in European cooking is bay leaf, thyme, peppercorns and maybe some parsley and a clove of garlic. This can all be tied up in a little cheese cloth bag to make them easy to remove later.
Other common flavorings are: chilis for heat, spices, other prepared sauces like gluten-free soya sauce or gluten-free Worcestershire or hot sauces.
Lemon juice or vinegar can give your sauce a nice acidic snap.
Some sauces will start with an "aromatic roux" which is the flour and fat mixture mentioned above, but with onion, celery and maybe a bit of carrot cooked in the fat to add flavor.
This is a sauce you'll make over and over. It's great on chicken or fish. It will be the base for your chicken and dumplings, or chicken pot pie.
Liqiud: White stock like chicken, turkey, vegetable or veal
Thickener: Gluten-free flour
Flavoring: Salt and pepper, herbs and spices. Let’s keep it simple and use a bay leaf and a few sprigs of fresh thyme and some parsley. You can use dried or ground thyme if you like.
This sauce is amazing with red meat. This is what you'll serve with your roast beef; it's the base for your beef stew, and if you pour the leftover brown sauce over French fries and cheese curd you have poutine!
Liquid: Brown stock
Thickener: Gluten-Free flour
Flavoring: Salt and pepper, herbs and spices. Let’s use the same as the white sauce: a bay leaf and a few sprigs of fresh thyme and parsley, and we'll enhance the flavor by starting with an aromatic roux.
This is a creamy milk based sauce. You can use it to top a grilled chicken breast or add cheese and pour it over steamed cauliflower. It's the base for my creamy cheesy gluten-free mac and cheese. For a gluten-free dairy free béchamel or a gluten-free vegan béchamel just substitute a creamy plant based milk like coconut or oat milk.
Liquid: Milk. You can use plant based milk
Thickener: Gluten Free Flour
Flavoring: Salt and pepper
The steps for making all three of these base sauces is exactly the same. If you know one, you know them all!
Step 1: Heat your fat in the bottom of a saucepan. You can use butter or your favorite cooking oil.
Step 2: Add flour and stir until combined. This is called a roux. Cook it for a couple of minutes. For a white sauce be careful not to let your roux brown. For a brown sauce you can let it brown a bit. Add your onion, carrot and celery here if you're using these. Add spices here if using. Save salt and pepper until the end.
Step 3: Whisk in stock a little bit at a time so it doesn’t go lumpy.
Step 4: Add your herbs here if using.
Step 5: Simmer for 30 min or so uncovered so the sauce will reduce a bit and take on the flavor of the herbs.
Step 6: Season with a bit of salt and pepper.
Pureed sauces at their most simple, involve a cooked fruit or vegetable a blender and some seasoning. Here are some examples:
The most common pureed sauce is tomato. The ingredients are:
Salt and sugar
This is a great way to use up apples that are at risk of going bad. Ingredients are:
Apples - Yes, the simplest apple sauce is just cooked apples.
Cinnamon or nutmeg.
If your apples are a little sour, add sugar to taste. A little cinnamon is nice or nutmeg.
Often in fancy restaurants they’ll embellish a plate with a vegetable puree like a bright green pea puree or a beautiful orange sweet potato or butternut squash puree. I think you can guess how those are made.
Vegetable of choice
A little white stock or water to thin it out if necessary
Flavoring like garlic, salt, pepper herbs
You may have noticed pureed soups are made the same way
This is an easy way to make a sauce from the bits left in the pan after you fry your meat. Simply brown the meat on both sides. Remove it from the pan. Add a diced onion to the pan and stir it around to pick up the brown bits. Add a little wine to the pan to get the rest of the bits up from the bottom. This is called “deglazing” your pan. Add your liquid: stock or juice or milk. Put the meat back in and let it all simmer until done. You can also finish it off in the oven if you like.
1. To check the thickness of your gluten free sauce, dip your spoon in. This works best with a wooden spoon. The sauce should coat the back of the spoon but you should still be able to see the wood grain. Now run your finger through the sauce on the back of the spoon. The track should stay but slowly start to run back together.
2. A little trick for thickening up your gluten free sauce just before serving that came out a little too thin is to make a “beurre manier”. Just make a paste that’s half and half flour and butter, a couple of teaspoons of each is usually plenty. Then add pea sized pieces to your sauce. Give each a minute to cook before adding more, until your sauce is the right thickness.
3. Put your spices in a little cheese cloth bag tied up with some string. This way you can easily take them out of the sauce when it's done'
3. Don't add salt and pepper until the end. As your gluten free sauce reduces the flavours will concentrate and it could end up too salty or peppery.
Gluten-Free Honey Garlic Sauce