Marsala sauce is a key ingredient in the delicious chicken marsala – an Italian-American chicken dish in a sauce made of Marsala wine. The sauce is intended to stick to the chicken and is a thick sauce in most recipes. If your sauce is too thin, you can thicken it easily.
Here are 5 methods of thickening marsala sauce that is too thin:
- Reduce the sauce down.
- Add a starch slurry.
- Whisk in some egg yolks.
- Add a roux.
- Finish with a beurre manié.
This article will further detail how you can implement these steps to thicken your marsala sauce. I will also explain why your sauce may not be thickening and list the different kinds of starches you can use apart from cornstarch. Read on for more information on thickening your marsala sauce.
1. Reduce the Sauce Down
Reduction sauces are sauces made by boiling away a part of the liquid to allow the sauce to become thicker, which also concentrates the flavors in the sauce. Marsala sauce is an example of a reduction sauce.
To reduce your marsala sauce correctly, make sure that you use a wide, shallow pan. This increases the surface area of the sauce that is in contact with the pan’s heat, allowing the excess liquid to be boiled off faster than it would be in a smaller, deeper pan.
For marsala sauce, you’ll need to thicken the sauce without burning your ingredients, so stir constantly. Once the sauce begins to thicken, the marsala wine is added. Bring the sauce to a boil after the marsala wine is added to cook off the alcohol, which will thicken it a bit more.
How Long Does it Take Marsala to Reduce?
Marsala takes about 5-10 minutes to reduce when on the heat, depending on the recipe and your saucepan. If your marsala sauce recipe is thinner and cream-based, it might take up to 15 minutes to reduce and thicken.
Use a wide, shallow pan to reduce your sauce down and stir constantly to ensure that the sauce is heated evenly.
Why Isn’t My Marsala Sauce Thickening?
The thickening of your marsala sauce depends on the amount of time dedicated to reducing the sauce and the flour used to coat the chicken.
Your marsala sauce is not thickening because you need to reduce the sauce for a bit longer. Additionally, the sauce thickens further after the chicken is added. If your sauce doesn’t thicken, there probably wasn’t enough flour on the chicken to mix with the sauce and give it body.
If your marsala sauce is too thin after the chicken is added, follow the next few steps to thicken your sauce.
2. Add a Starch Slurry
A starch slurry is an easy way to thicken a sauce. To make a starch slurry, starch powders like cornstarch are mixed with cold water, then added to the sauce at the end to thicken it. They have a watery consistency and they don’t need to be cooked.
They can be added directly to the sauces soon after being mixed.
They are mixed in cold water first because if starches are added directly to hot liquid, they clump up and make the sauce lumpy. To ensure that you’re getting the most out of your starch slurry, make sure that you bring the sauce up to a simmer before adding it.
This will ensure gentle heat and movement that will activate the thickening quality of the starch.
Add the starch slurry as you’re finishing the sauce, and don’t boil it after the starch slurry has been added. This is because, at boiling point, the thickening qualities of starches break down, and the sauce will thin out.
As starch slurries add volume to the sauce but have no particular flavor, taste test to check for seasoning and add more as required.
How Can I Thicken Marsala Sauce Without Cornstarch?
While cornstarch is a simple, gluten-free ingredient that can be used to thicken several different sauces, you might be out of cornstarch or simply allergic. In such a case, you might want to use some alternatives.
To thicken marsala sauce without cornstarch, you can use flour, arrowroot, tapioca, or potato starch. Bring your completed sauce up to a simmer and add the starch slurry to finish. You can also add cooked and pureed vegetables like potatoes or winter squash.
It is important to note that flour has more protein than cornstarch, so you’ll have to use twice as much flour to get the same degree of thickening as you would with cornstarch. The other starches can be used in more or less the same quantity as cornstarch.
3. Whisk in Some Egg Yolks
Egg yolks are a tried and true method of thickening dressings and custards, but they can also be used to thicken sauces.
To use egg yolks as a thickener, you will need to separate the egg whites and yolks. Whisk your egg yolks until they are light yellow, then add a small ladle full of your marsala sauce to the yolks, whisking constantly.
This will temper your eggs so that you can add them to the hot sauce without worrying about them scrambling.
Once you’ve brought the yolks up to temperature with the ladle of marsala sauce, pour the yolk and sauce mixture slowly into the saucepan, constantly stirring again. This will ensure an even distribution of heat through the sauce as the eggs mix in.
This should thicken your sauce up considerably.
4. Add a Roux
If your sauce is too thin despite the starch slurry and the egg yolks, it’s time to break out the big guns and make a roux.
To make a roux, add one part oil or butter to a pot, heat it, then add one part flour and cook out the flour, stirring constantly. Cook till dark roux forms, which should take about 12 minutes or a bit less, depending on the amount of roux you are making.
Add a small ladle of marsala sauce to the roux to thin it out before adding the entire mixture to your sauce gradually, stirring constantly to avoid lumps. The roux adds body to the marsala sauce, but like the starch slurries, it will soften the flavor, so check and adjust seasoning as necessary.
5. Finish With a Beurre Manié
A beurre manié is made by kneading equal parts of butter and flour together. Both ingredients should be at room temperature, and there should be slightly more butter than flour, which will keep the mixture soft.
Knead the butter and flour together till it makes a very soft dough. Bring your marsala sauce up to a gentle boil, then add the beurre manié in small amounts, stirring constantly.
Let the sauce cook a while to ensure that the flour is cooked thoroughly. This will take anything between 5-15 minutes, depending on the amount you need to use to bring the sauce to your desired consistency. Let the flour cook completely, or it will make your marsala sauce taste chalky.
As with the starch slurries and the roux, check the seasoning, and add more as necessary.
The beurre manié will add body and gloss to your marsala sauce, so it’s a great way to finish your sauce and have it ready to serve.
Now that you know how to thicken a marsala sauce, you can use it to make several different dishes, including the famous chicken marsala. And, since you’ve learned how to thicken sauces properly, you can take this knowledge and apply it to any other sauce you want to make.
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