How to Thicken Beef Stroganoff for the Perfect Creamy Sauce

Beef stroganoff is a classic comfort food that has been around for over a century. Originating in Russia, this flavorful beef and mushroom dish in a rich, creamy sauce is the ultimate cold weather meal. While there are many variations of beef stroganoff recipes, they all have one thing in common – a delicious, thickened sauce.

Achieving the perfect thickness for the stroganoff sauce can make or break the dish. An overly thin, runny sauce lacks the indulgent, velvety texture that beef stroganoff is known for. On the flip side, over-thickening the sauce can make it gloppy and floury. Using the right thickening agent and technique is key for homemade beef stroganoff with a restaurant-quality sauce.

This guide will walk through the most common ways to thicken beef stroganoff sauce, when to use each method, and how to avoid common mistakes. Read on for tips and tricks to take your beef stroganoff recipe to the next level with the ideal thick, creamy sauce.

Why Thicken Beef Stroganoff Sauce?

Before diving into the various thickening methods for beef stroganoff, let’s look at why it’s so important to properly thicken the sauce in the first place:

  • Achieve the signature creamy texture: The hallmark of a great beef stroganoff is a sauce that clings to each bite of tender beef and mushrooms. A properly thickened sauce coats the palate with its velvety richness.

  • Enhance the flavor: Thickening agents help bring all the flavors together in beef stroganoff. The sauce takes on a more indulgent, luxurious profile.

  • Prevent watering down: Without a thickener, the sauce can become thin and watery from the natural juices released while cooking the beef and mushrooms. Proper thickening prevents dilution.

  • Improve mouthfeel: The lush texture of a thickened beef stroganoff sauce is incredibly satisfying. The sauce should lightly coat the back of a spoon rather than run off of it.

Now that it’s clear why thickening is essential for beef stroganoff, let’s explore some options for achieving the ideal creamy sauce.

Thickeners for Beef Stroganoff

There are a variety of ingredients that can be used solo or in combination to provide the right thickness for beef stroganoff sauce. Here are some of the most common and effective thickeners:


All-purpose flour is one of the easiest and most readily available thickening agents for beef stroganoff. It can be whisked into the hot sauce at the end of cooking until smooth and thickened. Flour must be cooked for 1-2 minutes to remove any raw taste.

Pros: Flour dissolves easily into sauce and takes effect quickly. It also helps enhance the sauce’s rich flavor.

Cons: Over-thickening with flour can result in a pasty, gluey texture. Sauce may also thin out upon standing.


Like flour, cornstarch is pantry staple that conveniently thickens beef stroganoff sauce. For best results, it should be dissolved in cold water then stirred into the hot sauce.

Pros: Cornstarch thickens sauce without altering the color or flavor. It also makes a nice glossy finish.

Cons: Cornstarch thickened sauces set quickly, so it leaves a shorter window to adjust consistency before serving.


This starchy powder offers similar thickening action to cornstarch. Arrowroot can withstand higher cooking temperatures, so it’s useful if the beef stroganoff sauce needs to simmer longer.

Pros: Arrowroot won’t make the sauce cloudy and has a neutral taste. It also thickens at lower temperatures than flour or cornstarch.

Cons: Can create a slimy texture if overused. More expensive than other thickeners.


A cooked blend of butter and flour, roux can be whisked into hot liquid to create a smooth thickened sauce. For stroganoff, use equal parts butter and flour.

Pros: Roux infuses the sauce with rich flavor and aroma from the cooked butter. It thickens gradually for easy control.

Cons: Time consuming to prepare the roux beforehand. Imparts a wheaty taste if undercooked.

Sour Cream

Stirring in some sour cream at the end of cooking is a tasty way to add body and a pleasant tang to beef stroganoff sauce.

Pros: Sour cream thickens and enriches flavor simultanously. Provides a signature stroganoff flavor note.

Cons: High fat content means the sauce won’t reheat well. Too much makes a greasy sauce.

Egg Yolks

Whisking egg yolks into the hot sauce creates a rich, velvety texture thanks to lecithin – a natural thickening compound in eggs.

Pros: Adds extra richness and sheen to the sauce. Utilizes an ingredient likely on hand.

Cons: Raw egg yolks carry a risk for foodborne illness. Sauce can curdle if boiled.

Xanthan Gum

This multipurpose thickener is gluten-free and adds no flavor. Only a tiny amount is needed to thicken sauces.

Pros: Thickens at any temperature. Provides stability when reheating sauce.

Cons: Can make sauce gummy or slimy if overused. Expensive for limited use.

Now that you know the benefits and downsides of various thickeners, let’s go over some tips for selecting the right one for your beef stroganoff.

Choosing the Best Thickener

With so many options for thickening beef stroganoff sauce, it can be tricky deciding which one to use. Here are some guidelines for picking the ideal thickening agent:

  • Consider the flavor you want – Thickeners like roux and sour cream also add richness, while cornstarch and arrowroot don’t affect taste.

  • Factor in ingredients on hand – Use pantry items like flour or cornstarch if you have them. Make a roux if you have extra butter.

  • Think about reheating – Sauces thickened with roux or cornstarch will reheat better than egg yolk or sour cream.

  • Watch out for allergies – Avoid flour or roux-based thickeners for gluten-free diets.

  • Match thickener to cooking method – Roux needs precooking, flour goes in near the end, cornstarch mixes with cool liquid.

  • For velvety texture – Egg yolks or sour cream create lush, creamy sauces. Starch-based thickeners make a satiny sauce.

Once you’ve selected one or two thickeners to try, let’s go over some best practices for using them in beef stroganoff.

Thickening Techniques and Tips

Carefully incorporating a thickening agent while the beef stroganoff simmers is crucial. Follow these guidelines when using different thickeners for perfect results:


  • Sprinkle in flour a little at a time, whisking constantly to prevent lumps.
  • Cook the flour-thickened sauce for 1-2 minutes to eliminate any raw taste.
  • For a smoother sauce, make a slurry by mixing flour with cold water before adding.
  • Too much flour can make the sauce pasty, so add sparingly until desired consistency is reached.


  • Dissolve cornstarch first in cold water or broth to prevent clumping.
  • Pour cornstarch slurry into hot sauce in a slow, steady stream while stirring.
  • Bring sauce back to a boil to activate thickening power.
  • Adding too much cornstarch gives a gummy texture. Start with 1-2 tsp per 1 cup liquid.


  • Prepare roux beforehand by cooking equal parts butter and flour together.
  • Once roux is smooth, whisk it into hot stroganoff sauce bit by bit until thickened.
  • If the roux isn’t cooked enough, it can impart a raw flour flavor. Cook for 2-5 minutes.
  • For richer flavor, make roux with a mix of butter and meat drippings.

Sour Cream

  • Remove stroganoff from heat and temper some sauce into the sour cream so it doesn’t curdle.
  • Pour sour cream mixture back into the pot, stirring gently until uniform.
  • Thin with more sauce or cream if the texture becomes too thick.
  • Add just at the end since extended cooking can break down sour cream.

Egg Yolks

  • In a bowl, whisk 1-2 egg yolks with a ladle of hot sauce to temper before returning to the pot.
  • Cook egg-thickened sauce just until warmed through, avoiding a boil.
  • If sauce boils, egg proteins can make it thin or curdle.
  • Pair with starch thickener if sauce still needs more body after adding egg yolks.

With the right thickener and proper technique, you’ll achieve beef stroganoff with the perfect velvety, clingy sauce every time. Adjust the amount added to control the sauce thickness to your liking.

If the sauce comes out too thin, mix up a slurry with extra cornstarch or flour and drizzle it in while whisking. For too thick of a sauce, stir in additional broth, wine, or cream to reach the desired creamy yet fluid texture.

Common Beef Stroganoff Thickening Mistakes

Even experienced cooks can occasionally struggle with getting the right stroganoff sauce consistency. Here are some of the most frequent beef stroganoff thickening mistakes and how to avoid them:

  • Lumpy sauce – Fail to properly incorporate flour, roux, or cornstarch slurry while stirring. Strain out any lumps.

  • Scorched sauce – Let starch-thickened sauce boil too long scorching on the bottom. Use gentle heat.

  • Watery sauce – Don’t allow sauce to simmer long enough after adding thickener. Remember to stir constantly.

  • Overly thick sauce – Use too much thickening agent. Thin out with extra wine, broth, or cream.

  • Slimy texture – Overdo it with cornstarch, arrowroot, xanthan or egg yolks. Use sparingly.

  • Curdled sauce – Boil egg yolk or sour cream-thickened sauce. Gently heat on medium or low.

With a little care and experience, you’ll be able to tweak any beef stroganoff recipe to yield restaurant-worthy results every time.

Tips for Storing and Reheating Thickened Beef Stroganoff

One final consideration for saucy beef stroganoff is how the leftovers should be stored and reheated. Follow these guidelines:

  • Allow stroganoff to cool completely before refrigerating in a shallow container. This prevents condensation.

  • Cover tightly before refrigerating. Sauce may thicken further upon standing.

  • Beef stroganoff thickened with a roux or cornstarch will reheat better than sour cream or egg yolk thickened sauce.

  • Reheat gently over low heat on the stovetop while stirring frequently, adding water or broth if too thick.

  • Microwave leftovers in short bursts, checking often to prevent curdling egg or sour cream sauces.

  • Add a splash of cream, wine, or water to the reheated stroganoff if the sauce seems too thick.

With the techniques in this guide, you’ll be able to achieve the perfect luscious sauce for beef stroganoff. Braise tender bites of beef and mushrooms in a rich, indulgent gravy that clings to each morsel. Pick your ideal thickener, master the method, and enjoy this comforting classic any night of the week.

Slow Cooked Beef Stroganoff


What if my beef stroganoff is too watery?

If too runny, add more flour-water mixture and if too thick, add more sour cream. Serve noodles with stroganoff mixture over the top.

How can I thicken my beef stroganoff sauce?

Cornstarch is a reliable and widely used thickening agent, that works in sauces, gravies, and soups. Composed of a long chain of starch molecules, it has the ability to absorb water and form a gel-like consistency, giving your beef stroganoff the desired thickness without altering the way it tastes.

Is beef stroganoff supposed to be thick?

Great homemade beef stroganoff features a thick, flavorful sauce made with the help of a slurry of flour and broth. Bringing everything to a boil towards the end of your cook time really helps to thicken the sauce in our Classic Beef Stroganoff dish, while adding sour cream afterwards makes it deliciously creamy.

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