Using Gelatin to Thicken Stews and Pan Sauces

by Kristin Clara

In a follow up to my article about the miracles of stock (AKA bone broth in the Paleo world), I remembered a trick I use when I want to use the stock in a hearty savory stew, or thicken up a pan sauce. This isn’t a new trick…it’s actually a very, very old one. Most of my tricks seem to be stolen from people who lived 100’s of years ago, I wonder what’s up with that.


One of the obvious first things you have to give up when going gluten free is the gluten…in all it’s convenient forms. So goodbye stew-thickening flour and hello arrowroot, tapioca, coconut flour, almond flo….you get the idea. There are plenty of other substitutes, it’s just that none of them satisfied the way flour did. Some had a gummy texture, others wouldn’t hold their shape, but the one problem I had with all of them is that they changed the flavor of the food. The binders seemed to muddy it, the flavors became less bright, less pure. So in my search to find a better solution I hit upon the technique of adding gelatin to a cold liquid to make it bloom. Once heated, the gelatin will expand and add a silky viscosity to your stock. How viscous depends on the amount of gelatin added.

Now why do I think this is a good thing? Well, flavor and texture for sure but the real winner is the double dose of collagen. Collagen that magical stuff that makes our skin, nails and hair glow, not to mention working miracles on our intestinal tract (that’s just not as sexy). Homemade bone stock is a powerhouse of collagen and so is gelatin…put them together and culinary magic.

A general recipe is 1 ½ tsp gelatin per cup of stock. You can experiment with this number depending on the thickness desired. I add my gelatin to cold stock and let it bloom, usually about ten minutes while I prep my vegetables and meat. Once you add the gelatin infused stock to the hot pot it becomes the full bodied sauce you desire. One word of caution; you can’t add the gelatin straight to hot stock, it will clump…you really can’t skip the blooming step.

I’ll be posting a stew recipe soon where I used this technique.