Using egg yolk as an alternative thickening agent
Every chef has a few tricks up his sleeve. Whether it’s unexpected ingredient combinations to nosy kitchen gadgets, these tiny hacks can make or break your home recipes. If you are on a dairy-free or gluten-free diet, getting the perfect buttermeal-roux-free consistency in recipes can be a challenge, even for the best-studied chefs. One method to keep in your back pocket is to use egg yolks to thicken sauces and soups, and turn the leftover pan liquid into a dreamy flavor infusion.
Once you get the hang of it, using egg yolks as a thickener is a relatively easy way to create a deep, rich taste and texture, as well as a little dash of protein. This process requires a bit of finesse: undercooking just makes things messy, and overcooking can result in an undesirable version of scrambled eggs.
That said, there is no need to be intimidated. Eggs are cheap enough to experiment with until you get on the swing.
Temper eggs to thicken sauces
To thicken sauces and prevent unwanted scrambled eggs, it is important that you temper the egg yolk mixture. Put simply, tempering means slowly bringing the yolks to the temperature of the liquid with which you are mixing them. If the temperature rises too quickly, the proteins in the yolk will combine to form scrambled eggs. That’s how it’s done:
- Crack and beat your yolks in a bowl.
- Slowly and gradually add about a cup of the heated sauce, soup, or liquid while whisking. Add a little more to make sure it warms up.
- Slowly add this mixture back to your pot or pan to thicken the sauce and stir while pouring. Tip: When the sauce boils, it curdles. It is therefore essential to reduce the heat.
If a recipe calls for a roux (flour and egg), you can use the egg yolks on their own: temper the egg yolks in a hot bowl and whisk quickly.
Fun Fact: Primal Kitchen® just updated the ranch dressing recipe, adding organic egg yolks, a natural emulsifier, for a thicker, creamier dressing that is still dairy-free.
Increase your green game with egg yolks
If you cook vegetables that produce excess liquid at the bottom of the pan, you can effortlessly make a sauce that goes with any green. That’s how it’s done:
- Boil your greens
- Take your pan off the stove
- Remove the greens from your pan, leaving as much liquid as possible at the bottom of your pan.
- Add one egg yolk to the remaining liquid in the pan and stir quickly.
Using egg yolks for a dreamy pasta sauce
To add egg yolks to gluten-free pasta dishes, scoop it up and set about a cup of pasta water aside before draining it. Make a well in the center of the pot with the noodles, add some water and egg yolks, and stir, coating the noodles with the mixture. The trick is to keep it moving.
Once your egg yolk is cooked through, it will act like a glaze for whatever is left in the pan. So use egg yolks for pasta, meat, vegetables or greens.
Final tips on using eggs as a thickener
- Important: if you are cooking in an aluminum pan, do not use egg yolks to thicken – they will turn gray.
- As with any recipe, the quality of your ingredients affects the quality of your result. How to buy quality eggs.
- Eggs are a little fussy, and it can take a few tries to get the hang of it. But once you do, you open up a whole new world of creamy, delicious delicacies.
- Egg yolk works as a thickener for many uses, but not everything. For more ideas on how to thicken sauces, gravies, and soups, check out this article on how to thicken gravy without flour.
About the author
Mimi von Schack is the lead copywriter at Primal Kitchen. She communicates all the good things that go on at Primal Kitchen, such as new products, exciting recipes, and a rapidly growing online community.
In 2014 she graduated from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland with an MA. As a writer, she wrote copies, ads, narrative prose, articles, commercials, presentations, social media posts, and videos.
As a comedian, Mimi has acted and written jokes in the US and UK for movies, video games, comedic iPhone apps and her award-winning live show. Mimi lives in Los Angeles, California, where she tries paddling in the Pacific, telling jokes, and making her favorite plant-based and vegetarian recipes for keto and primal.
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