What Is Browning Sauce?

Ever read a recipe that calls for browning sauce and thought, "Wait, what is browning sauce?". We've got the answer—plus step-by-step instructions for how to make it at home.

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Since the early 1900s, home cooks have used browning sauce to add flavor and a rich, dark color to savory foods like roast beef. But how do you use it? The Taste of Home Test Kitchen explains.

What Is Browning Sauce?

Browning sauce is not the same as gravy, but it’s often used in Thanksgiving gravy recipes. It’s made with a blend of caramel color, vegetable concentrates and seasonings, giving it a smoky flavor reminiscent of molasses. You’ll find it on the recipe list for sauces and gravies that need a color boost, and it’s also added to soup recipes to create a deeper flavor.

How Do You Use Browning Sauce?

In soups and sauces, you’ll add a small amount of browning sauce at the end of the cook time. It doesn’t impart much flavor to the dish, but it darkens gravies and adds a color boost to cream and cheese sauces. Time-crunched cooks sometimes brush browning sauce onto beef, poultry or pork prepared in the slow cooker or microwave to give it an oven-roasted appearance.

A little browning sauce goes a long way, so be sure to measure it carefully. If you use too much, it can impart a bitter flavor into the finished dish. A teaspoon of it typically has about 15 calories, no fat and 10 mg of sodium—not a bad trade-off for a richer, more appealing color in many prepared dishes.

Where to Find Browning Sauce

Browning sauce can be found in most grocery stores near the prepared and dry gravy mixes. You can also find it online if it’s not available at your local store. Two popular brands are Kitchen Bouquet and Gravy Master.

If you can’t locate browning sauce, you can make your own at home (more on how to do that in a minute!). You can also substitute store-bought gravy powder, make a dark roux or substitute other dark-colored liquids like Worcestershire, molasses or soy sauce.

How to Make Homemade Browning Sauce

dark brown rouxTaste of Home

Most store-bought browning sauce contains preservatives and additives to make it shelf-stable. The easiest way to avoid those ingredients is to make your own.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cane sugar
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Yield: Approximately 1 cup browning sauce

Step 1: Melt the sugar

Using a heavy-bottomed saucepan or a cast-iron skillet, heat the sugar over medium-low heat. Stir slowly and consistently as the sugar melts into a clear syrup. Continue stirring until the color become very dark brown. If the sugar begins to smoke, turn down the heat.

Step 2: Carefully add the water

When the sugar is dark but not black, remove the pan from the stove. Slowly add the boiling water one tablespoon at a time. The pan will steam and sputter, so take care to avoid burning your hands. Stir with each addition of water until the entire 1/2 cup is added.

Step 3: Add the salt

Once all the water has been added, stir in the salt. Allow the mixture to cool.

Step 4: Store in an airtight container

When the browning sauce is cooled, pour it into an airtight container. Store it in the refrigerator for up to six months.

Lindsay D. Mattison
Lindsay has been writing for digital publications for seven years and has 10 years of experience working as a professional chef. She became a full-time food writer at Taste of Home in 2023, although she’s been a regular contributor since 2017. Throughout her career, Lindsay has been a freelance writer and recipe developer for multiple publications, including Wide Open Media, Tasting Table, Mashed and SkinnyMs. Lindsay is an accomplished product tester and spent six years as a freelance product tester at Reviewed (part of the USA Today network). She has tested everything from cooking gadgets to knives, cookware sets, meat thermometers, pizza ovens and more than 60 grills (including charcoal, gas, kamado, smoker and pellet grills). Lindsay still cooks professionally for pop-up events, especially when she can highlight local, seasonal ingredients. As a writer, Lindsay loves sharing her skills and experience with home cooks. She aspires to motivate others to gain confidence in the kitchen. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her cooking with fresh produce from the farmers market or planning a trip to discover the best new restaurants.