What Is Browning Sauce?

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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.

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.


  • 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.

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Lindsay D. Mattison
After years of working in professional kitchens, Lindsay traded her knives in for the pen. While she spends most of her time writing these days, she still exercises her culinary muscles on the regular, taking any opportunity to turn local, seasonal ingredients into beautiful meals for her family.