The other night I made a derived version of pomegranate chicken and came up with a few questions. The recipe I used was:

  • 1/2 pomegranate (smashed)
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 3/4 cup of powdered sugar
  • 1 oz. salted caramel vodka
  • 2 orange slices (smashed)

I let the mixture simmer and added it before cooking the chicken. The questions that arose were:

  • Besides powdered sugar what other ingredients can be used to thicken a sauce?
  • Is there a possible sour contrast that I could add to the mix (besides the pomegranate) to cut the edge of the sweet?
  • Pomegranates are incredibly sour. If you need to make it more sour to counteract the sweetness, you're probably using far too much sugar.
    – Carmi
    Commented Dec 1, 2016 at 7:04

3 Answers 3


Powdered sugar doesn't seem like a great thickener to me. It takes a lot to thicken a small amount of liquid, and as you've noticed, that means it'll end up pretty sweet. As an example, you can make a glaze (e.g. for cinnamon rolls) with a cup of powdered sugar and only a few tablespoons of liquid.

Generally, people thicken things using starch, most commonly flour and cornstarch, but also things like potato starch, arrowroot powder, tapioca/cassava starch. They're stronger thickeners, and don't really have much flavor of their own.

So I'd use as much sugar as you want to balance the pomegranate's sourness, and then use starch to thicken. You probably won't need extra sour at that point, but if you want it, you could certainly add something like lemon juice or vinegar.

  • 3
    Well, the powdered sugar does contain some cornstarch ;)
    – Catija
    Commented Dec 1, 2016 at 0:33
  • @Catija Indeed - going by the nutrition facts, it's... 98% sugar, 2% starch :)
    – Cascabel
    Commented Dec 1, 2016 at 3:05

Traditional fesenjan (Persian pomegranate chicken) is thickened by long, slow cooking (like, a full day). That allows a lot of water to evaporate from the juice, as well as undergoing changes that create a lot of new flavors from the pomegranate.

You won't need any additional water. The chicken itself will exude juices as it cooks. If you give it time, it will also give off gelatin, which will thicken the sauce.

I think you've got much too much powdered sugar in there for my taste, but that's up to you.

If you feel it needs additional thickening at the end, you can remove the chicken and boil the liquid down to reduce. Or you can add a small amount of cornstarch dissolved in water. (Start with a teaspoon of cornstarch in a tablespoon of water; cook and stir until thickened.) But you shouldn't need it to be any thicker than it is if you have let it cook down slowly.


Rather than thicken why not just dilute less. Use less water.

Rather than counteract the powdered sugar just use less. As stated by Jefromi you are not going to get much thickening from powdered sugar.

  • The issue was the main ingredient: Pomegranate juice. I did not want the pomegranate to boil out, so the water was meant to prevent this (albeit, maybe 1 oz would work.) Using less sugar would reduce the sweetness, but I'm still a novice chef so I asked these questions to learn more about thickeners.
    – Liam
    Commented Dec 1, 2016 at 15:05
  • 1
    Don't agree with your logic that water somehow protects the pomegranate juice. What is boiling off is water either way. Good luck.
    – paparazzo
    Commented Dec 1, 2016 at 15:33

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