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I bought a half gallon of picante sauce, and it was way too thin. I put in tapioca flour to thicken it, but added too much (when I warmed it up to blend in the flour).

Now it is so thick and jelly-like that it won't pour out of the container without the help of a fork or spoon. It also does not lend itself to chip dipping. Is there a way to thin that out and return the consistency back to somewhat normal? A different site talked about adding tomato juice to thin tomato-meat sauces out.

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There are a couple of things you could try to partially recover the sauce, but my feeling is that none will have very satisfactory results.

The reason is that starch gelatinization is an irreversible process. The problem is even worst for tapioca, which is rich in amylopectin in comparison with other starches like potato and corn, richer in amylose. Amylopectin is the responsible for the characteristic 'gluey' texture and translucent colour of gelified tapioca (and also asian sticky rice) starch, and is the driving agent of the gelatinization process. Starches which are richer in amylopectin form stronger gels. There are a couple of factors that could have helped slowying gelatinization, like for example adding acid to the water. But the issue is that once the starch has been heated for enough time and the gel formed, acid won't help you go back.

There are some potential fancy solutions like using amylase to digest the gel into shorter sugars. Amylase is present in your saliva, but you really don't want to spit in your sauce because the other stuff in your saliva will likely lead to fermentation and spoilage of the sauce.

Another potential solution but laborious solution would be trying to dehydrate your mixture and rehydrate it avoiding heating. For example you could bake it in the oven under low heat until the mix gets dry and hard. Then you process it into a blender with water avoiding to overheat it. In Brazil they use tapioca gum to make pancakes, and by personal experience cooking these for two long make it crumbly again. But I cannot guarantee you this is going to lead you to satisfactory results.

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  • Would any of the typical ingredients that are problematic in gelatin help break it down (e.g., pineapple, papaya, etc). I know it's a starch so not exactly the same thing, but I have very little experience with tapioca so not sure how it behaves. (I did find me that it holds up to freezing, so that's out, and I saw no warnings about acids)
    – Joe
    Nov 6, 2017 at 21:26
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    Would simply blending with a stick blender help, I wonder? Nov 6, 2017 at 22:30
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    @Joe, I think these ingredients are problematic for the gelatinization process, but once gelatinization has happened they will not help. @ Backyard Chef, I would not recommend just putting in the blender before drying. I have very bad personal experience with wet manioc (the root tapioca is made of) in a blender. It is so sticky that it almost broke the motor. Nov 6, 2017 at 22:51
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    @BackyardChef - maybe blending with some added water to thin it out would avoid the excessive stickiness greedyscholars mentions.
    – Megha
    Nov 8, 2017 at 6:27

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